Parents will notice as school funding pressures start to bite, union warns

Scott Lyons joint division secretary for Norfolk NUT

Scott Lyons joint division secretary for Norfolk NUT - Credit: Archant

This could be the year when parents start to notice pressures on school finances affecting their child's education, a leading Norfolk trade union figure has warned.

Bob Groome of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers

Bob Groome of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers - Credit: Archant

Funding has loomed large in the education debate since before the last election, and although the government has said it will not cut the cash schools receive per pupil, academics have calculated that increasing costs will reduce school spending power by 8pc by 2020.

An EDP analysis of the 2014-15 accounts of local academies showed how many already face deficits, or are cutting staff or narrowing their curriculum.

Looking ahead to the new school year, Scott Lyons, joint division secretary for Norfolk NUT, said: 'I think funding will be a big issue. I think parents will start to notice missing teachers and missing teaching assistants, and, at the same time, class sizes are going up as new schools are not being built. Schools are bursting at the seams.

'Parents need to remember that academies do not have to employ qualified staff. Parents are going to have to start challenging academies and free schools about the qualifications of their staff.'

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It was an issue raised by Bob Groome, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, who said a number of schools were restructuring their workforces as finances tightened, with some staff finding their jobs and pay downgraded, and schools cutting support staff.

But he said he expected the biggest test for his union this year to be the number of staff seeing their employment transferred from the council to an academy trust as their schools converted.

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Teacher workload has been a big issue for many staff.

A 'workload challenge' set by then-education secretary Nicky Morgan resulted in a series of recommendations including more use of textbooks, staff working together to plan lessons, and efforts to reduce the burden of marking,

Mr Groome said: 'We would like to think that workload would be reduced, and we would like to see members actually taking account of what they do during their day.

'You will always get someone who's working towards promotion working until 11pm, and that gets turned against other staff. That's how the workload increases.

'I have a solution to the workload crisis: say 'no'. If everybody says 'no', they can't sack us all.'

This week, Ofsted and Norfolk County Council have both raised problems schools face when recruiting and retaining teachers.

Mr Groome said: 'We are haemorrhaging staff nationally. Some are choosing to leave the profession, or teach abroad.

'If the results are low, it's the teacher's problem. If the kids play up, it's the teacher's fault. If there's unruly behaviour in the street, it's because they are not being taught properly in the school.

'That's what puts a lot of people off coming into the profession.'

And as the government continues to pursue its ambition for all schools to become academies by 2022, Mr Lyons raised concerns about the future of small schools.

He said: 'Academisation is trying to enforce a business model in the school system, and really valuable, quality local schools are not usually financially attractive institutions.

'When you have got people who are not education, but businessmen, in schools, there is always the danger that numbers on a spreadsheet do not equate to the quality of life of children.'

Tomorrow – Exclusive interview with man who oversees our academies.

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