School funding boost 'too little too late', say hundreds of protesting parents
Buildings are 'crumbling' and schools are still closing early on Fridays, families say
Parents at hundreds of schools across the country are set to take part in a demonstration condemning the government’s education cash boost as being “too little too late”.
Families of children at nearly 350 schools in England are staging a day of action to demand an urgent increase in funding to reverse the negative effects that years of cuts have had on schools.
It comes after Boris Johnson pledged in August to increase school spending by £7.1bn by 2022-23 after years of campaigning by headteachers, teachers and parents for more funding.
But a recent analysis from unions found that thousands of schools are expected to still face real-terms funding cuts under the plans as they say an inflationary increase will not cover rising costs.
Parent-led campaign group Save Our Schools say buildings are “still crumbling”, teachers are still losing their jobs, subjects are still vanishing, and schools are still closing early on Fridays.
They argue the government’s pledge comes close only to restoring school funding to 2010 levels.
On Thursday, the group will display banners at schools across the country – including Brighton, the West Midlands, Cumbria and Yorkshire – highlighting the extent of the funding cuts.
Alison Ali, co-founder of the Save Our Schools campaign, said: “Schools are in absolute crisis now and they need funding now. So why the delay if this is a serious attempt to address funding?”
In July, hundreds of children and parents marched on Westminster to stop a rising number of schools across the country having to close early on Fridays amid funding cuts.
The demonstration was led by Labour MP Jess Phillips, whose son is at one of the schools in Birmingham that has been forced to adopt a four-and-a-half-day week amid tight budgets.
Ms Phillips told The Independent: “The reality is that the undoing of the four-and-a-half-days a week overnight is not going to happen because schools in my constituency had to cut so many other things before they made that final decision.”
She added that it was not a “silver bullet” as funding was only due to rise to the same levels as 2010.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “Schools are losing support staff, dropping subjects, closing early, and cutting corners on basic maintenance, just to get by. Parents understand why this is the case.
“And schools know that the government’s pledges will not come into effect until April, meaning a further six months of an appalling status quo that will be only slightly alleviated.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Today’s action by parents shows that they are not fooled by the government’s claims about school and college funding.
“Budgets are still at breaking point. All the analysis of the government’s figures shows that they just about restore the cuts of recent years – nothing more.”
Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, added: “The funding crisis is not over and parents are absolutely right to highlight the very serious impact that this situation is having on our schools.
“The additional funding recently announced by the government is a step in the right direction but none of this money kicks in until next year and it is a long way short of what is needed.
“Even when it begins to find its way into schools many will still have to make budget savings because they will receive only inflationary uplifts and school costs are rising above inflation.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This government has announced the biggest funding boost for schools in a decade which will give every school more money for every child. This means that every school in the country can see per pupil funding rise in line with inflation next year. To suggest otherwise is simply misleading.
“All secondary schools will receive a minimum of £5,000 per pupil next year, while all primary schools will get a minimum of £4,000 from 2021-22 – with the biggest increases going to the schools that need it most.
“We’re investing a total of £14 billion more in schools over the next three years to give schools, teachers and parents the certainty to plan, improve standards and ensure all children get the top quality education they deserve.”