Schools in Durham will soon be seeing the impact of an estimated £3bn shortfall in the government’s education budget by 2020. These are the first real terms cuts to education spending since the 1990s. The picture is extremely bleak, with 98 per cent of schools set to lose funding, at a time when costs are rising and pupil numbers are growing. Durham is likely to lose an average of £329 per pupil – a total of over £20 million for the local authority as a whole. The impact on learning will be significant. Class sizes in primary schools could rise and some GCSE and A Level subjects could be cut from the curriculum entirely as school budgets are pushed beyond breaking point.
The government is currently pushing ahead with a new formula to calculate funding levels for schools in England. Whilst this is welcome, many voices in education believe that the £3bn real terms funding shortfall will derail this process before it even gets started. Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “School budgets are being pushed beyond breaking point. The government’s £3 billion real terms cut to education funding must be reversed or we will see education and care suffer. Already heads are being forced to cut staff, cut the curriculum and cut specialist support. A new funding formula is the right thing to do, but it cannot be truly fair unless there is enough money to go round in the first place.” NAHT is holding a series of national events to raise awareness amongst school leaders, governors and parents.
We will be meeting in Durham on Tuesday 7th March to spread the word in the hope that local pressure will force the government to explain its rationale for cutting the education budget at a time when the school population is rising and costs are going up. Head teachers are worried about being able to continue to provide a first class education without adequate funding and the inability to plan for the future when there is such uncertainty over future budgets. The proposed cuts for the North East are catastrophic and this is leaving us feeling even more frustrated than ever. The real victims of these proposed cuts are our children – the future generation – and it can’t be allowed to happen.