Stoke Newington School under threat from funding cuts

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London schools are facing the largest cuts since the 1970s, according to a National Union of Teachers (NUT) representative.

Andrew Baisley, who spoke on behalf of the NUT, stated at a meeting last night at Stoke Newington School that there was a projected 16% increase in London schools’ number of pupils in just over five years.

Mr Baisley said: “We will have less teachers and more students in our schools, and these are the largest cuts since the 1970s.”

Parents, teachers and union members came together last night at Stoke Newington School to discuss the national budget cuts to education.

The meeting, chaired by parent governor Andy Jones and attended by parents, teachers and union members, attempted to assess the impact of the cuts in Hackney and at a national level, and what could be done to oppose them.

Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor of Hackney, is a former teacher. She spoke passionately against the cuts, and praised how far education in the borough has come. “We have a fantastic family of schools that has provided very good education for our children.

The Deputy Mayor explained that the broad spectrum of activities offered on the curriculum gave pupils a stronger standing, and told of her concern that those classes will be cut as school belts are tightened.

“They leave school with a range of knowledge and confidence to explore the world around them, because actually it’s not just the English and Maths that we talk about in this school, it’s the array of activities that are displayed through the national curriculum.

She added: “It’s the child that lights up when it’s time for drama… it’s those things that are actually really under threat, and that’s what worries me – because every child should have the opportunity to feel celebrated.”

#schoolsjustwannahavefunds

Matthew Dykes, who campaigns with Fair Funding for All Schools, an initiative set up to stop the cuts, explained that the cuts to education have brought about the new national funding formula.

“Schools have got to find roughly 8% savings or cuts by 2020. It’s within this context they’re bringing in this national funding formula, which is supposed to address this historic underfunding of schools in rural and coastal areas.

“Of course, the only way they can do that without increasing the budget is by redistributing a dwindling amount of cash – that means taking even more money away from urban schools in London, Manchester and Birmingham to these rural schools.

“I don’t deny those rural schools need the funding, of course they do, but we argue that there should be a levelling up, there should be proper investment in all schools so that the government lives up to its promise.”

He also encouraged parents to have their say using the Twitter hashtag #schoolsjustwannahavefunds.

Tightening belts

The headteacher of the Stoke Newington School, Annie Gammon, explained that the school has already begun making changes in order to save more money.

“We have begun to cut some classes. We have a slightly smaller sixth form offer than we used to. We can’t afford to run small sixth form groups which we used to be able to do. We’ve had to make decisions and tighten our belt across the board.

Ms Gammon told the meeting that the cuts are “expected to be at 1.5% per year. So for us that’s about £200,000 cut per year. That’s not just one year, that’s the next year, and potentially the year after.”

Ms Gammon voiced her worry that she would soon not be able to offer staff the same jobs she can currently: “My school might be in the position in the next few years of having to say: ‘I’m sorry but we don’t have those jobs anymore.’

“I think that’s going to be a really sad position to be in, and of course that’s terrible for the staff, but it’s also bad for our children. They will either be in bigger classes, or have teachers who are more stressed as they’re teaching more hours, or they won’t have bits of support that they would have had otherwise.”

Labour councillor Ms Bramble suggested the Conservative government does not understand the success of Hackney schools.

“I feel actually that a Tory government that is used to public schoolboy education cannot understand why areas like Hackney that deliver comprehensive, inclusive, non-selective educatio can be first in the country league tables – even though our children are not using private tutors, and parents didn’t have to pay for that education.

She urged parents to write letters to their local authorities, and make their discontent over the cuts to education be known: “Let’s make noise in the system and we cannot be ignored.”

Image: creative commons photo of school funding cuts protestor.