‘Give our books back’ demands school student

School books. Credit: Jessica Ruscello.

An A-level student from Skinner’s Academy in Woodberry Down has started a petition asking the government to “increase school funding in Hackney schools back to what it was.”

17 year-old Agnieszka Rudnik believes the cuts have resulted in her school being unable to afford sufficient resources for students.

The books are really expensive, so one book can go up to the price of £100.”

“If I’m in need of resources then my mum is able to supply but obviously for the parents that can’t then it’s different.”

However, headteacher Tim Clark does not believe that lack of textbooks is the school’s biggest issue.

“Comparatively, schools in Hackney are relatively well funded. The AWPU (Age Weighted Pupil Unit, ie what schools get per pupil) is about £2,000 more than the AWPU for schools in the South East. For a school of 1,000 pupils, that means schools in Hackney receive in terms of their basic funding, on average about £2 million more than schools of a similar size in the South East.”

A strategy the government may implement involves taking money from urban schools and giving it to poorer rural schools. This would result in a 22% budget reduction for Hackney schools. To plan for the future, Skinners’ Academy says it has had to reduce how much departments spend on books and equipment.

“Teachers are finding alternative options to textbooks and trying to reduce photocopying.Our new online homework system (Show My Homework) allows teachers to attach documents and worksheets thus reducing printing costs,” said Clark.

Zack, who is in year 12 studying politics, history and business agrees with the head teacher. “I have 4-6 people in my classes. Most of our classes do have the right books, however acquiring new books is always a stretch for the department due to lack of funds. I don’t feel like it’s affecting my education, as we have the mindset to try to excel no matter what situation, so we look online for resources.”

The head teacher adds, “textbooks and printing pale into financial insignificance when compared to staffing costs.”

The school had to make three staff redundant three years ago. “We haven’t had to repeat the exercise, but again, who knows what will happen in the future. Further staff cuts would mean larger class sizes and a reduction in the range of courses on offer.”