Education must not be “sacrificed on altar of deficit”, union chief will today warn

Education must not be "sacrificed on altar of deficit", union chief will today warn

Austerity measures putting a squeeze on school budgets must not result in children’s education being sacrificed, the president of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) will warn today.

In his opening speech at ASCL’s annual conference in London, Dr Peter Kent will call on the Government to ensure education funding levels are “sufficient, sustainable and equitable.”

Dr Kent will say: “The reality is that our current system of funding is making it impossible for some schools and colleges to make ends meet.

“Even before the underwhelming offers of a future based upon flat cash, or an inflation increase that will be swallowed up by increased pupil numbers, many ASCL members were telling us that they had gone past the point where efficiency savings could be made.

“Too many institutions are having to grapple with the reality that the level of funding is not enough to sustain the quality of education that our children deserve.

“Our children only get one chance and will not understand if we tell them in five years’ time that their education has been sacrificed on the altar of deficit reduction.”

Education secretary Nicky Morgan, schools minister David Laws and shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt will also talk at the two-day conference, attended by 1,200 school and college leaders.

Schools Week reports today that school leaders are struggling to balance the books with impending increases to pension and national insurance contributions, and pay rises for staff.

ASCL calculates it will add around 4.5 per cent to every school’s costs, without taking inflation into account.

That equates to nearly £200,000 for the average-sized secondary school of 920 pupils – the equivalent of four to five teachers.

ASCL say this will mean reducing the number of courses on offer, increasing class sizes and offering fewer curriculum-enhancement activities.

Dr Kent, headteacher of Lawrence Sheriff School in Rugby, will also call for a national fair funding formula to replace the outdated system of allocations and for schools to consider working together in federations and multi-academy trusts.

He will say: “Is it so far-fetched to suggest that government should confine itself to core functions such as fair funding and ensuring an adequate supply of teachers, and then say to the profession ‘over to you.’?

“This would not create a cosy little club; instead we want to commit ourselves to higher and more demanding standards than any government would ever dare ask for.

“These standards would come from shared values and a desire to do the best for every child in our care, not the short-term headlines that have so often driven policy.”