New term, new pressures on our schools

Derek Boyle is the local Labour Party education spokesperson. He is a Paddock Wood Town Councillor and has worked in education across Kent for 22 years. He stood for Labour in the recent Tunbridge Wells Borough Council elections.

As our young people return to or start the new academic year, the schools that will be nurturing them for the coming year are reeling from yet more damaging cuts and a desperate shortage of qualified teachers. For the 8th year in a row teachers are facing the prospect of yet another year when wage rises are below inflation, so in real terms yet another pay cut.

Funding for schools has been increasingly on the agenda over the last few years, with Head Teachers calling for sustained investment in our schools and not in vanity projects such as free schools and driving the curriculum back to the 1950s through the reforms introduced by Michael Gove when he was Education Secretary.

Instead of funding schools at sustainable levels to cope with an increasing pupil population, the same funding cake is being stretched further and further, meaning that the per pupil funding is being cut.

If you want to see the effect of the coming funding changes in your own children’s school use the School Cuts website by using this link: https://schoolcuts.org.uk

The link shows that between 2015 and 2020, schools across Kent will be losing £21m, the equivalent of £112 per pupil in their funding. When you examine the impact on a successful local school like Skinners’ Kent Academy, the impact will be a loss of £393,373 between 2015 and 2020, or £450 per pupil.

The Labour Party is currently consulting on a National Education Service that along with the NHS promises to look after the welfare of the individual and society from the cradle to the grave.

Conservative cuts are starving schools of the funding they need to deliver a first-class education. Crippling under-funding is driving up class sizes and forcing schools to cut staffing, resources for the arts, libraries and visits. The culture of high-pressure assessment for children and high risks accountability for schools is driving away teachers, exacerbating a recruitment and retention crisis.

With the unknown impact of Brexit looming, the need to invest in skills and education is even more pressing. We need an education system that is fit for the 21st Century and the challenges that the modern world brings – not one that looks backwards and that values only an “academic” education that the English Baccalaureate constrains schools and pupils into.

The narrowness of the curriculum is starving our pupils of access to courses and qualifications in the creative subjects where our GDP is growing the fastest. In a recent BBC survey nine in every ten schools that responded said they had cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one creative arts subject.

At a time of our greatest uncertainty for what the future holds for us as a country, we need a properly funded education system, with our brightest and best graduates wanting to become teachers and wanting to stay in the profession. Only Labour has a credible plan for this and the National Education Service is our blueprint for supporting the education of all.

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