West Sussex headteachers have marched on Downing Street today (Friday September 28) joining around 1,000 of their peers in an unprecedented mass action event to raise concerns about school funding and staff recruitment and retention.
The Worth Less? campaign has been running for three years but repeated requests to address a lack of funding and a chronic shortage of teachers and support staff have not been addressed by Government ministers.
West Sussex schools have gained funding in the recently revised national funding formula, but the area remains one of the worst funded per pupil in the country.
Schools have warned services and resources are cut to the bone as some are even having to prop up budgets with monies that should be targeted at students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds or those that have special education needs and disabilities (SEND).
This led to headteachers from across the country marching on Downing Street to raise awareness about the plight of schools with Jules White, headteacher at Horsham’s Tanbridge House School, leading the West Sussex contingent.
They are calling for the Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds to fund all schools adequately and reduce the real terms cuts that have happened over the last eight years, make an immediate £400m cash injection to the SEND/high needs block and meaningfully improve real term per pupil funding for the post-16 education sector.
A joint letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond, signed by headteachers from across the country, said: “The Government’s unshakable yet misleading mantra that schools are receiving ‘more money than ever before’ and that there are ‘more teachers being recruited than ever’ is a source of major concern and frustration to reasonably minded and highly professional headteachers. On the ground, we are experiencing an entirely different situation.”
They added: “Headteachers recognise that there isn’t a bottomless pit of money. We have, however, played our part in the challenges presented by a long period of austerity. Cuts and efficiencies have been made and our system is working harder than ever before.
“The situation is unsustainable. Our schools remain under enormous duress and we cannot sit idly by as the children and families that we serve receive such an unsatisfactory deal from the Government. It is time for the Government to make the investment in education that is not only good for our schools and families, but also our wider economic and social prosperity for the short and longer term.”