Britain’s schools are facing some big challenges, not the least of which is the reduction of funding in recent years. Indeed, despite a growing student population, UK schools have seen a loss of funding to the tune of more than £86.3 billion – a reduction of 2.3 percent compared to 2012-13.
Facing tighter funding constraints, some schools have been forced to make drastic reductions in staff. In the last two years, secondary schools throughout England laid off more than 15,000 teachers and teaching assistants. School leaders say the result is more students per classroom and less individual attention per student.
“It is the last thing schools want to do but they have no other choice because they have to reduce staffing numbers and that inevitably affects the teacher-to-pupil ratio,” Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the Guardian.
Not only are there fewer teachers and other support staff in schools, data from the Department for Education indicates that there are more than 2,600 fewer schools now than in 2001. It’s not clear if the reduced funding is to blame for the diminished number of schools, but more than 300 of the closures occured since the 2012/13 school year.
To complicate matters further, there are reports of an impending teacher shortage along with a surge in pupil numbers in secondary schools. To be clear, reduced funding is not the only cause of the impending shortage; there are indeed other challenges related to recruiting and retaining teachers in UK schools.
The good news is that there are already solutions in the works to ease some of the funding challenges, including big injections of cash from the DfE. However, with teachers in some regions striking over pay and how schools are managed, it’s clear that there are some fundamental cultural issues to address as well.
In fact, there seems to be a real disconnect between the DfE perception of school funding and the perception of the people actually running schools. According to the DfE blog, school funding is the highest it’s ever been and is set to increase by up to £2bn by 2020.
The problem according to DfE critics, is that the increased funding is the total education grant, but “per student expenditure” is what really counts. Furthermore, with the funding freezes set in place in 2015, per student spending “is likely to translate into a real terms reduction of around 6.5% between 2010-11 and 2019-20.”
Treating education like a political football puts the entire system in peril. There needs to be some sort of meeting of the minds between education leaders and the agencies approving the funding. Without improved communication and agreement between these groups, the cultural issues are likely to persist, with students and teachers ultimately paying the price.
Hi, I’m Dr Ioan Rees; thank you for reading this article.
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