LBO Nov 2017
This week the Chancellor of the Exchequer has important decisions to announce to the nation in his budget. I will be all ears in the hope of good news for school funding and I will not be alone.
Last week a school in the Prime Minister’s constituency hit the headlines asking parents for £1 per week to pay for basic stationary. An estimated 40% of schools across the country ask parents for money directly in this way and others do so indirectly.
The school funding crisis is not the only factor in an emerging teacher recruitment crisis but 7 years of pay freezes and more recently 1% pay rises have seen teacher salaries fall relative to comparable graduate jobs. The starting salary for a classroom teacher in Central Bedfordshire after university and teacher training is £22,917. While salaries for teachers later in their careers are more competitive, recruiting starting teachers has become harder and harder. Such an unattractive salary is hardly an incentive, particularly for graduates in maths, the sciences or foreign languages.
In our school we recruited six newly qualified teachers in September. They are already strong teachers and all will without doubt become excellent teachers in time. We got lucky this time around, others were not so fortunate, and our school may not be next time.
For instance, I am told that there was a single newly qualified teacher of Design Technology in the whole of the Bedfordshire area last year. That is a measure of how difficult it is to replace a teacher who leaves or to recruit additional staff if pupil numbers rise.
The person standing in front of a class is the biggest single factor in determining the quality of a child’s learning and school experience. The current, deep problems in school funding and teacher recruitment have to be addressed with urgency and Mr Hammond’s budget is the opportunity to make a start and to move education back up the country’s list of priorities.