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St Wilfrid’s Head: A response to the Chancellor

St Wilfrid’s Head Michael Ferry responds to the 2018 Budget delivered by Chancellor Phillip Hammond.

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On the 28th September some 2000+ Headteachers congregated in Parliament Square and then politely and respectfully walked to Downing Street to deliver a letter to the Chancellor.

This was an unprecedented act by people in trusted positions within society and within their localities. The only motive for this was to show how critical the situation is regrading funding for Education across the land.

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For many years West Sussex was the 4th worst funded LA (Local Authority) for Education (out of 151 LA’s). Since the emergence of the National Funding Formula (NFF) West Sussex has risen to the 6th worst funded LA!

The premise of the NFF is very welcome and the DfE should be congratulated for “seizing the nettle”, an act which previous governments (of all persuasions) have consistently avoided. There is however a “but!” and that is a very simple one, “but” all the NFF does in its current guise is redistribute the current amount of funding going into Education and in so doing, it reinforces the historical inequalities of previous funding mechanisms. That’s why West Sussex remains so low in the rankings.

Across the nation Headteachers are saying that their budgets are at breaking point, some are asking parents to pay for essentials, schools are not replacing staff who leave, redundancy programmes have been put in place, building repairs are being put on hold, the curriculum is being narrowed, Arts subjects are being lost, all with one impact, that the educational experience of children, your child, your children, is being negatively affected.

So, on the 28th September the letter signed on behalf of Headteachers from over 50 counties was delivered to Mr Hammond reinforcing the dire state we are in and asking him [to]:

1. Fund all schools adequately and reverse the real term cuts that have happened since 2010

2. Inject £400 million into Special Education (Special education is not included in the NFF)

3. Improve the funding for the post 16 sector (20% drop in real terms since 2010 and not included in the NFF)

The letter was delivered and we waited. Yesterday in the Autumn Budget Statement we received our answer. We did not expect at “magic wand” moment but we expected to be taken seriously. What we got was flippant remarks and a £400m “in year bonus” which will be ring-fenced for “little extras” (effectively it is a sum which can be spent on capital works/buildings which, according to the chancellor equates to an average of £10k per primary school and £50k for a secondary school).

“Little Extras”; as a Headteacher for about 5 years now, I have spent the last 4 years trying to reduce costs. I have in that time “saved” over £330k by not replacing staff as they have left. I am down 5.5 teachers (including 2 Assistant Headteachers) 6 Teaching Assistants and 1 PCSO. The curriculum has narrowed and I am left with less staff but with significantly more work to do. It is not sustainable in the long term and even now we have the dread of an 6-7% increase looming for employers pension contributions next year.

“Little Extras”! Perhaps on reflection Mr Hammond may agree that his choice of words could have been better. The £400m he describes is welcome but in delivering this he has not addressed the points that Headteachers continue to make about the perilous state of Education funding in England. In choosing not to give a lifeline to schools at this time he has disregarded the protest of the 28th September and the genuine attempts by Headteachers across the country to make things better for the children in their charge.

So what next? Without doubt, the campaigning for fairer funding by Headteachers, parents and governors will continue. For me, however disappointing and frustrating yesterday’s announcement was it has strengthened my resolve as I know it has for so many of my colleagues. We will not rest until we have a fair system of funding which ensures that each and every school has an adequate amount to meet the needs of its children and that no child is Worthless?

Education

Crawley pupils reduce local CO2 by Three Tonnes

In just two weeks Crawley school children reduced local air pollution by six kilogrammes of dangerous nitrogen oxide (NOx) and almost three tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) by walking, biking and scootering to school, instead of travelling by car.

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Pupils at Waterfield Primary School with Councillor Geraint Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Sustainability and Patrick Alexander, Bike It Officer at Sustrans.

As part of cycling and walking charity Sustrans’ annual Big Pedal challenge, children from eight Crawley schools used human power for an astonishing 18,284 journeys. 

This comes hard on the heels of two important new pieces of research:

  • Sustrans published YouGov data in March which showed that almost two-thirds (63%) of teachers would support a school gate vehicle ban during drop-off and pick-up times and that more than half (59%) want urgent Government action to improve air quality near schools
  • Public Health England called on local authorities in March to limit transport emissions urgently, banning idling car engines around schools and investing in foot and cycle paths.

NOx can cause breathing problems, reduced lung function and damage teeth. CO2 is a major contributor to climate change. In Crawley children travelled 12,655 miles actively during the challenge, which equates to travelling almost half way around the world. The reduction in CO2 and NOx was calculated by comparing this to the amount generated if all these journeys had been taken by car.

Councillor Geraint Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Sustainability, said:

“It is fantastic to see an increasing number of schools in Crawley taking part in the Sustrans Big Pedal, whilst promoting sustainable travel to young people.”

Children at Waterfield Primary have won special recognition from Sustrans for their Big Pedal achievements, receiving a certificate in a presentation attended by Cllr Geraint Thomas. The Bike It Crew at Waterfield Primary are notoriously competitive. They held a Bike It Breakfast, Bling your Bike and daily assemblies to mass up a total of 4,386 journeys and a total score of 76.91%. 

Justin Moss, the Deputy Head of Waterfield Primary said,

“Our pupils are so motivated when it comes to travelling sustainably; they’re also very competitive. They walk, scoot and cycle regularly so the Big Pedal has been amazing for us over the past few years. We regularly talk about the benefits of exercise with the children in whole school assemblies and because of this the children understand the differences it can make to their moods and their ability to engage in their learning.

“At Waterfield we have an elected Bike It Crew and the Big Pedal is their biggest job during the year. They have worked tirelessly to encourage teachers and children to continue to travel sustainably as well as organising events and judging the Bling your Bike competition. I am extremely proud of them and all of their achievements this year.”

Hot on their heels was Seymour Primary, who organised Bike Days for all children from years three to six. These days provided an opportunity for children to progress their bike skills and have a go on the bike obstacle course. On these days the school was flooded with bicycles, scooters and active children.

Across Crawley eight schools took part, from a potential 35. While we can’t say what the impact would be if it was replicated across Crawley even just for two school terms these findings raise interesting questions.

Sustrans’ Regional Director for the South, James Cleeton, said,

“The children, families and schools of Crawley have shown how individuals can dramatically improve the world around them, by replacing cars with human power for just part of the daily routine.

“These children haven’t just prevented the emission of dangerous, invisible pollutants around their schools, but they’ve improved their mental and physical health, giving all of them a better start to the school day.

“At Sustrans, we’re so grateful to every local authority, school, teacher, parent and child who has helped make this possible. What a great start to summer – and a glimpse of what school mornings in Crawley could be like in future.”

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