TORY GOVERNMENT POLICY IS SAVAGING NORTH YORKSHIRE SCHOOLS
This Government has said that its austerity driven cuts will not affect ‘front-line’ services in education – i.e. the teacher in the classroom and their role in supporting pupils; this is simply untrue. Many of North Yorkshire Schools have to make large numbers of teachers and support staff redundant right now. In particular, Secondary schools have found that due to Government actions they are in deficit to the tune of £200,000, £300,000, £400,000 and more. The only way they can see to balance the books is to reduce the number of teachers and support staff. Fewer teachers mean larger classes and reduced choice in the curriculum for our children. Converting to an academy makes no difference and in practice it can make things worse. Privatisation of schools in this way is fragmenting the system and taking us back to a time before the 1870 Education Act. The UK education system had evolved to being one of the best in the world until the regressive systemic changes of academisation began in line with the Government’s Neo-liberal agenda.
How has this happened? This Government has cut the funding to schools for Sixth Form Students by £1,300 per student. George Osborne is the first Chancellor in history to force individual schools to find the increase in the employers’ contribution to National Insurance and Superannuation from school funds. Previous Chancellors had effectively made similar increases cost neutral to individual schools. This is effectively a tax on teachers’ jobs.
North Yorkshire Local Authority (Council) has done all it can financially but between 2011 and 2015 has suffered a £91.1 million cut in its funding. Between 2015 and 2019 the Local Authority was expecting to be cut by another £75.4 million but has recently been told that will now be £82.5 million. It is difficult to see where more cuts will come from. Head teachers are doing what they can but many of them feel they cannot maintain a balanced curriculum into the future, negatively impacting on students’ life chances. The introduction of the compulsory EBac subjects, where students study English, Maths, Science, a Modern Foreign language, History and Geography, is having a major impact on the availability of other subjects and results in a serious narrowing of the curriculum for our children. Schools have no alternative but to ‘tool up’ for the EBac as the GCSE results for these subjects will feed into the new Progress 8 leagues tables. Teachers from vocational subjects such as Engineering and IT are being made redundant as a result of this. We are told regularly that the UK needs a competitive manufacturing industry to lead Britain into sustainable growth; more locally we hear about the Northern Powerhouse but without the foundation at school, where are the engineers and technologist going to appear from?
Larger classes mean that the individual child will get less direct attention from their teacher. The new teacher appraisal systems used to generate performance related pay are, in many schools, performance management systems of the worst kind. Many of Britain’s top companies don’t use performance management systems as they simply don’t work. However, in many schools the performance that the teacher is judged on is not their own performance but the performance of just some of the children they teach, and for sometimes less than one hour a week. This is like your Doctor being responsible for you falling ill. Increasingly classroom teachers are being driven by fear of the threat of capability procedures. Increasing numbers of teachers are finding their competency questioned by draconian and often unachievable performance management targets on an accountability conveyor of constant scrutiny. There is no other profession in this country that is so intensely scrutinised and held accountable for another group’s performance. Larger classes mean more teachers leaving the profession either as a result of illness, changing profession or moving abroad to work. The function of the Working Time Directive, to limit the working week and protect the worker, has become a misnomer to the teaching profession with individuals feeling pressured to go without sleep and work through the night to meet impossible deadlines. Little wonder that the Government has missed its teacher recruitment target for four years running despite spending £700 million a year. Teachers are voting on the Governments stewardship of the education service with their feet.
A classic and up to date example of the chaos this Government has brought to schools is the colossal own goal it has scored by moving the goalposts with the Key Stage 1 and 2 assessments. In particular it has decided, with only ten weeks remaining, that a level 4b score in the Key Stage 2 SATS will be recorded as a level 5a and every school that cannot achieve 85% will be deemed to be failing and could be privatised. If we put to one side the issue that the Government had previously said they didn’t want to use levels any longer, this last minute change will have incredible workload implications for Primary teachers. However, there is also a sting in the tail as all Secondary targets are based on KS2 SATs results and it will be much easier for a Secondary school to be deemed to be failing by Ofsted and then threatened with closure or takeover. The confusion of the 1-9 GCSE grades is the next problem waiting just over the horizon.
The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world and one of the richest nations and yet many large corporations pay little if any tax when schools are in deficit. All this is happening when there is a crisis in school places as the numbers in Primary schools increase at the same time as a teacher recruitment crisis. This Government’s own Chief Ofsted Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw has expressed his concerns on recruitment. Even some Tory back benchers, such as the MP for Malton and Thirsk Kevin Hollinrake, are calling for this Government to make a U-turn on education policy.
This Tory Government continues to renege on its responsibilities to the people of Britain; as it privatises the NHS through expensive outside contracts, gives £4 Billion a year of tax payers money to the private rail franchises, develops a regressive tax system that sees the rich pay less and the poor more, watches the nation’s roads and infrastructure deteriorate rapidly and now denies the country’s children the qualified teachers they need. As some back benchers are saying, we need a change, but we need it today, we can’t wait any longer. Aren’t our children worth it?