THE BLOG

Summer Holidays May Be Here But We Won't Stop Fighting For Fair School Funding

19/07/2017 07:52 BST | Updated 19/07/2017 07:52 BST
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The school summer holidays may well be just a few more days away but there will be no let-up in the campaigning that's seen parents put school funding at the top of the political agenda.

Thanks to sustained pressure from those of us who care most about the welfare of children and young people, the government found itself so out of step with public opinion that more than 800,000 voters changed their minds on Polling Day.

Perhaps it's the simplicity of the message that's allowed us to cut through. Certainly the schoolcuts.org.uk website has proved to be a really effective way of illustrating how the funding crisis is hitting individual schools and the families that depend on them. It's helped that the website uses DFE data to arrive at its results.

I was at a rally in Westminster at the weekend, where the strength of feeling was clear. At the moment, schools don't have enough money. It's as simple as that.

As I said to parents on Sunday no matter how effective the campaign may have been up to now, we cannot allow the government to wriggle off the hook when it comes to funding.

This week, they tried to do just that, by responding to calls from parents, governors, teachers and school leaders with fresh proposals for the education budget. Fresh proposals, for sure. But certainly no new money.

In a nutshell, they're proposing a new commitment of £1.3billion for the next two years £416million from April 2018 and £884m for 2019/20. Whilst definitely not enough to claw back the real terms cuts that schools have seen since 2010, it's a step in the right direction that would never have happened without our campaigning.

There is no new money here but simply a repurposing of the DfE's budgets: £315million from the 'sugar tax' programmes; £280million released from the free schools capital programme; £250million taken out of the DfE's central programmes.

Clearly, the Secretary of State has been listening to us, but what's also clear is that Treasury hasn't been. The DfE has dug deep, but the Treasury hasn't engaged.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies' analysis is that the government's offer represents a real-terms freeze on school budgets for the next two years. So for us, the campaign is far from over - we know that we need at least an extra £2billion a year to protect school budgets and we will continue to push for this.

The detail of the funding allocation for each school from April 2018 will be published in the autumn. That's when school will find out how much more they should each get.

The first of Philip Hammond's Autumn Budgets happens in November, and that's the next staging post in the campaign to secure fair and sufficient funding for all schools.

When they got involved with the campaign, parents said - without ambiguity - that education is a public service that is worth paying for. School leaders like my members in NAHT have always believed that the children they work with are worth fighting for, even if they get battered on the front page of the Daily Mail for speaking out. Now they can draw strength from the support given by parents.

The parent-led Fair Fund All Schools group supercharged the campaign. During the General Election, the #schoolsjustwannahavefunds hashtag and the use of social media helped all the various local campaigns to connect. The rallies they organised, the events, the marches - it seemed like every local and national newspaper in the country had a photo.

It's been a massive team effort and the result is that school funding is increasing by a modest amount. But the demand on schools has never been higher. And we still believe that schools need at least £2billion per year.

It may be the summer, but the activity won't cool off. The last thing we're going to do is give up now.