“Schools beg parents to pay for pens and glue,” screamed the front-page headline of the Daily Mirror, exposing the fact that a school in Theresa May’s constituency is looking to charge parents £190 a year for basic school resources.
Robert Piggott infant and junior schools in Wargrave, Berkshire, sent parents a letter which reportedly said, “Following discussions with the PTA, we would like to suggest parents donate £1 per school per day for each child to help this crisis. This equates to £190 per year.”
The opposition party, parents across the country and unions were up in arms as the need for parents to subsidise essential resources in a school.
As Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, put it: “It is hard for schools to manage without being subsidised by staff and parents. Parents should not be expected to pay for their children’s education. And it is wrong to rely on the goodwill of parents to meet the shortfall.”
No school decides to take such measures unless it is absolutely necessary. As the executive head responsible for the two Robert Piggott schools told the Mirror: “Whilst committed to the principle of state-funded education we have reached the stage where we need to ask parents and the community to consider making voluntary donations to help meet the predicted shortfall in funding. This decision has not been taken lightly.”
But it’s not just the schools in Theresa May’s constituency that are having to make these tough decisions. Earlier in the year, the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) set up the Resource Our Schools campaign to highlight instances of this that are now sadly commonplace across the country.
It’s not just parents who are now paying for resources, teachers are too. Ninety-four percent of teaching staff in schools around the UK pay for essential classroom materials, according to a recent survey in the Times Educational Supplement.
As one teacher recently told the Guardian: “What happens if we don’t buy the required equipment? Then we can’t do the work. We can’t get kids through the project and then they won’t get their GCSE. A lot of schools are binning off technology and vocational subjects because they see it as a financial burden. This means that kids who are better with their hands are getting pushed to one side.”
Due to the budgetary uncertainty that currently persists across the education sector, schools have been reducing their resources expenditure dramatically, and the reality is worse than during any time in the past fifteen years, we at the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) have found in our most recent procurement research.
BESA undertakes quarterly research with the National Education Research Panel (NERP) with a representative sample of head teachers from across the UK. Our most recent research report found that the forecast for resources spending in secondary schools in 2017 was a -4.8% reduction in expenditure year on year.
In cash terms, this means that the average secondary school will be spending £7,840 less on educational resources this year than they did in the previous year. This amounts to a decline of over £17,000 over the past two years alone. Primary schools are spending around £4,450 less too. This amounts to a spending reduction of £129.4m over the past two years alone.
Schools need to be adequately resourced in order to deliver the education that our children deserve. It is therefore fundamental that in next week’s budget Chancellor Philip Hammond addresses this unprecedented shortfall in school funding and takes the necessary steps to properly resource our schools.