An opinion piece by the Chairperson of Bude Labour Party. As ever, other political groups (and individuals) are welcome to submit such articles, too.
Recently there has been a flurry of educational announcements; anyone would think someone was preparing for a Snap General Election. It seems that even our Conservative government are waking up to the damage that has been inflicted upon our schools by, well, themselves, and are desperate to appear to be doing something about it.
Last year 10% of all secondary teachers left the profession, at a time when the school population is growing, and predicted to continue to grow in the 11-18 level until 2025. This is combining with a 30% drop in applicants for teacher training to push schools to breaking point under chronic underfunding. Of those who are joining, a third leave the profession within six years as a result of workload burnout. We simply cannot find and train new teachers fast enough to replace the ones which leave. This in itself is a crisis.
But it is also happening at a time of profound school budget cuts. Over £3bn has been slashed out of the system. Cash-strapped schools are having to ask parents to pay for paper, books and pens, and children are being crammed into super-sized classrooms. Bude Schools have had a combined figure of £400,000 cut from their already tight budgets.
Across the country, half of all secondary academies and 60% of maintained secondary schools – those overseen by local authorities – do not have enough money to employ the number of staff they have (and this after years of staff and subject cutting that has been forced upon them).
Before 2020, our local schools will have to make teachers redundant at a time when pupil numbers are rising.
When support staff leave they will not be replaced (putting our most vulnerable students under yet more pressure).
When equipment gets broken or when resources run out they are not replaced, and classes of 34+ are squeezing into rooms designed for a maximum of 30.
Under the Tories, the number of five, six and seven-year-olds in classes over 30 has increased by 91 per cent since 2011. That number will spread into secondaries and continue to grow for the next five years.
Our Cornish schools are facing cuts of over £14m at a time of rising costs, rising pupil numbers, difficulties in finding and retaining new teachers they can barely afford, and parents and children are paying the price.
Our Conservative Education Secretary believes that the teacher shortage crisis can be solved by some encouragement of more job-sharing for part-time teachers, for parents to ‘exercise restraint’ in emailing schools, and to give those younger teachers a little extra pay to stop them leaving.
Teachers in Cornwall struggle in the face of adversity to give our children the very best chances they can. Many push themselves to breaking point. Initiatives that dance around the edge of the huge difficulties faced by schools and teachers are just not enough.
We need fair funding for schools so that teachers can work their proper hours, on decent pay, with enough support staff, and with all the materials they need to provide the standard of education that they want to give to our children.
This should be the absolute minimum that parents should expect from their education system.
Labour will stop Tory cuts to school budgets. A Labour government will put an extra £5.6bn into the education system, giving schools a much needed real terms increase in funding. We will also provide universal free school meals for primary school children and get class sizes down to under 30 for all 5, 6 and 7-year-olds.
Labour is ambitious for our children and we believe in the value of education throughout all our lives. We will create a unified National Education Service (NES) for England to move towards cradle-to-grave learning that is free at the point of use. The NES will be built on the principle that ‘Every Child – and Adult Matters’ and will incorporate all forms of education, from early years through to adult education
A fairer national and local funding solution for our schools will ensure that education in Bude really is for the many, and not the few.