It’s the end of term for the majority of schools and academies across England and Wales, traditionally a day of happiness, celebration and success, of remembering and reminiscing about the achievements and successes of our students, about the high spots and low moments of another challenging year, and of bidding fond farewells to colleagues as they move on to new adventures. There will be speeches, there will be tears, there will be poignant moments mixed in with the presents and flowers, as schools mark the end of another cycle of their collective lives.
And on the last day of term, school leaders across the UK should be waking up with a smile, as they imagine how the last day will play out, the secret treats that staff have got lined up for their tutor groups, the memories of last night’s leaving do, the paperwork they still have to squeeze in before breaktime, the preparation for the summer maintenance works, and the general buzz of excitement and relief that they made it to the end of term.
But instead, on the day that the Education Select Committee has confirmed that school funding desperately needs a multi billion £ cash injection, Theresa May has also chosen to announce a public sector payrise for school staff of 2.75%. So yay, good news, a pay rise, you might think? Well, whilst welcomed, an unfunded or partially funded payrise is really not good news, it’s a complete and utter disaster for schools who are already struggling to balance their budgets
In her attempt to leave a lasting legacy on her tenure as PM, Mrs May seems to put yet another nail in the coffin of financial viability of most of our schools. School Business Leaders have most likely budgeted for a 2% pay rise, but this hand grenade of an additional 0.75% will bring the roof crashing down on the flimsy makeshift shelter under which school budgets are currently operating . So let me spell it out very clearly:
Things Schools Do Not Need
1. Schools do not need and cannot cope with a further teacher pay rise unless it is fully funded to include the cost of employers pension and NI contributions, and funded going forward, not just for one year. Increasing teacher pay has absolutely no impact on school funding or on improving school resources. A pay increase and a matching pay grant get paid straight out again, in salaries. You have not understood.
2. Schools do not need to hear that the Secretary of State for Education is keen to keep his job under a new PM. We don’t care about his career on the day when we’re saying goodbye to colleagues who are being made redundant. Sorry, not today.
3. Schools do not need to hear any form of announcement that means they’ll have to rewrite their budget plans, on the last day of the school year. Tell us what, when, how much and who, in good time, so we can plan and think about how to cope with whatever it is you’re announcing. You have just ruined our summer, your timing is awful.
4. Schools do not need to hear about the toolkits and frameworks that you have produced, that you think they should be engaging with to reduce their workload. Especially when they sit alongside an inspection framework that measures the same workload. Your measure to decrease workload has increased the workload on the accountability of schools to prove the reduction. Just stop it.
Things Schools Do Need
An immediate increase in per-pupil funding. Now. We can do all the rest ourselves.