Dear Gavin

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

Dear Gavin 😄

Hi, and first off, congrats on getting the big job. I bet your first week will be nuts, but if you get a minute, I hope you get time to read this. ⌚

You know when you apply for a job (I know you didn’t technically apply for this one, but stay with me) the advert makes it sounds like the best job ever, and you’re really excited about it and all the fantastic things you’ll be part of? Yeah? And so you turn up on your first day with a new notebook and a new lunch box, full of hope, and there’s all the exciting stuff, but slowly you find out there’s also some pretty tough stuff too, that they didn’t really tell you about at the induction talk, and that apparently you’ve got to fix as well? 🙄

And then you hear some stuff about unhappy staff and not enough pay and that the old boss was maybe a bit rubbish, not that popular, and how no one listens to the little people? Yeah, we’ve all been there, it’s standard new job stuff. But you don’t let it get you down because hey, you’re here now, and you’re going to fix everything, right? Keep hold of that feeling, because you’re going to need it. 👍

So we all know that the best way to really find out what’s really going on at work is to hang out by the tea room, or to get chatting to the caretakers - good advice. But you’re going to be at a bit of a disadvantage, because you’re up at head office, and your coal face people are scattered around the country in schools everywhere, and it’s the summer holidays too, so no one’s about. Nightmare, right? 🏖️

So, I thought it might help you out a bit if I pinged over a few notes about how it’s been, you know, generally, and the kind of things the staff are saying, to try and cut out the middle man, woman, men, women - actually the army of people that sit between you, up there in Parliament, and me, sat in my living room, on the south coast. 🛋


Yeah, so, funding, It’s a complete mess. There’s not enough of it, and it’s unfairly distributed. And I don’t just mean we’d like a bit more money, in a whiny voice, I mean (big clear voice that reaches the back of the room) you need to understand that children are being denied the basics of a safe and effective education system because schools have had to get rid of the professionals who kept them safe, and to cut the education service they provide back to a skeletal system of bare minimums and mediocrity. Sorry, but it’s really, really bad. 😓

I’m a school business leader, and we’re the people who can tell you what it’s really like in schools at the moment, and the type of decisions we’re having to make every day, about what we can no longer afford to do. I can get a gang of us together if you like, we could come up, have a coffee, talk it through? ☕

So, if there’s not enough money you might think we need to shed some staff. Yup, been there, done that. There’s already an army of SRMAs with toolkits and financial planning spreadsheets to show us who we can get rid of. But we’ve already restructured and renegotiated our contracts - we did that 2 years ago, and again last year, and we’re doing it again now. We’re pretty much experts at it, thanks. 👩‍💼

We’ve already got rid of hardworking, fantastic people, because we don’t have the money to keep them. We’ve already been through the most awful restructure processes where Headteachers have had to hold back tears, and select unlucky colleagues, call them in and tell them they were being made redundant. But that hasn’t been true, has it? Redundant means there’s no longer a need for them, or there’s no work for them. That isn’t the case. We have so much work for them, and so much need for them, we’re all feeling like we’ve been robbed and mugged, frankly. It’s not great. 😭

Teacher Recruitment & Retention

So on top of that, there’s a shortage of teachers, a massive one. Trying to find a computing, science, maths or technology teacher is impossible. Not just tough, proper impossible. It’s like looking for a narwhal in the desert - they’re just not there. And so you have to get supply teachers in and they’re rarely specialists in the subjects you need. Don’t get me wrong, they do their best, but the kids needs consistency, they need subject experts, and they deserve the best. Word has got out that education is a pretty crap place to be right now, the pay is poor, the workload is unmanageable and the accountability and hoop jumping is intolerable. Oh and the curriculum’s a bit hit and miss too. Sorry. ☢️

So not enough young people are going into teaching. Those are some of the reasons, but also remember that those young graduates, now 21 and 22 are the kids who were at school during the time that your right honourable mate Michael Gove was doing your job and, to be frank, that wasn’t his finest hour. Their experience of school was pretty mixed, programmes and funding were pulled and chopped and messed about with continually, so bear that in mind too - what you do now will have a much more lasting impact than the next budget announcement, it will shape a generation. ⏳

So anyway, back to teachers. They’re seriously fed up. And lots are leaving. So you really, really need to stop them. They’re good people, really good people, and they know their stuff. Talk to them, urgently, and listen to what they say. Not just to the leaders of the big power organisations, or Ofsted or the CEOs of the big MATs, the actual teachers doing the actual jobs. Them. They will be honest and they will tell you what they need in order to provide a fantastic education for our young people. Make a list. In your new notebook. I can put you in touch with some if you like, email me?📓


Yup, another biggie. The whole SEND system is a bit of a pig’s ear, there’s a whole mess of different systems across the UK, it’s like everyone’s doing different things, no one’s got any T.A. left and funding is complete carnage. It needs a plan, a very quick and effective plan, because our most vulnerable children are being let down, very badly.

Oh, and don’t listen to the line about there being more funding going into education then ever before, because that’s horsecrap. There’s more children in education than ever before, there are higher costs than ever before and schools are having to deliver more services than ever before. I mean look, you’re an intelligent man. You couldn’t say the minimum wage is higher than ever before without realising that your weekly shop is also higher than ever before, and that your gas bill and train tickets are also higher than ever before, that’s how inflation works, ask Sajid. 💷

Pay Rises

Right, so this is a tricky one. Theresa, you remember, the one with the robo moves and leopard print shoes, she decided to give everyone a pay rise. Yay? Well, yay and no. Because the pay rise she gave didn’t come with the money schools need to pay it. So, on top of the funding cuts (go back up a bit), the cost of staffing has just shot up as well, in the middle of our financial year, with no warning and no money to pay for it. And that pay increase is forever, not just for this year, and it might go up again at any point, next year, along with pension costs and all the other costs of employing people. So she sort of screwed us over there, really. So a quick win for you would be to promise to fund the pay rise, in full for this academic year, to buy us all some time. There has to be a pot you can pull from, you’re a brand new cabinet, you can do what you like. And if you don’t ask…Boris is pretty bullish right now, worth a try? 🤞

Settling In

So anyway, sorry, I’ve rambled on a bit, but if I were starting off in a new job, I’d like to think someone would take me to one side and give me the inside track too. At least you know some of the things you’re up against. But really, we’re a great bunch, we love our jobs, we love the kids we work with and want to do a fantastic job for you and the country’s families. We’re also pretty good at it too, if you give us what we need to do it. Which is money, sorry, but it won’t go away, and also the freedom to run our schools the way we need to, with some clear direction on the top line stuff, of course. But also we need your time. 👩🏼‍🏫👨🏿‍🏫👨‍🏫

For us to work together, we need to listen to each other. It’s like a relationship. We need to spend time with each other, talking. And not with a photo opportunity and a press release, but with the frank and honest exchange of views and solutions that mean we can all move forward successfully, for our children. You’re a dad, you know this stuff. 👪

Oh, so some Headteachers and some others of us are having a bit of a march on the 27th September. It’s in Westminster, so local for you. It’d be great if you could pop by, you know, show your face, say hi, shake some hands. We could catch up maybe, see how you’re settling in? 📅

Oh gosh and here’s loads of other stuff to tell you too, but I don’t want to overwhelm you on your first few days. I’m sure that’s more than enough for now. But call me, yeah, if you want to, once you’ve found your feet? Anytime. 📲

Good luck though. 😄

#schoolfunding #dfe #cabinet #welcome #education #gavinwilliamson


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