Funding crisis: Schools in South Gloucestershire hit the hardest by funding cuts

Funding crisis: Schools in South Gloucestershire hit the hardest by funding cuts

Schools in South Gloucestershire are set to be the worst funded in the country by 2020, a recent study by ‘School Cuts’ has found.

Independent group School Cuts have collected data on the funding cuts for all state schools across England and Wales.

According to their figures, 17,942 schools are facing real term cuts in funding per pupil, with schools in South Gloucestershire being the ones hit hardest.

The Institute for Financial Studies reported in early 2018 that funding per pupil has been cut, in real terms, by 8% since 2010.

The cuts are a product of a fall in spending by local authorities and of school sixth forms alongside increasing numbers of pupils.

Meanwhile, the Department for Education’s figures show an extra 537,885 pupils over the same period.

School cuts in South Gloucestershire, funding per pupil cuts. Source for numbers: School Cuts.

Funding cuts in state education have become a major issue, affecting large swathes of the country.

Rural and suburban areas have seen underfunded schools and a large-scale turnover of teaching staff; in South Gloucestershire, on the out skirts of Bristol, schools have seen drastic cut-backs, meaning that, by 2020, the area will be the worst funded in the entire country.

The problems have now become mainstream because of BBC documentary ‘School’, based in the Castle School Education Trust (CSET) schools of Castle (Thornbury), Marlwood (Alveston) and Mangotsfield.

Julie Thomas, James Pope and Stuart Emery of Marlwood. Image credit: Ryan McNamara.

William Roberts, the CEO of CSET, describes the situation he has witnessed: “the additional funding has been removed. We used to get extra grants for the central support that we provided for the schools.

“It’s the costs rising while our income has been static and, in some years, reduced. We’ve now got this squeeze that we’re seeing much more strongly than a few years ago.

“Ultimately, the impact is on young people, especially on more vulnerable children who need extra support that we can’t provide.”

An RE teacher at Castle School explains the issues he sees: “One of the issues is there’s not enough people around to deal with issues that kids have.

“So, it’s just kind of less time to look after students. And then, also, most schools have an issue of behaviour now, even nice middle-class schools have an issue because there’s just not enough people to patrol things.

“We see time after time teachers going off on long-term sickness and they don’t feel supported. They feel victimised.”

He also describes a situation at Castle which sounds like something out of a sitcom; in one room, a drainpipe runs outside of the wall and inside the classroom then the drainpipe dispatches of the rainwater into a bin which must be regularly emptied then the cycle repeats.

Melinda Evans, a parent and member of Friends of Marlwood School, described how she and other parents have been asked to donate pens, glue sticks and calculators because the school’s budget has been slashed.

Also, she describes how teaching has become a ‘volatile’ profession, characterised by a high amount of work with a high amount of stress:

“It gives the teachers no capacity to deal with anything at all, they have to do everything. It’s affected staffing levels, schools are running on the barest of staffing ratios.

“It puts enormous stress on the teachers, it puts a lot of strain on their health. A profession that’s so important, it’s not paid brilliantly, also, they don’t get the support to do the job they want to do.”

South Gloucestershire Council is torn over how to approach the next budget, with more cuts seemingly inevitable.

One option is to reduce the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) budget by £3million while the other option is to take £1.5million from the SEND budget and the mainstream budget.

Kate Cooper, a prospective Labour Councillor, believes that children with SEND have been unfairly treated over recent years because of the pressure of the funding cuts.

“You’re seeing them being excluded from schools. You’re seeing them being home educated because parents feel their needs aren’t being met.

“They’re being expelled more frequently. I think something like thirty per cent of SEND children are out of school and that isn’t appropriate.”

SEND Family Action offer advice and support to parents with SEND children that the schools can no longer provide.

A member of SEND Family Action is angry about the treatment of all students, especially the SEND students, that have been caused by cutbacks.

“South Gloucestershire council were assessed by Ofsted for their SEND services and they were told it was inadequate and that they need to change it.

“There’s not funding for them [teachers] to receive the training.

“I don’t think any MP in the local area can honestly say that they have brought fairer funding for schools. I think they’re politicking and pretending they give a damn.

“They’re trying desperately to make behaviour uniformed and you can’t fit a hexagon in a round hole.”

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