Few now disagree that teachers’ pay has been capped at 1% for far too long, with devastating consequences for the profession. Retention is at record lows, and the recruitment crisis persists, with the average starting salary for a teacher being around £5,000 lower than that of the average graduate.
The decision to increase it lies not with the Department for Education, however, but with the treasury. And Liz Truss, the chief secretary to the Treasury, has indicated that next week’s budget should bring some long overdue good news. Indeed, a report published this week by the IPPR suggests that lifting this cap may cost the government less than was originally thought.
This is welcome news, but many in the education sector are rightly concerned that lifting this cap without there being sufficient additional budget provided to finance it may have a very serious knock-on impact to other aspects of schools budgets.
Schools don’t have much room to manoeuvre in other areas, if any at all. On average, over 80% of a UK schools’ budget is spent on staff. About 15% is spent on pensions, insurance, electricity and other utilities. And only 5% is spent on school resources.
Due to the budgetary uncertainty that currently persists across the education sector, schools have been reducing their resources expenditure in 2017, and the reality is be 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.
The overall forecast for resources expenditure across UK secondary schools is one of a 10% market reduction over the past two years. Even during the Great Recession secondary schools were spending more on educational resources.
Schools are now starting to lack even essential resources.
While there are doubtless efficiencies to be made, the impact of cutting back on resources upon a child’s education should not be underestimated. There is a powerful evidence base to show that resources matter – from the size of the furniture, to the quality of the science equipment.
We are hearing accounts from across the school sector of corners being cut. These range from YouTube clips being shown in place of science practicals, to parents being asked to pay for textbooks.
There are frequent headlines in the papers about parents being asked to pay for educational resources due to budget cuts. And teachers are even having to pay out-of-pocket to ensure that their pupils get the resources they need to learn.
One secondary school teacher told us recently that: “If I need specialist resources, I have to buy them myself. Money is tight – I find myself getting wound up over children using too much glue, or sharpening pencils too much! Decisions are being made based on financial, not educational value.”
This is why this year, we at BESA launched our Resource Our Schools campaign, working with subject associations and representative bodies, such as the NAHT, Naace and the Association for Science Education. The campaign is dedicated to ensuring that every school has access to the resources they need to deliver the education that our children deserve.
Hundreds of organisations, teachers, parents and suppliers have already signed the Resource Our Schools statement. In the run up to the budget next week, every additional signature counts. As one secondary-school classroom teacher, Sophie Toovey puts it: ‘The teaching job is becoming impossible to do well due to limited resources. Our children’s futures matter.’
This is a message that it’s incredibly important that those preparing next week’s budget hear loud and clear.
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