In an exclusive interview to The Guardian, published on Tuesday 24 October, Lord Harris, the founder of the Harris Multi Academy Trust (MAT), called on the government to increase funding for schools.
“They say give more than 1% pay rises to teachers, but there’s no more money,” Harris said. “Education is the most important thing in the country. It’s the future for children. What I think they should do is somehow put more money back into education.”
Last month, the government announced to be looking to lift the 1% pay cap for parts of public sector, after No 10 provoked an outrage in the education sector when it revealed in July that teachers would only receive an overall 1% rise in 2017/18.
However, the additional £1.3bn for schools funding over two years that the Department for Education committed to over the summer have been recognised as dramatically insufficient to reverse the funding cuts that schools have been going through over the past few years.
This is an issue that Lord Harris painfully understands. Despite the Harris MAT already making £12m of savings, it is currently facing a 20% real-term cuts in funding over the next five years.
So who will pay teachers their pay rise? This is a good question asked by Harris, as the teacher retention issue comes, in part, from the low salaries, alongside heavy workload and lack of support.
If schools decide to rise to the challenge, they risk jeopardising their resources budgets. Indeed, 80% of a schools’ budget is already spent on staff, while resources only receive around 5%, so any attempt by schools to fund the pay rises themselves may dramatically affect the resources that children can access to support their learning.
Meanwhile, resources budgets in schools have been steadily declining, down 5.1% in primary schools and 5.6% in secondary schools in 2016/17, according to BESA’s latest report on the state of resources in maintained schools in England.
Yet, resources are crucial to the delivery of a quality education and they cannot be overlooked. BESA’s Resource Our Schools campaign shed light on the critical role of high-quality resources in supporting teachers to offer the education that children deserve.