Thu, 30 November 2023

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The new government must prioritise education

National Education Union

3 min read Partner content

Education must not be forgotten in the government’s response to the cost of living crisis. Years of austerity have left schools vulnerable. Pay freezes for teachers have led to increasing recruitment and retention problems. Our children deserve better. It is time to get this right and prioritise funding for education.

By 2025, school spending per pupil will actually be 3 per cent below 2010 level in real terms, reversing the long term trend for real terms growth. Schools have not had the cash reserves necessary to invest in crucial building upgrades.  

It has become the norm for schools to run fundraising drives to meet essential costs. How many of you have been asked to set up a direct debit to your child’s schools? Or had to put your hands in your pocket so the school can afford to replace out-of-date computers? It shouldn’t have to be like this.

This system is fundamentally unfair. The biggest cuts over this period have been faced by schools in deprived areas.  The greater the need, the deeper the problems.

Even before the pandemic, the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers had stopped closing.  The gap at primary school increased for the first time since 2007.

Children need security. Yet 3.9 million children are now living in poverty – eight children in every class of 30 – and this is only going to get worse with the current cost-of-living crisis. Teachers are regularly having to dip into their own pockets to buy food or clothing for their pupils.

The crisis in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) funding is not going away. Local Authority SEND budgets are at breaking point with SEND deficits expected to total up to £3bn by 2023.

We now see a recruitment and retention crisis in education. The number of newly qualified teachers is lower than in every year but one since 2012. Astonishingly, almost a quarter of teachers leave the profession within three years and almost a third within five years.

We will be balloting our members over the Government’s pay offer - which presents a significant real terms pay cut. Pay for experienced teachers has fallen by one fifth in real terms since 2010. Support and supply staff get an even worse deal, with term-time only pay making them some of the lowest earners in the public sector. 

Educators don’t want to strike – we want to be in the classroom teaching our pupils. But we just can’t stand by and watch the biggest real terms decline in teachers’ pay this century. 

The formation of a new government presents an opportunity for a reset in education. There is a chance to show what levelling up can mean for children and families in the most deprived areas. It can demonstrate how to ensure opportunity is evenly spread across all four corners of the UK. This will take greater funding but an investment in education is an investment in our future economic prosperity. They must show they value education and value educators.


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