Cuts in education 'having big impact'
PARENTS and staff fighting for fair funding for South Gloucestershire schools have stepped up their campaign.
Around 60 people attended a meeting in Hanham on December 12 where they heard from a panel about how cuts to the education budget were having 'devastating' consequences on children's education, with South Gloucestershire schools predicted to be the worst funded in England by 2020.
Guests were told how schools are having their budgets slashed but at the same time class sizes are growing and there are fewer teachers, teaching assistants and resources to support children's learning.
It was organised by Leilah Boyce, who chaired the meeting at Aek Boco football club in front of parents and educationalists.
"As a parent and teacher in South Glos, I am cross about the impact of decades of poorly resourced schools."
She said the introduction of the new-style GCSE and A-levels exams has exasperated problems for secondary schools.
"They needed extra funding which didn't come. Schools need new text books but can't afford to buy them. I bought my children text books to use at home but not every parent can do that."
She said the television programme School has helped highlight the realities of the funding cuts.
"Lots of people have become aware of the funding problems because of the programme on TV. I have had conversations with parents and they are now saying there's a problem - the programme has really sparked the debate for people."
Attendees were given leaflets showing how the income of schools in the area has changed since 2015, with many, including Hanham Woods, Sir Bernard Lovell, Mangotsfield, John Cabot and King's Oak secondary schools, down by hundreds of thousands of pounds. The picture was also bleak for primaries with many seeing budgets tens of thousands of pounds lower.
The audience also heard from 15-year-old Izzy Hempstead, a student at Hanham Woods Academy. She told the meeting: "When I was in Year 7 there was a team of support staff but these posts have been cut with the duties falling onto the heads of house and teaching staff.
"It makes it harder to see someone when I am feeling down because the head of house has to deal with over 200 students. This frustrates me because mental health is at an all-time high and pastoral support is at an all-time low."
Izzy said admin posts had been cut but because the work still needed to be done, teaching staff had to take on extra duties.
She also said maintenance is suffering and broken facilities are taking longer to get fixed.
"As a student I feel teachers work extremely hard and are pushed above and beyond what is expected of them. We are the future generation - aren't we worth investing in?"
The meeting heard from Steve Kneller, principal of Hanham Woods Academy, who described the situation as a "deepening crisis".
"The Government says there is more money coming in and there might be - but it doesn't meet the increased costs of pension contributions, national insurance contributions, examination costs, text book costs, staff wages. Year on year headteachers are having to make really difficult decisions about what we cut but there’s not a lot more to cut."
Tara Northern, the mother of a SEND (special educational needs and disability) child affected by cuts and Tim Ruck, the headteacher of St Stephen's Infant School also spoke.
Mr Ruck said headteachers risk losing new pupils if they speak out that cuts are impacting their school.
"I was worried about sticking my head above the parapet and highlighting funding issues at my school that ultimately may stop people applying for places and then the funding issue gets even worse but I decided it was time to speak out.
"As a teacher your core purpose is to inspire, educate and enable children to succeed. Over the past eight years this has become increasingly difficult because of the impact of the cuts in school funding."
Parents at the meeting were encourage to lobby their MPs as well as South Gloucestershire councillors urging them to support fair funding.