Education at Breaking Point

I live in Cambridgeshire and at the moment we are 138th out of 152 local authorities when it comes to the amount of money schools receive per child for education.

Last week I received a letter from my son’s headteacher – as did pretty much every parent with a child in secondary education in our area – he is, as a professional educator, telling the parents of the children in his care that the school is almost at breaking point. That a point is coming where staff hours will be lost, class sizes will rise and quality educational and pastoral experience will be lost. The teaching unions are warning that whole subjects could be lost in some schools.

Our local MP Lucy Frazer has been making all the right noises in all the right places about the lack of funding in Cambridgeshire. She’s very good at making all the right noises about local issues but unfortunately she then returns to her home and the House in London and carries on voting for Austerity with her government.

There is, we are told, help at hand from the government regarding school funding (currently at consultation stage)… the figures are to be re-jigged and the system made fairer. Lucy trumpets that her constituency will receive over 1 million pounds in extra funding. But costs for schools are still on the rise and the historic inequalities in the funding system are not properly addressed in the consultation. The inequalities in funding will be locked into place.

Should the consultation get through into law things will get worse in Cambridgeshire ….not better.

If you want to check out the predictions of what will happen at your child’s school with the new funding formula you can do so here.

My son’s school looks set to lose over £400 per student and as many as 9 teachers….bear in mind this is in an area already near the bottom of the funding table and which is struggling from years of coping on low levels of funding. In 2014 Cambridgeshire received £3,950 per pupil compared, for example, to Nottingham (a skip and a jump away) with the highest per pupil amount outside of the capital, receiving £5,309.

I’ve filled in a consultation response and I was very glad our local schools gave some guidance as it’s complicated stuff if you’re not involved in some way in school finance. If you can…. fill one in. Use the responses your local school offers if you need to because every response received counts.

But I don’t hold out much hope – it’s not like the Tories have much of a record of real evidence based policy – but responding to a consultation with weighted questions is the best chance we are going to get.

It certainly sounds like my MP will be voting in favour of the new funding formulae… but I don’t consider that Lucy Frazer has much concept at all about the state education system, other than visiting the occasional school for an afternoon photo-call and to make the right noises. Nor will she have much concept of what educating our children costs in real terms…. oh…she knows what educating ‘her’ children costs – she and her husband appear to pay out £10K more than the average annual household income to educate their 2 children in a fee paying London school….but I’m not sure that’s really comparable experience.



Let children be children- 3May

My daughter is nearly 23 and I don’t remember her taking her KS2 SATs…I know she did and I know she got ‘good levels’ but we talked about it today and she doesn’t remember there being any real preparation for them…no months of practise papers…no stress.

I was a school governor at the time and knew that those tests were meant to be a window into her education… a snapshot of where she was at at age 11.

Jump forward a dozen years and my son is about to sit his SAT’s, his school is wonderful, …he mostly enjoys it but…. there have been practise papers. There has been an after school maths club (in his case) or a literacy club in the case of others. It’s an improvement on his KS1 SATs at a previous school where it felt the whole year was taken up with cramming…but still….

Part of me is very impressed the school isn’t doing more  because the grammar element the children are being tested on is new. A new curriculum…a four year curriculum that our children have had access to for less than a year… that could be a LOT of cramming- but as I said…good school.
My daughter asked her little brother today if he is worried about his SAT’s.
“A bit” he said
“That’s disgusting” she said to me “nobody should need to be worried about exams until GCSe’s…. and she’s totally right.

In a society where we’re all under more pressure, where there are fewer resources to go around, where the gap between rich and poor is ever widening, it’s hard for parents not to get sucked earlier and earlier into pushing their children onto the academic treadmill to try and get them ahead…
SAT’s are the foundation of my child’s future, do badly and his life path could crumble beneath his feet. THAT is the fear we’ve been fed. I know his SAT’s results are used to help stream him at secondary school, predict his GCSe results….his A level results…these tests could be the difference between him being a doctor or working in McDonalds (I’m over egging but you get the point).

Give a six year old a test paper and they should make a paper aeroplane with it.. a telescope…or draw a tree. Give a ten year old a test paper and they should make an origami boat…draw a plan for a working telescope…draw a tree they’ve been growing since they were 6…or write a poem about it…..pretty much anything to show you they love learning and that they know anything they are good at is important – whatever it is.

I’ve never been a teacher but I was a TA and I know the satisfaction of finding things a child is good at…discovering an activity that makes a child resonate with confidence or getting to a joyeous lightbulb moment of understanding.

Knowing what a relative clause is, recognising the future perfect or even knowing what these three little dots (that I over use) are called… isn’t actually going to give those moments to very many children.

Things can…and should…be different.

And that’s why my son will not be in school on Tuesday.