Are we sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. I have read of countries in the world that actually fund their key services properly to ensure the country can keep its citizens well-educated, healthy and safe in times of emergency. Alas, they are all far away from here and, as a recent well-documented ‘survey’ suggests, half our population believes these European chaps have got it all wrong anyway and we have nothing to learn from them.
Our education system, like the police force, the NHS, fire brigade, and every other useful service you can think of, is woefully underfunded and facing further cuts. Of course, budget cuts also mean a cut in quality.
Not content with keeping teachers’ wages down (my guffaw last night as someone in the pub suggested I was on £40,000-£50,000 a year is probably still echoing now) while working hours and the cost of living increase year on year, the government are now placing massive cuts in education at all levels.
Schools are under massive pressure to ensure the progress of ‘pupil premium’ children, who are labelled as ‘underprivileged’ by the government – a charming phrase, as many of these children grow up surrounded by loving, supportive families in an environment far more positive than that of many wealthy families I have seen. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t want to equip schools with the means to help any child by funding schools properly in the first place. One wonders how many exercise books could be purchased with the amount the Commons bar takes/subsidises each year…
Teachers spend massive amounts of their own money on resources for the children: books, posters, stickers, praise stamps, pens, notebooks, etc. We know many kids will not have equipment from home and the school will not pay for it, so the teachers do instead. I’ve provided handwriting pens with special grips for children who struggle with their co-ordination, and fancy notebooks for bereaved children so they can record their private thoughts when they are struggling, and get through the day without having to bottle things up or break down. When my former school was offered some chickens, the Headteacher was delighted. Turns out, however, that all of the food was to be paid for by myself for years – as were all of the tools, soil and seeds for my school gardening clubs and projects.
Teachers know that many children do not receive much praise at home. They may be bought things, but buying your child things to make up for you rarely being at home or just to keep them quiet in front of a screen is not the same as getting recognition for their brilliance as people or pupils. So we buy them stickers, small prizes, funny stampers of praise and hand out sweets from time to time as rewards for doing well. Given that we have to buy our own tea and coffee (if the school does it, it’s termed as a misuse of public money) the idea of claiming back any of this money we spend on the children is futile.
The government has now, essentially, made schools a charity. Parents will be squeezed for more contributions each year, my classes already have fundraising weeks for equipment and trips, and every term, teachers will spend their own money on their pupils. While the government crowed about our “1%” pay rise last year, they jacked up the NI and pension contributions so I take home less than previously. Schools, within a year, will mostly be running at an annual deficit as their carry-forward runs out and the cuts bite. My working hours increase, my lifespan shortens, my outgoings on resources for the kids increase and yet my income decreases. I’m not sure I like where this is heading.