28 Jun

Graham

Sometimes writing my blog can be quite cathartic – this week is one of those.

Most of the time school leadership is rewarding, fulfilling, stimulating and challenging. Very occasionally, and at certain times of the year, it’s incredibly frustrating.

I know it’s the end of the academic year and everyone is massively busy (and tired), but this week all I seem to have dealt with are issues pertaining to budgets.

I really didn’t come into this job to be an accountant (with all due respect, Nigel!), I became a teacher to make a difference. To make a difference to the young people I support, to make a difference to their families, to make a difference to our communities.

I am so disappointed that our school leaders spend a disproportionate amount of time battling with their budgets. The amount of effort they are putting in to ensure we maintain our present staffing solution is huge. I want to publicise what a difficult job this is. Every one of them is passionate about their staff and the children in their schools. We’re now getting near to our (collective) wits’ end. We’ve got staff shared across sites, we’ve got staff doing more than one role, we’ve got staff working their socks off, we’ve got staff attending meetings at 7.30am and past 6.00pm. The irony of this fact is that the new Ofsted framework, to be introduced in September, places an emphasis on staff well being and their welfare!! Policy makers need to wake up and smell the coffee! The reality in our MAT, and in most schools across the country, is that the cuts are now having a profound effect.

However, our schools have never been so popular. Numbers in every one of them are rising. Colleagues from our ‘central team’ have been instrumental in securing £1.5million of grants to fund our extensions. It’s a good job they’ve been successful as we would have run out of simple classroom space! It’s important to note that we have to annually compete for this money, against all other schools in the country.

A few weeks ago, I blogged that our trust, over the last few years, has faced cuts of over £1 million pounds. I’ve not met a school leader, within our MAT, who isn’t totally committed to the principle of valuing their staff and supporting their professional development. However, at a grass roots level, colleagues see class sizes rising, more paper work and an increased workload. How can the staff keep up this pace? How can school leaders balance the books? Simple answer – they can’t within present funding models.

Leaders can’t keep asking the staff to do more. I can’t get our school leaders to rationalise again!

Our young people deserve more. We will not be forced to accept a lowest common denominator.

So, I’m paid to work this out, to find solutions, to steer a path through the austerity jungle. What’s the solution?

Over the last few months I have written to MPs and to the Chancellor. I have had replies but unfortunately this national crisis is taking a bit of a back seat! Brexit appears to be getting in the way. But the crisis in school funding (and adult social care funding) needs to be brought back into a public debate. It will be interesting to see if either of our future Prime Ministers has anything to say?

In my opinion, the solution has to hinge on lobbying for extra funding. Petitioning our LAs has limited impact, they’ve been squeezed as much as schools. So, we need to influence the next national spending review, taking place in November.

To put this in perspective a tiny increase in our funding model, in line with inflation, would give our schools a significant amount. Our schools have had no inflationary rise for 8 years. A 1.5% (per year) uplift would mean nearly £1 million extra going into our schools. It would allow school leaders to bring in more staff to support our children. It would allow us to fund our innovations.

The optimistic view – I believe we are over the worst. We have managed to grow our MAT and our children and young people still get one of the best deals in the country. However, I believe the last few years have had a huge impact on staff. Staff, in the future, deserve something back.

I’m in London next week – explaining to officials what it’s really like at the chalk face!

In conclusion, I’d like to sincerely thank all of the staff in all our schools. I’d like to thank our school leaders for their sincerity and commitment to their teams. I believe we will look back in a couple of years proud of the fact that we have worked our way through the last 8 years.

So, to all our staff (including our school leaders), thank you for your understanding. Thank you for your support through this difficult period. Thank you for your commitment to our children and young people. Creating meaningful futures.

Have a great weekend,

Graham

You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here