Headteachers across Welwyn Hatfield and Potters Bar support Downing Street protest
PUBLISHED: 14:18 28 September 2018 | UPDATED: 14:53 28 September 2018
Headteachers in Welwyn Hatfield and Potters Bar are supporting their colleagues marching in Downing Street to highlight the impact of funding cuts.
Hundreds of headteachers from all over the country and Wales took to Downing Street today to demand more money to go towards school’s budgets.
Ridgeway Academy (previously Sir Frederic Osborn) headteacher Jed Whelan said that he didn’t attend the march as he was needed on site due to the school’s recent revamp.
Mr Whelan said that he “supports” his colleagues’ views.
He said: “All schools across the country are strapped for cash and we have gone through our budgets with a fine tooth comb.
“Our main concern is that pupils don’t miss out on quality education following cost pressures on every school.
“They have been immense ever since we entered the period of government austerity.
“Investing in the younger generation will do this country a world of good and that’s what needs to be realised.”
Stanborough’s headteacher Merry John also didn’t attend the march.
Bishop’s Hatfield headteacher Theodora Nickson didn’t attend because school is so busy, but had strong words to say in support. “It’s a very simple equation,” she said. “There is not enough money.
“The Government keeps saying that there has never before been as much money put into education. I agree, but there has never before been as many school children.
“We’ve got far more children going through the system and there hasn’t been the proportional increase in the funding, so we’re currently functioning at about an eight per cent loss in funding.
“We also have far more children with special educational needs (SEN) and that is a drain on our funds. And that’s a big concern with headteachers up and down the country.
“We’ve got increasing mental health issues which is also a drain on resources, particularly in Hertfordshire.
“I totally understand that there isn’t enough money to go round but if you can’t invest in our children who will be in control of our future then you are really missing a trick.
“We’re not accountants, we’re educators of children.”
In July, the School Teachers’ Review Body recommended a pay increase for teachers, which was snubbed by the Treasury.
This meant that the Department of Education had to fund it - which in turn shrinks the pot for education spending.
“If there’s been a recommendation like this the Treasury should have funded this, because we are public servants,” said Mrs Nickson.
Roger Billing, headteacher of the Wroxham School in Potters Bar, said: “The simple reality is in the last three to four years the difference in finances is phenomenal,” adding that increased minimum wage and national insurance contributions are hitting schools hard.
He described many schools considering shutting early on a Friday in order to save staff time, and some facing the possibility of operating with no teaching assistants at all.
He also said that previously, school PTAs would fundraise for ‘extras’ like iPads or high-tech blackboards, but increasingly some schools are dependent on them for basics like stationery.
He couldn’t attend the protest, but has been keeping an eye on it on TV. “I’ve been on the BBC and the comments are quite harsh,” he said, describing people who think teachers should not be protesting on school time.
But he defended how hard teachers work, long through the holidays and late after school hours. “Something’s got to change before it breaks.”
Onslow St Audrey’s headteacher David Bullock said that whilst he “fully” supports the headteachers participating in the march he was unable to attend today.
Mr Bullock, who took over as headteacher at the start of September, said: “They [the protesting headteachers] are doing an excellent job at spreading the message as it needs to be talked about.
“I fully support them but due to being new here it was best for me to be on site today.”
At Lakeside School, the picture is slightly different, said headteacher Lynnette Johnson.
Lakeside is a special school for pupils with severe learning difficulties and has ringfenced funding.
However, Mrs Johnson says she “completely supports” those who attended the march.
“I hear my mainstream colleagues talking about that and I feel really sorry for them,” she said, adding that schools with a lot of pupils with SEN are particularly feeling the pinch. “I’ve got mainstream colleagues who are struggling to provide that one-to-one support.
“There should be enough money in the budget for all children to receive a quality education, and that’s what’s not happening.”