CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

School cuts: ‘The stakes have never been so high’

UCL Academy could be worst hit school in the country by funding cuts

22 May, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Keir Starmer speaking at the meeting at Brookfield School

A HEADTEACHER warned parents “the stakes have never been so high” at a public meeting about the schools cash crisis.

Mark Stubbings said successive years of underfunding meant he was now facing “tough decisions” over key teaching posts and popular projects at Brookfield Primary School.

He was speaking with Labour’s Keir Starmer and education campaigners at a public meeting in the Highgate school on Tuesday night.

Mr Stubbings said: “It’s hard to let go of people and projects we care passionately about. This is not going to be easy. I worry for my pupils, I worry for my staff, I worry for the state of education. These are troubling times. The stakes have never been so high. We are asked to do more with less.”

He added: “Like many schools we pride ourselves on delivering an excellent education for our pupils. Over the last seven or eight years, we have worked really hard to raise standards and enrich the curriculum. We have won numerous awards. Set up really exciting projects.”

But the situation now was “pretty dire”, he said. “We have had to take tough decisions. It has had a significant impact on our time, energy and resources. And not to mention staff morale.”

Mark Stubbings

The school will have £250,000 less to spend – around 11 per cent of its budget next year.

Holding an April edition of the New Journal, with a report of how two children had donated piggy-bank savings to the school office, he said: “This is where it’s got to.”

Mr Stubbings is the latest Camden headteacher to raise the alarm publicly about cuts to school budgets following statements from Haverstock’s John Dowd and Hampstead School’s Jacques Szemalikowski. Campaigners who argue that there is already a £3billion gap in school funding nationally warn that the situation is due to get much worse under the Tories’ “fair funding formula”, which will spread school funding more evenly across the country.

Mr Starmer, Labour candidate for Holborn and St Pancras at next month’s general election, told the meeting: “Just listening to Mark saying that in this school in Highgate, in London, in the 21st century, decisions are having to be made about cutting staff. What sort of country are we when that is the discussion about education we are having?”

A barrister and former director of public prosecutions, he believed the best way to get crime down was to invest in school, adding: “People have often said: What is the best strategy for reducing crime – rehabilitation, books in prison, is it building a bigger prison? The answer is actually schools. Because if you track those that go to prison, the best tracker is those kids that were excluded from secondary schools, and the best tracker of those kids is those who had a difficult time at primary school. ”

He added: “If you really truly want to have an effective criminal justice strategy put your money into schools. “It will be tragic for kids who go off the rails. Eventually, it will cost a lot more if kids go into prison. That wider picture needs always to be put.”

Andrew Baisley, from Camden NUT, revealed shock figures showing that, because of its level of funding for schools, Camden will be the second-worst affected borough in terms of funding cuts.

Jo Yurky, who set up the national Fair Funding for All Schools campaign group, said the election provided a “fantastic opportunity to ramp up the pressure”, adding: “When headteachers speak, parents listen. When parents speak, politicians listen.” Schools campaigners are holding a “big assembly” demonstration in Tal­acre Gardens on Tuesday. The DfE’s position is that the current system for distributing school funding is “unfair, opaque and outdated” and the changes would mean more funding for half of England’s schools by 2018-19.

It adds: “We recognise that schools are facing pressures, which is why we will continue to provide advice and support to help them use their funding in cost-effective ways, including improving the way they buy goods and services, so they get the best possible value for their pupils.” The meeting agreed that a fair funding for schools campaign group for Camden would be set up.

Academy could be worst-hit in the country

A FLAGSHIP academy could be the worst-hit school in the country under a controversial funding regime.

Statistics show UCL Academy, in Swiss Cottage, will receive 39 per cent less funding every year from 2019 than it did last year. The savage cut of around £3.1million a year is the equivalent of 72 teachers’ annual salaries.

“It’s the worst-hit school in the country,” said Andrew Baisley, a teacher and campaigns officer for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) who compiled the research.

The opening of UCL Academy

Researchers have used official figures to work out how much funding schools get now and how much they will under proposed financial reforms. They say the impact on UCL Academy far outstrips other secondary schools in Camden, which are set to lose around £500,000 to £1million a year. According to the campaign, UCL Academy was receiving above-average funding per pupil than other Camden schools in 2015-16.

In February, UCL announced it had been rated the highest-performing maintained mixed school in Camden in this year’s Department for Education annual performance tables for A-levels.

A UCL Academy statement said: “As with all the institutions in the Camden family of schools, the academy is concerned about the possible implications of the National Funding Formula. “Although we haven’t yet received firm information from the consultation phase, and it does include transitional guarantees to phase cuts in over time, the long-term funding implications are likely to be serious for schools and we are planning accordingly. We don’t recognise the extent of the cuts on the [schoolcuts.org.uk] website but we continue to work with the relevant agencies to establish in as great detail as possible the exact nature of our medium-term future budget.”

In total, Camden schools are set to lose more than £18million under the changes.

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