Last week we published part one of our exclusive interview with the Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, where we discussed grammar schools, social mobility, and special educational needs and disabilities.
With a focus on funding and the current crisis over the national funding formula, Ms Rayner tells TheSchoolBus her opinion, alongside her concerns for the future of schools in Britain.
TheSchoolBus: How do you think schools across Britain will fare under the national funding formula?
Angela Rayner: “The government have said that this is going to a fairer funding formula, but it is not. It is a chronically unfair funding formula. Before Christmas when they announced it, there were lots of quiet faces from the Conservative backbenchers, and Justine Greening was looking at me like… demented, because I wasn’t welcoming the national funding formula after years of us trying to look at that as a principle.
Now the principle behind a fair funding formula, I absolutely, whole-heartedly agree with it. But the fact that [the government] are hoodwinking, and were trying to hoodwink members of Parliament into believing this was a fair funding formula really frustrated me. Because one of the things that I could see right from the start was that there were inherent cuts within the funding formula.
We know that the cost of schools’ budgets is increasing, the pensions, national insurance, increased pupil numbers… these are all having an effect on schools at the minute. So, every school, I think the National Union of Teachers and the National Audit Office are putting the figures at around 98 percent, will be affected by this. The funding formula has no mechanism.
Schools in my borough, for instance, are looking at 50 percent cuts in their funding, which is ridiculous to think you can deliver that level of cuts to schools. There is a cocktail of cuts that our schools are facing at the minute, which is why I am frustrated by what the government has done – and I am wholly concerned by it. Because if you actually look at spending in schools, the vast majority is on the staff, so if you are going to cut… where is that coming from? And, in particular, Theresa May also talks about mental health and young people’s mental health, and yet look at the pastoral services in schools, and what is happening there. They just keep cutting back staff, all the staff and the staff budgets.
I am concerned that we are already in the eye of the storm, that schools are facing these times ahead, and the government are refusing to acknowledge this.”
TheSchoolBus: How do you think the grammar school proposals will be affected?
Angela Rayner: “The national funding formula has inherent cuts for grammar schools. They are starting to say now that [grammar schools] will have to ask parents for contributions of £30 to £40 a month. Well, if you are from a disadvantaged background and you thought you had that golden lottery ticket, your child has finally made it into the grammar school, despite the hurdles, it is honestly like winning the lottery… but then you realise that every week you might have to potentially pay in order to keep your child in that grammar school. We are going back to the days when some people said “I’ve passed my 11 plus, but couldn’t take on the place because my mum couldn’t afford the school uniform”, we are going backwards!”
TheSchoolBus: What should be done to minimise these risks to schools?
Angela Rayner: “First of all, [the government] should commit to their manifesto promise, and that is in real-terms, that there would be no fall in per-pupil funding for schools. That is the first thing they should do because they promised the electorate that is what they would do, so they need to honour that pledge.
They should make sure that the money that is going in to schools actually goes into the school and to the pupils, instead of being creamed off by fat-cat wages at the top of some of these academies. And they need to ensure that certain types of schools are what the local community want. Again, they have gone more and more away from accountability within the local community, you know, you hear about these technical colleges and free schools that have got loads of places, people are not sending their children to these schools, and a huge amount of money is being wasted here, money we actually can’t afford to waste within the system. They really need to do something about that.
And secondly, stop meddling! I mean, we have got Progress 8, the key stage 2 fiasco, they are continually meddling all the time in the curriculum and school structures. Parents are not interested in school structures, they are interested in standards, that is what they need to be looking at. They need to listen to the professionals, instead of undermining them. Teachers are professionals, we want qualified teachers in classrooms, not unqualified ones. These are not big asks for parents and this is not unreasonable to be able to provide that – this is where the government needs to be concentrating.
They need to stop focussing on their buzzwords, like ‘phonics’ and ‘free schools’. They have their pet projects, which is giving them a blind spot when it comes to what the real chronic problems are in our schools.”
TheSchoolBus: What would be your advice to schools facing these cuts?
Angela Rayner: “Stay and support young people. I know it is difficult. It is hard when you feel that you are being restricted to do the job that you want to do. It is hard. But the fact is that there are so many teachers and teaching support staff that do do their upmost, despite everything, despite all of this, in order to try and make a difference… and it does make a difference. I promise it won’t stay like this forever. I will, one day, be Secretary of State for Education, and I do respect what they do! I want to help them do their job because when I was young there was an English teacher once, she spent 10 minutes after class with me, helping me with my spelling, because I’m dreadful at it! But she helped me. Afterwards I thought, ‘why is Mrs Davies spending her time on me?’, because I felt that I was not important enough. I thought, wow… because teachers are Godly to pupils, you look up to your teachers! I thought, why is she spending the time with me. And you know what, that has kept with me my whole life.
So even if it is just five minutes with a pupil, making them feel that they are good enough can transform their lives. Even if everything at home isn’t good, and even if you feel that you are getting nowhere, because you are so prohibited, the fact that you give your time to those pupils will transform their lives. It could be five minutes, or a whole term, it does not matter. That fact that you are an adult that gives them that inspiration and encouragement can make a massive difference. So, I would like to encourage the teachers and the support staff that do that, because to me they are the heroes. They are raising our next generation.”
Our National Funding Formula Guidance document outlines the basic principles, building blocks and factors for the new funding formulae.
*This view represented in this article are not the views of TheSchoolBus.