UNISON has welcomed MPs’ call for a “multi-billion pound cash injection” into education in England as highlighting “the true scale of the funding cuts to schools and colleges”.
The call for the investment, together with a proper, long-term funding strategy, comes in a House of Commons education select committee report on education funding in England. Education in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is a devolved matter.
UNISON and other education unions, as well as headteachers, have been warning about the effect of budget cuts by the Westminster government. The investigation by the Commons committee found that schools and colleges “desperately need” more money.
UNISON national secretary Jon Richards said its report shows “the true scale of the funding cuts” and is “a watershed moment. It backs up what UNISON and others have been saying about the funding crisis caused by this government’s real-term cuts.”
The union points out that support staff in schools and colleges have borne the brunt of these cuts.
Teaching assistants in secondary schools have been cut by 12%, and technicians across schools by 14%. Teaching assistants in primary schools are being made redundant despite higher pupil numbers, including more children with special educational needs.
And a recent survey of staff who provide pastoral support for pupils, carried out by the union, raised significant concerns.
Support staff are often trusted adults and confided in by pupils about a huge range of welfare issues, from parental separation, bereavement and caring responsibilities to bullying, eating problems and suicidal thoughts; regardless of whether this is expected of them in a formal capacity.
But a third of staff in the UNISON survey reported that schools had cut the number of staff providing this support in the past year.
And this is happening as the number of children aged 11 and under being referred to mental health units from primary schools has risen by 50% over three years, according to BBC report.
Mr Richards called on the government to “put an end to this national scandal and commit to a long-term plan to end all funding cuts and to fully fund schools and colleges.”