Swanshurst headmistress, Debbie James, shares her professional insight.
In many ways, the state of education in Moseley and Kings Heath has never been better. Parents, choosing school places for their children have a range of excellent schools on their doorstep. Schools with a caring inclusive ethos, strong leadership teams, good outcomes for their students and recognition from Ofsted for the good work they are doing. But as a local headteacher with 13 years’ experience (11 years at Wheelers Lane Technology College and now 2 years at Swanshurst and a few years as a Senior Inspector with Ofsted in between) the future has never looked bleaker.
Since becoming a headteacher in 2002, through the years of ‘Education, Education, Education’ as a driving principle we saw our schools receiving funding that was appropriate to our challenges. As local headteachers we were able to ensure good quality teaching lay at the heart of our schools. We could employ enough support staff to allow teachers to focus on teaching and provide the individual help that our most vulnerable pupils need. Results improved, behaviour improved and our schools became the places that you were happy to send your children.
However, headteachers are now in the invidious position of trying to sustain our healthy happy schools whilst managing significant budget cuts. Of course, we will explore every opportunity to cut costs. Many of us are working closely with other schools to look for savings and efficiencies. Swanshurst already works closely with
a group of schools in a partnership called STEP where we provide each other with school improvement advice, share best practice and look for best value ideas. We also work in the South Network of secondary schools that provides very cost effective staff training, specialist support for our students with poor behaviour and opportunities for our students to work together on projects like the South Network Art Show. However, none of that will protect us from a climate of reducing budgets and rapidly increasing costs.
The recent Queen’s Speech reaffirmed the government’s commitment to introduce a new schools funding
formula. The impact of this on Birmingham schools has already been modelled. Almost every school in the city will lose out. At Swanshurst the expected cuts are in the order of £400 per pupil. This goes well past ‘tightening our belts’ and into a situation that could do serious harm to our students, limiting option subjects, reducing enrichment activities, increasing class sizes and reducing the extra help and support for those students who need it. Many of my colleagues are being forced to consider redundancies of long serving and committed staff.
Cuts on this scale are not just the concern of our current parents and staff. They will have a long-term impact on the future prosperity of us all. There are lots of ways to make your voice heard. Write to your local councillor or MP, get in touch with a local school offering support or look online at the myriad of groups that are opposing the cuts in education.