Do we need to pay more to keep our schools going ?
JFS MAY not be the only Jewishschool having to consider cutting staff. Others could be forced down the same track because of a squeeze on finances.
While the government was announcing money for new schools in this week’s Budget, in the meantime it is planning to introduce a new formula for allocating grants to existing state-aided schools
And Jewish schools seem destined to lose out. When I looked at the impact of the funding change on 25 Jewish state schools, based on figures published by the government, only two are set to gain. The rest, including JFS, will have to brace themselves for a drop in income.
There is no question of Jewish schools, or faith schools in general, being targeted as such.
What is happening is that under the new formula, more money will be shifted towards disadvantaged children — and Jewish schools generally have fewer than average of them.
The government says it is trying to ease the pain by not phasing in the new arrangements until the 2018/19 year and by initially capping any reduction at 1.5 per cent.
If you take JFS, for example, the projected fall would be around £85,000 in a budget of just over £8 million – which might not seem so large. But then schools have already had to cope with rising costs without a corresponding increase in income.
According to some projections, the overall drop in funding per pupil across the board from 2014/15 to 2019/20 could reach eight per cent in real terms.
A number of Jewish schools, including JFS, are also experiencing what Susy Stone, headteacher of Akiva Primary School, calls a “double whammy”. Whereas schools could claim tax relief on voluntary contributions from parents towards Jewish studies through Gift Aid, the Revenue has now mostly put an end to that.
So although the Jewish Leadership Council’s education division, Partnerships for Jewish Schools, has been trying to negotiate a return to the status quo, schools have been hit by a serious loss of money.
JFS executive head Deborah Lipkin gave parents assurances last week that the proposed cuts would “not have an impact on classroom teaching”, but said action had to be taken swiftly because of “changes to external funding and increased costs across the public sector”.
According to a JFS source, up to 15 administration posts may go but the loss of teaching jobs would not be more than “single” figures. Fewer teachers are needed for some subjects in the sixthform because students no longer take an A-S level in addition to their As.
Jewish schools may be able to save money through closer collaboration, particularly over administration. Expect to see more schools joining in consortia rather than operating on their own..
But the JFS experience throws out a challenge. If we want our schools to maintain their standards of excellence, we may have to pay more for that. And should the burden fall simply on parents – or should more of our charitable resources be switched to education?