Mr Ham­mond’s ‘lit­tle ex­tras’ won’t be enough for schools

The Jewish Chronicle - - EDUCATION - BY SI­MON ROCKER

IN THIS week’s bud­get, the Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond an­nounced a £400 mil­lion hand­out for schools — for “lit­tle ex­tras”, as he put it, such as some lap­tops or white­boards. It may be bet­ter than noth­ing but it hardly amounts to a wind­fall or an end to aus­ter­ity for the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

What­ever the gov­ern­ment has in­jected into ed­u­ca­tion, the amount of spend­ing per pupil has fallen by eight per cent since 2010, ac­cord­ing to the re­spected In­sti­tute for Fis­cal Stud­ies. Schools re­main un­der pres­sure to bal­ance their books.

King David High School Manch­ester, for in­stance, has dropped A-level lan­guages French as part of its cost-cut­ting mea­sures after suf­fer­ing a 30 per cent cut — £1.5 mil­lion — to its bud­get over six years. In­creas­ingly, it has had to rely on parental sup­port.

The vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions par­ents give to King David High and Pri­mary School each term have risen from around £750,000 in 2012 to over £900,000 last year (net of Gift Aid).

Along with the fi­nan­cial chal­lenges schools have their work cut out to re­tain teach­ers. Ac­cord­ing to a par­lia­men­tary brief­ing pa­per ear­lier this month, just un­der ten per cent of teach­ers quit the state sys­tem last year. More than one in five newly qual­i­fied teach­ers in 2015 were not work­ing in state schools a cou­ple of years later.

Marc Shof­fren, head­teacher of the cross-com­mu­nal Alma Pri­mary School in North-West Lon­don, says re­cruit­ment of staff can “feel an up­hill bat­tle —and more dif­fi­cult than six to eight years years ago. Ev­ery­one is strug­gling to find the peo­ple we want.”

He heads a work­ing group set up by Part­ner­ships for Jewish Schools, the Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil’s ed­u­ca­tion di­vi­sion, to ex­plore ways of at­tract­ing teach­ers to the Jewish school net­work.

Pay is “def­i­nitely an is­sue”, he said. In sum­mer, the gov­ern­ment promised a 3.5 per cent pay rise for the low­est earn­ers, with rises of two or 1.5 per cent for higher paid teach­ers. But it is not yet clear whether that is a one-off set­tle­ment or whether “it’s go­ing to be the case that teacher’s wages keep up with the cost of liv­ing,” Mr Shof­fren said.

A new teacher in a state school in outer Lon­don might start off on an an­nual in­come of £27,600 — which goes a lot less fur­ther than it would have done a few years ago be­cause of the high cost of hous­ing in the cap­i­tal.

“Young teach­ers strug­gle to live in Lon­don on the salaries they are paid,” Mr Shof­fren said. “It’s hard to make ends meet.”

One idea be­ing con­sid­ered by his group is to make short pro­mo­tional videos for so­cial me­dia ex­tolling the ben­e­fits of work­ing in the Jewish sys­tem.

A re­cent sur­vey of staff in Jewish schools re­vealed that one of the pluses is work­ing in an en­vi­ron­ment where fam­i­lies have a strong com­mit­ment to ed­u­ca­tion. (Al­though that some­times could have a down­side — when over-pushy par­ents make too many de­mands).

Pa­jes has also in­tro­duced new ed­u­ca­tional lead­er­ship train­ing schemes which can help teach­ers ad­vance up the pro­mo­tional lad­der.

Still, that may not be enough. For com­mu­nal lead­ers, the ques­tion re­mains: will Jewish schools need a big­ger slice of the char­ity bud­get if they are go­ing to main­tain their high stan­dards in fu­ture?

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