TV show brings school budgets to front of class
T’S getting really difficult to achieve what we are being asked to achieve.”
That was the frank admission of Will Roberts, chief executive of the Castle School Education Trust (CSET) as a landmark TV series started this week.
BBC Two’s new documentary School gives an unprecedented insight into three of CSET’s academies, namely Castle, Marlwood and Mangotsfield School.
Produced by Label1 – the production company behind documentary series Hospital – School dives deep into the everyday issues at the three secondary schools in South Gloucestershire.
With more than 5,000 children on their books, the series looks at how budget cuts have eaten into the support network at the schools and the tough decisions teachers and governors make to ensure the schools keep running.
The first episode, which aired on Tuesday night, looked at Castle School in Thornbury. In it, head teacher Angie Browne had to make some tough decisions when it came to balancing the budget while maintaining the school’s high standards.
She said the trust cash resources would be exhausted in 18 months, and they were facing £6,000 in pay cuts. Some 80 per cent of the trust’s budget goes to staffing costs, Mr Roberts explained, and they have agreed to protect the number of classroom teachers and class sizes.
But it means losing out everywhere else.
“We’ve had to look at almost everything else to do that. That includes admin staff, support, pastoral support and fewer leaders than before, and squeezing the budget on things like textbooks and maintenance,” Mr Roberts added.
The first episode showed 16-yearold Chloe struggling to deal with the pressure of her upcoming GCSEs, walking out of one mock exam after suffering an anxiety attack.
Chelsea, 12, was struggling to settle in her first year of secondary school. She set off a fire alarm deliberately, causing the entire school to be evacuated.
Ms Browne saw it as a cry for help from a talented child trying to fit in, and stepped into the breach.
Mr Roberts hopes the series will increase the discussion around school funding.
“I’m passionate about education, I’ve worked in schools for more than 20 years,” he said.
“For me, education is a fantastic investment in our next generation but it’s one we are all making.
“There is a lot of focus on things like Brexit and the NHS – and rightly so – but I do think we need to have more of a discussion about education and how big a priority it is.”
School airs on BBC Two on Tuesday evenings at 9pm. It will also be available on the BBC iPlayer.
Mangotsfield head teacher David Spence, former Castle interim-head Angie Browne, chief executive Will Roberts and former head teacher at Marlwood JamesPope feature in the new series