‘Sup­port staff are al­ways the first to go’

Yorkshire Post - - FRONT PAGE - RUBY KITCHEN ED­U­CA­TION COR­RE­SPON­DENT ■ Email: ruby.kitchen@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @Re­porterRuby

CRIT­I­CAL UN­DER­FUND­ING in the re­gion’s schools is cut­ting to the bone, head­teach­ers have warned, with tough de­ci­sions hav­ing to be made over staffing and sup­port lev­els.

When school bud­get pres­sures rise, said Anne Swift, a for­mer Scar­bor­ough head­teacher and for­mer pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Union of Teach­ers, the first peo­ple to go are sup­port staff.

And while par­ents might not no­tice, she adds, the teacher cer­tainly does, with the re­sult be­ing ris­ing pres­sures and work­loads.

“Teach­ing is be­com­ing more and more stress­ful, with fewer peo­ple on the work­force to do the work in the first place,” said Ms Swift. “It means we see whole de­part­ments dis­solve. Arts, drama, mu­sic, they are dis­ap­pear­ing across the cur­ricu­lum.

“There are fewer peo­ple do­ing more work – that leads to more stress and burnout.”

The lat­est Gov­ern­ment school cen­sus fig­ures, based on data col­lected in Novem­ber, con­sid­ered teacher num­bers, staffing rates and stu­dent-to-teacher ra­tios.

As well as the loss of nearly 400 teacher and teach­ing as­sis­tant posts, 438 aux­il­iary jobs were lost in York­shire and the Hum­ber last year, in roles such as tech­ni­cians, coun­sel­lors and ad­min­is­tra­tors. And with just 15 per cent of the re­gion’s teach­ers aged over 50, Ms Swift says, there are chal­lenges over ex­pe­ri­enced staff.

“We haven’t got ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple, and that leads to short­ages at lead­er­ship level,” she said. “This is a re­sult of crit­i­cal un­der­fund­ing.”

In­creas­ingly, she warns, schools are turn­ing to par­ents to sup­port and pay for ‘ex­tra’ pro­vi­sion, such as class trips or events.

And while the lat­est Gov­ern­ment cen­sus fig­ures show pri­mary school pupil num­bers are even­ing out, a bulge is now be­gin­ning to reach sec­ondary.

“That’s putting in­creas­ing pres­sure on schools,” she said. “In the North, and in par­tic­u­larly in ru­ral ar­eas, the un­der­fund­ing is re­ally hit­ting ru­ral schools and small sec­on­daries. A lot of ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties are un­der­funded, par­tic­u­larly in ru­ral ar­eas – it’s a dou­ble whammy to au­thor­i­ties.

“Schools have been des­per­ately hang­ing on to try and pro­vide a cur­ricu­lum for chil­dren but they are now hav­ing to cut to the bone. They are hav­ing to make very hard de­ci­sions. And when bud­get pres­sures rise, the first per­son to go is the sup­port staff. Par­ents might not no­tice but the teach­ers cer­tainly do.”

Across the re­gion, the cen­sus fig­ures varied widely, with as many as 390 staff jobs lost at schools in Calderdale, com­pared to just one over­all in Leeds. The Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion main­tains that teacher lev­els re­main high, with school fund­ing at its high­est-ever level, ris­ing to £43.5bn by 2010. But Leeds still faces chal­lenges, the city coun­cil’s ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber for learn­ing has warned, with many teach­ers leav­ing the in­dus­try al­to­gether as they face mount­ing pres­sures.

Coun Jonathan Pryor, warn­ing the pro­fes­sion is be­com­ing less at­trac­tive, said there have been rapid changes in Gov­ern­ment pol­icy.

“Some of the pres­sures that teach­ers are un­der has left many de­cid­ing to leave the pro­fes­sion, or take early re­tire­ment,” he said.

“That is putting so much pres­sure on teach­ers and many are ask­ing why they are car­ry­ing on when there are eas­ier jobs.

“We work hard with teach­ers to sup­port them, but it’s a dif­fi­cult pro­fes­sion.

“There are so many teach­ers who are ded­i­cated to their jobs – for many it’s a call­ing. They want to be there, for the chil­dren, even though it’s such a stress­ful job.”

Ge­off Bar­ton, of the As­so­ci­a­tion of School and Col­lege Lead­ers, cited fig­ures from the In­sti­tute for Fis­cal Stud­ies which this week found that school fund­ing per pupil has fallen by eight per cent in real terms over the past eight years.

“This has re­sulted in staffing re­duc­tions in many schools,” he said. “In ad­di­tion, the Gov­ern­ment has failed to achieve tar­gets for re­cruit­ing sec­ondary school trainee teach­ers for the past five years in a row, and we are los­ing too many teach­ers be­cause of work­load pres­sures driven largely by the ex­ces­sive vol­ume of gov­ern­ment re­forms in re­cent years.

“As a re­sult of these fac­tors, the num­ber of teach­ers fell in 2017 even though the num­ber of pupils in­creased.

“Pupil-to-teacher ra­tios have risen over the past three years and so have av­er­age class sizes in sec­ondary schools.

“The num­ber of sec­ondary pupils is ex­pected to in­crease by a fur­ther 428,000 over the next seven years which will in­ten­sify these pres­sures.”

There are fewer peo­ple do­ing more work - that leads to burnout. Anne Swift, for­mer Scar­bor­ough head­teacher.

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