In the outer east London borough where I teach, the education budget is being cut by £15 million or £338 per child, or between £400,000 and £500,000 per secondary school …

 

The BBC and other media organisations are refusing to play Captain SKA’s ‘Liar Liar’ which has reached number four in the charts. They argue that this would politicise the charts in the run-up to election day.

Whatever the wrongs and rights of this — and there are many more wrongs, the title of the song is appropriate in terms of education — the government are simply starving the state education system of money and will continue to do so if returned, despite saying that they are putting more into the system.

In the outer east London borough where I teach the education budget is being cut by £15 million or £338 per child, or between £400,000 and £500,000 per secondary school.

Sometimes numbers are too big to comprehend, they do not give the essence of what is going on in our classrooms — this example may make it more comprehendible. I was allocated no money this year for textbooks for the new sociology syllabus I am teaching, until three-quarters of the way through the course when the school manager was able to allocate some funds.

In my school where I am the National Union of Teachers representative, and I am doing continual casework for seriously stressed and depressed and overworked teachers, we will all have to teach an extra class next year to make the budget stretch.

As it stands, teachers are working so hard that they are not able to do their jobs properly; a shocking report from the Guardian’s ‘Secret Teacher’ revealed recently that English teachers never read for pleasure; they are too busy reading and marking for teaching. There is a really worrying deficit; our passion for our subjects should be infectious, we should be empowered to take our students on a journey through the subjects that have enthused us. This is simply not possible under the current accountability regime, where teachers are working a punishing 60+ hour week and have to do miracles on ridiculously stretched budgets.

Head teachers are usually a timid bunch. They do not get to the top of the food chain by taking risks, but in our local authority they recently got together and wrote to parents highlighting concerns about the extent of the funding crisis. One headteacher said in our local newspaper: ‘We’ve trimmed all the fat and now we don’t know what to do next. That’s where we are at’.

In many schools subjects are being cut, students are being asked to clean classrooms and collections are being taken at the school gate.

Perhaps I am being slightly unfair when I say the Prime Minister is a liar in terms of education funding. Devious and underhand would be more appropriate terms. Money is going into the system, but it does not take into account rising student numbers and the fact that schools are having to make higher contributions to National Insurance.

It really does not have to be like this. It is not like this in the fee-paying sector, where 7 per cent of students never have to suffer the indignities of stifling the odour from the toilets while studying.

If the Conservatives are elected on Thursday, this wonderful job will become incredibly more challenging and the mantras that the Prime Minister has hidden behind during the campaign will be exposed.

Throughout all the attacks that teachers have endured, what has been crucial in terms of (literally) preserving our sanity and protecting us from these attacks, have been our unions. Teaching has maintained the highest density of union membership than any other sector.

As a sociology teacher, Gramsci is always a key person to keep in mind — ‘my intellect makes me pessimistic but my will is optimistic’.

BY the vice president of the Redbridge Teachers Association