Class sizes of 60? SWCHS head asks residents to think about education cuts when they vote

The Saffron Walden County High School (SWCHS) head has asked voters to think about education when they vote in June because local schools are facing £millions in cuts. She says “Some schools are looking to create classes of 60-100 because they cannot afford enough teachers.  What are you going to do to prevent that?” The school has provided a guide for educated voters to ask candidates on the doorstep.

Pillar of the community

Our local schools are very important to us because they are the one of the main pillars of local community life. We are incredibly fortunate to have outstanding local schools, both in the state and private sectors. Their success is not by accident. They are run by experienced and hardworking career educators that strive every day to create the best opportunities for our children.

When the head talks, pay attention

Headteachers generally stay out of politics because it doesn’t help them get on with what they need to do. So when they do ask us to pay attention, we need to do just that. This week the head of the SWCHS sent parents a letter to ask voters to think carefully (PDF) about education when they vote in June.

In her letter to parents, SWCHS head Caroline Derbyshire said “It would be naïve to think that school funding is the only issue affecting everyone’s lives but school finances are in such a dreadful state that we believe that it is vital to urge you to raise it as a key issue prior to 8th June.

R4U has been highlighting the plight of local education for a number of years now. Poor long range planning by our county and district councils has led to a chronic shortage of school places, meaning that the illusion of parent choice is just that.

In January this year R4U were the first to locally break the news of the impact of the National Funding Formula to our schools – over £2m of further cuts, with nearly £1m of that affecting the SWCHS. Now the head is also asking local voters to pay attention to the issue.

Class sizes of 60-100? Ask you parliamentary candidate what they plan to do

Included in the head’s letter was a ‘doorstep guide’ of questions that educated electors may want to ask prospective candidates. Included are questions such as “what are candidates going to do to prevent class sizes of 60-100 that some schools are now considering?” They are clearly designed to grab attention, but classes of that size may not be that far off, and schools have already been considering 4-day school weeks. A near £1m cut in funding to the SWCHS school is equivalent to a cut of 26 teachers. And Helena Romanes in Dunmow faces cuts equivalent to 15 teachers.

You can read the full guide in the head’s letter (PDF), but here are a few extracts from her doorstep guide:

Education on the Doorstep

The Issues

  • £3 billion is being withdrawn from schools budgets in England
  • In real terms, per pupil funding is decreasing by approximately 8%
  • Some schools have been asking parents for additional financial contributions.

The Effects

  • Without adequate funding schools can’t employ enough high quality teachers. Some schools are having to make teachers redundant because they can no longer afford to employ them.
  • Schools are also having to make support staff redundant. These staff often work with children with additional needs.  In the years ahead there is a great deal of concern that some of our most vulnerable children will not receive the support they need.
  • Class sizes are increasing. This is worrying because children are less likely to get the personal attention they need from a teacher who knows them well.
  • Some schools are reducing the number of subjects they teach. This means the curriculum is narrowing and individual talents can’t be nurtured in the way of previous generations.

The questions for ALL prospective candidates for Members of Parliament

  • What are your priorities with regard to the allocation of funding to all schools and each pupil?
  • How will you ensure that school budgets are protected in real terms for the duration of the next parliament? Please avoid telling me that more is being spent on schools; we have more children of school age than ever and costs are rising.
  • Some schools are looking to create classes of 60-100 children in the school hall because they cannot afford enough teachers. What are you going to do to prevent that?
  • Our children should be provided with a broad curriculum, great support and enriching activities. How will you ensure that my child has the educational experience they deserve?
  • How will you ensure education for children with Special Educational Needs is adequately resourced? A large funding gap in this area is detracting much needed funds from all schools.