Give Schools the Cash For Covid 19 Recovery

Education, education, education was the refrain of the Labour Party at the turn of the century. Now the National Education Union say that education recovery has got to be the top priority again.

Despite claims to the contrary, schools have been underfunded for years. The NEU say that Schools have experienced whole school budget reductions, rising costs and pupil numbers, meaning that in 2019 schools were £2 billion poorer than they were in 2015.

Because of Covid 19, significant investment is needed so that schools and colleges can feel equipped to fully support young people and their families, ensuring everyone in education in the UK is able to reach their full potential. There are no quick or cheap fixes. That is why Sir Kevan Collins, the Government’s own appointed Education Recovery Commissioner, recommended £15bn for a proper recovery strategy.

The Education Policy Institute recommended a similar figure saying: “Our analysis and international benchmarking implies that these plans need to be much larger to have a real chance of catching up on lost learning”

The Government’s education advisor resigns

It is fast becoming a consensus view across the teaching profession. However, the Treasury have put forward £1.4bn. Boris Johnson believes this will “give parents confidence”, but no one is fooled. This is short change. The Government is cutting corners on Covid 19. And that is why Sir Kevan Collins resigned.

In England, the Government’s pledge amounts to just £50 per pupil per year for education recovery.

The average primary school will receive the equivalent of just £22 a year per pupil. By contrast, the USA have pledged £1,600 per pupil and the Netherlands £2,500 per pupil. Not only are the Government offering 1/50th of what the Netherlands are delivering, but 1/10th of what was recommended by their own Commissioner.

If we are to protect an education system that supports high standards and places pupil wellbeing and mental health at its heart, then the Government must properly resource education recovery. No ifs or buts. Without a comprehensive and urgent response, we risk failing hundreds of thousands of pupils.  We are calling on the Government to provide the funds schools need to best help children recover from this pandemic. As Sir Kevan Collins said: “Without a comprehensive and urgent response, we risk failing hundreds of thousands of pupils.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This is a hugely disappointing announcement which lets down the nation’s children and schools at a time when the government needed to step up and demonstrate its commitment to education.”

“The amount of money that the government plans to put into education recovery is insufficient and shows a failure to recognise the scale of learning loss experienced by many pupils during the pandemic – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

He also says that the Government has: “shown a depressing but predictable lack of ambition.”

Schools and colleges will also be given the option to offer year 13 the option to repeat their last year, which the Department for Education said it would fund for additional places.

Please join me and take action, please sign the petition here

Cllr Alan Hall joins the education community to fight school cuts

Free School Meals – Leave No Child Behind

Bellingham Cllr Alan Hall joined over 750 local councillors by signing a letter to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson calling for more support with free school meals, so that no child is left behind.

The letter, which was coordinated by the NEU’s Councillors’ Network, calls on the Government to ensure children from low-income families have access to Free School Meals (FSM).

Currently more than 1.7million children and young people in families in receipt of Universal Credit are missing out on this vital support all year round. Many of these families are surviving on less than £20.27 a day.

Budget cuts have also reduced funding available to local authorities to sustain and develop vital child and family services which relieve the burden on schools, enabling them to focus on teaching and learning. Similarly, as research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown, Government cuts to local authorities are disproportionately affecting the poorest places and the poorest groups.

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ” No child should be going hungry during the day yet millions are. This has a huge impact on their learning and well-being. The pandemic highlighted the desperate situation many families cope with day in day out. We welcome the fact that Government acknowledged Marcus Rashford’s powerful campaign and extended the provision of Free School Meals over the school holiday period but that still leaves a great many families struggling without enough money to put food on the table.”

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No child should be left behind

‘Stop the baseline’ tests at 4 years old

The Department for Education plans to press ahead spending £10 million rolling out exams for every four-year-old entering school. Overwhelmingly the evidence, and consensus from experts around the world, says these kinds of tests on young children are both pointless and damaging.

If so-called Baseline Assessment goes ahead in September 2020, every four-year-old will be tested in their first six weeks in school, using a 20-minute one-to-one test. The results will inevitably be unreliable, as two previous expensive and abandoned trials proved. At four years old children are just too young for this kind of high-stakes testing.

Campaigners, Trade Unionists, parents and teachers are in fierce opposition to the move.

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary NEU explains why four year old testing should be scrapped.

Cllr Alan Hall has signed a letter to Nick Gibb, School’s Minister, saying: “When children are coming back unsettled into new schools, we will be failing in our duty of care if we begin testing them at this time. Research has shown that the test results are unreliable and at four years old, children are just too young for this kind of high-stakes testing.”

The full text of the letter is here:

Nick Gibb MP, Minister of State for Schools Standards

We oppose your plans to spend £10 million rolling out Baseline Assessment for four-year-olds entering school. Overwhelmingly the evidence, and consensus from experts around the world, says these kinds of tests on young children are both pointless and damaging.

Successive governments have tried to establish baseline testing, but time and again they have failed.

We know that assessment of children’s learning is essential to good teaching and to helpful conversations between teachers and parents. There are better alternatives for ensuring the quality of schools without subjecting young children to testing.

Testing such young children is fraught with problems. It cannot provide a valid account of their learning, because they will not be able to show their true abilities in a test taken out of the context of familiar relationships and practical experiences.

There is no evidence that early testing can reliably predict children’s later achievements. Developmental psychologists have shown that children’s well-being, confidence and self-regulation are central to their future learning, but these cannot be tested by baseline.

Children will suffer through being labelled at a young age, particularly disadvantaging the most vulnerable children – those with special needs, those suffering the effects of poverty, the summer-born, and those whose first language is not English. The tests risk children’s well-being and confidence by interrupting the crucial early period when they are forming relationships and settling into school.

And many schools will ‘teach to the test’, so that early years education will become more narrow and formal. This is not good for children. Children deserve an education that places them at the centre. Children are more than a score.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

Please sign the petition here

Lewisham Nurseries Go To Downing Street Over Cuts

On March 2nd 2020 ahead of the Government’s Spring Budget, parents, children, teachers, campaigners, Councillors & MPs joined the National Education Union (NEU) in handing a 25,000 signature petition to No10 Downing Street. The Petition says:

“Nursery schools give 40,000 children the best start to school. The majority of these schools are located in the poorest parts of the country and for many children this is their only opportunity for early education. After years of chronic underfunding, the very survival of nursery schools is under threat. Only 389 nursery schools remain open across England today. Unless the Government changes course, even more nursery schools may be forced to close their doors.

In October 2019, the Government accepted that nursery school funding is insufficient and allocated stopgap funding to plug the holes. While the supplementary funding is welcome, this money runs out in 2021. This means severe cuts to the education and services that nursery schools provide. In many cases, these will put nursery schools at risk of closure.

The Government must make a funding commitment in the Spring Budget on 11 March that secures the long-term future of maintained nursery schools. Prime Minister Boris Johnson must guarantee proper funding until the end of Parliament and ensure no more nursery schools are forced to close because of insufficient budgets.” 

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The Government’s attitude to nursery schools, characterised by indifference and piecemeal measures, is having a detrimental effect on children at a critical stage in their development. We cannot afford for this to continue.”

“Maintained nursery schools not only educate our youngest children but also provide the kind of support for parents and carers which is no longer available from local authorities. It is vital Government listens as a matter of urgency to the thousands of people who have signed our petition for additional funding.”

Cllr Alan Hall with the 25,000 signature Petition

Lewisham Nurseries joined the protest. They want the uncertainty in funding to end and for proper long term funding to be put in place.

Cllr Alan Hall said: “Cutting and closing nurseries is a false economy. 

“Our pleas for secure and proper funding could be heard in No 10 but are they listening?”  

In the news: Newsshopper article here & South London Press here

Damian in High Court over ‘SEND Crisis’

SEND Crisis in the High Court as Government challenged

Parents of children special needs took the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds to the High Court on Wednesday 27th June 2019, in a bid to get the tory Government allocate more resources for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

The case has been dubbed a “landmark legal challenge” as it argues that the Government has a duty to fund the extra demands on local authorities. Representing local councils, the Local Government Association, has said that the unprecedented demand for additional SEND support has caused a ‘perfect storm’ of factors:

More pupils: school census data shows that between 2014 and 2018 the number of pupils in all schools in England grew by just over 400,000 – an increase of 5 per cent, with some local areas having experienced much higher population growth than others.

A change in expectations: the Children’s and Families Act 2014 rightly raised the expectations of parents and the aspirations of pupils through a new code of SEND practice expecting all children to receive the best possible education and support.

New legislation: many more young people aged 16 to 25 are now on EHC plans.

More children with complex needs: advances in life expectancy, more awareness and better diagnoses means there are now more children and young people with needs that are difficult to meet within mainstream schools.

Current secondary school attainment measures: do not currently reward schools with a high degree of inclusion.

kevin courtney send high court 270619The National Education Union has said that funding is at a ‘crisis point‘.

Kevin Courtney, joint General Secretary has said:

“The funding shortfall for SEND provision comes against the backdrop of the swingeing cuts to local authority budgets imposed by the Westminster Government over the last 9 years which have left many councils on the brink. Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 the Government had provided for services. This is an appalling way to be addressing the education of some of our most vulnerable children and young people and is causing untold misery and worry for thousands of families”

Figures released by the NEU show that Special Needs provision in Lewisham lost out on £15,816,314 because of austerity policies since 2015.

In response to the judicial review, Sir James Eadie QC is reported to have told the court that the government does understand the nature of extent of alleged SEND “crisis” but that it was not clear that a lack of funding is “full or predominant cause”.

He cited other possible factors such as the cultures of schools and balance of funding between local authority maintained and independent schools.

“The position ultimately is that [local authorities] are responsible for making the necessary provisions under the Children and Families Act 2014 and they cannot cite scarcity of resources as a reason for not doing it,” he added. “In other words, saying that ‘we have not got the money’ is no excuse.”

Responding, Mr Justice Lewis asked: “What if a council says we have not got a cheque book? We have sold that too.”

“If they have got to rob Peter to pay Paul then that means you have to because you have a statutory duty to help Paul,” Sir Eadie replied. “If that means you got to cut traffic lights or cut social care, then so be it.”

Due to the widespread concerns Damian Hinds has launched a call for evidence on SEND funding. You can send him your views here

 

More media coverage

ITV News      Sky News

SEND National Crisis: Damian told to ‘Get On With It’

SEND Crisis campaign hits Downing Street as cuts bite. Lewisham Council loses over £15 million

53179855-EA03-4D71-AD27-D03DD68670F2On Thursday, 30th May 2019 children, parents, teachers and unions presented a petition of over 14,000 signatures to Number 10 Downing Street highlighting the lack of choice and cuts to Special Educational Needs and Disability – SEND  services. Local authority funding has been slashed through the tory Government’s continuing austerity programme.

Shadow Minister for Labour, Laura Pidcock MP delivered a message for the outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, in her last days in Downing Street:

The largest education union in Europe, the National Education Union, NEU has recently revealed that special needs provision in England has lost out on £1.2bn since 2015, because of shortfalls in funding increases from central Government. Funding granted to local authorities has failed to keep pace with rapidly increasing demand for SEND provision – the number of children and young people with an Education Health and Care Plan has increased by 33% since 2015. This contrasts with a 6% increase in the high needs block funding over the same period.

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, said:

“This is clearly a crisis, with pupils and parents bearing the brunt of real-terms funding cuts and the wholly inadequate planning by Government.  Last year, when the NEU won an additional £350m for children and young people with additional needs, the Government admitted that ‘more needs to be done’. We hold them to those words today. Get on with it.” This follows the call for the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds MP to act now!

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In Lewisham, the NEU has estimated that cut to be £15, 816,314 since 2015. This affects the provision within schools and support services like educational psychologists delivered by the Children & Adolescent Mental Health Services CAMHS.

Back in 2018, the Save the Lewisham Hospital Campaign were successful in getting cuts to CAMHS reversed in Lewisham and Jon Ashworth, MP the Shadow Secretary of State  said this:

This simply isn’t good enough for a Prime Minister who describes mental health provision as a “burning injustice”.  Despite Theresa May’s promises, mental health injustices are not ending under this Tory Government but getting worse.

We know that early intervention is absolutely critical in tackling mental health issues, with 50% of mental health problems being established by age 14. Therefore, Labour will increase the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people, and end the scandal of children being treated on adult mental health wards. And crucially we will ring-fence mental health budgets to ensure funding reaches the frontline. Overall we would be putting an extra £5 billion into the NHS this year which would mean more money for CAMHS in Lewisham.

For too long mental health provision has been neglected, cut back and poor inadequate private sector provision has been allowed to go unchecked.

There is little that is more important than the mental health of our children. I want to see public services for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services strengthened.  So we will deliver a public universal NHS with more investment in mental health services, and I pledge that the next Labour Government will deliver parity of esteem [for mental health] after years of Tory failure to do so.

Jon Ashworth, MP Shadow Secretary of State for Health & Social Care

 

Following this Lewisham Council’s Scrutiny Business Panel asked for a full review and the then Mayor Sir Steve Bullock was forced to halt the proposed cuts.

CAMHS Cuts ah 2018
Cllr Alan Hall, Chair, Lewisham Council’s Scrutiny Business Panel called a halt to CAMHS Cuts

As the Government prepares for the next spending round and Councils have to fix their budgets for 2019/20 the campaign is more important than ever. The next steps are here:

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