‘A disgrace’: headteachers attack Hunt’s failure to provide money for schools in autumn statement | Education #disgrace #headteachers #attack #Hunts #failure #provide #money #schools #autumn #statement #Education

Headteachers have called the government’s failure to invest in school staff and crumbling buildings in the autumn statement “an absolute disgrace”.

Unions said this weekend that the government had now lost any vestiges of credibility among teachers after the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, failed to announce any new investment for schools on Wednesday – despite Rishi Sunak’s pledge at last month’s Conservative party conference that education would be his “main funding priority”.

With education unions determined to make staff shortages an election issue, parents can now search the newly relaunched School Cuts website to see whether their local school may be forced to shed teaching staff next year. The unions warn that 99 per cent of state secondary schools and 91 per cent of primaries will have to make cuts to survive in 2024.

Garry Ratcliffe, chief executive of the Golden Thread Alliance, which runs nine primary academy schools in Dartford and Gravesend in Kent, told the Observer: “Especially with support staff, when someone leaves for a better paid position in a supermarket, most schools are now asking: ‘Can we afford to replace them?’”

Ratcliffe’s schools are now focusing on helping struggling families with food and cheap presents for Christmas, despite fighting to cope with rising costs themselves. He added: “People in schools have given up hope that this government will suddenly start to invest in children’s education.”

A primary school head in a deprived area of north-west England, who asked not to be named to avoid alarming parents, said the potentially dangerous reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) recently discovered in his school’s roof was far from the only problem. “The list is endless: asbestos, flooding, damp, cracked windows,” the head explained.

“And we need urgent safety upgrades to our school entrance and car park which have been delayed because of Raac. The fact that education spending is going to be flat is an absolute disgrace.”

Park View School in north London, which has been adversly affected by the use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete.
Park View school in north London, which has been adversly affected by the use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

The head said he had had to “really fight” to get the Department for Education to approve a temporary “crash deck” to make the school usable after it joined the growing list of schools deemed unsafe due to Raac. However, the department is refusing to provide any timetable for a decision on what to do to make the school safe permanently, or whether it will need to be demolished.

Tim Warneford, a consultant who advises academies on their buildings, said the autumn statement would lead to “further deterioration” of thousands of schools as they faced another winter with serious issues including Raac, leaking roofs, broken boilers and asbestos.

He said: “This has to be another reason for poor attendance. Why would you want to come in if your school isn’t safe or warm or dry? What message does that send to children about how much they are valued?”

A damning parliamentary inquiry into the school estate found that 700,000 pupils are learning in classrooms that need a major rebuild or refurbishment, but many schools have no hope of an overhaul because of the Raac crisis.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “Teaching assistants and support staff will probably be the first roles to go as schools try to make savings, and of course that will hit the most vulnerable children who need extra support that won’t be there.”

He added that after the autumn statement, the government has “completely lost the trust of the teaching profession”.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of Schools and College Leaders union, said: “On current funding levels, schools will only be able to afford a 1% pay award for staff next year – and this is in the midst of the worst recruitment and retention crisis in living memory.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our school rebuilding programme is transforming 500 schools over the next decade, with the first 400 projects selected ahead of schedule. The education secretary has already confirmed we will fully fund the removal of Raac from our schools – either through grant funding or through the school rebuilding programme.”

#disgrace #headteachers #attack #Hunts #failure #provide #money #schools #autumn #statement #Education

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