Peter Heaton-Jones MP came to Georgeham this afternoon to see our lovely school and hear our views on the issues facing schools right now.

The older members of our School Council lead a tour of the school.  Isla, Malakai, Sunday and Daniel highlighted various things as they walked round the school:

  • The wonderful resources we have, but are struggling to maintain.
  • The fruit scheme for Key Stage 1 that they’d really like extending to Key Stage 2 (the juniors).
  • Isla pointed out that teachers spend a lot of their own money on resources (Miss Hill’s library is one big example!) but she also mentioned that teachers spend a lot of their own time, like the before and after school Maths booster class for some children. We weren’t one of the schools who decided to put on an ‘Easter School’ over the break, but we do feel under pressure to meet the increased demands of the new curriculum.  (…but do see our other blog about our approach to the SATs.)
  • Daniel also mentioned that his class’ excellent TA, Mrs P, had recently moved to another job, that we weren’t able to keep her on and that even though we were replacing this position, it would be fewer hours.

(My School Council do make me proud!)

The children left us and we discussed various things back in my office.  I’ve got to say that Peter was honest, open and he listened to us.  He did say that he wouldn’t be able to go back to the ministers and simply ask for more money, again, but that people needed to offer solutions.

The 70 or so letters our families wrote on our consultation parents’ evening helped provide solutions.  The Fairer Funding Consultation would have given the Government lots to think about too… if they didn’t then delay everything with their recent announcement!

One solution we certainly touched on was that of Grammar schools. I’m sure we’d be in a more comfortable position if the £350m set aside for Grammar Schools was spent on the current school system, but I haven’t done the maths to work out if that would cover the 8% real terms cut that we’re experiencing!

If Justine Greening wants, “…children [to] have access to an excellent education that unlocks talent and creates opportunity [and] all children to reach their full potential and to succeed in adult life,”  …then we need a budget to enable this.  Many schools in the country are having to make drastic changes and here at Georgeham, we’re lucky to have only made a few so far.

If we were to set the budget with the same contracts, costs and spending as I did only a few years ago, our school would be overspent by almost £20,000.  We’ve got a balanced budget, but we had to work hard and cut important areas to get it such!

Regarding our staff, well they’re feeling the pressure from the increased expectations from the new National Curriculum and the associated attainment targets.  Year 4 now cover some of the work that year 6 used to do, and year 6 are working more-or-less at the old GCSE standard!  It’s hard for our staff, and they feel it; there’s reduced support, decreased funding and yet there is increased pressure from public accountability and scrutiny.  School staff throughout the country feel undervalued and unsupported.  However, they really do give outstanding provision to our children and we’ll be starting on our ‘Artsmark Award’ soon to show that we value the arts as much as we do to identifying subjunctive verbs and multiplying fractions.    …Can you do this one… ¾ x ½ ?

It was a good and productive afternoon meeting but who knows what’s going to happen now that the General Election has been called.  I just hope things start looking better for schools and I know our community would too!

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…Ok, I own up, I hate identifying subjunctive verbs actually.