Schools are starting to become very inventive in terms of how they use their share of the £85.2bn annual budget

When I first wrote about the “education market” in the 1980s, the total budget for schools was £35bn per year.  Now it is £85bn which, even allowing for inflation, is a massive increase.

So when we hear about “cuts” in the school budget, we need to have  a sense of proportion. And we also need to be conscious of the level of change that is happening.

A lot of the growth in money made available to schools in the past was spent on teachers.  But since the 1980s methods of teaching and learning have changed so radically that the percentage spent on teachers is declining. But fewer teachers in schools does not necessarily mean a problem; indeed it does release large amounts of money for other uses.

How we think of schools is influenced by our experiences.  But they may not reflect what is happening now.

From time to time the Guardian newspaper runs a “Secret Teacher” column in which an anonymous teacher writes of what life in school is really like at the moment.

One article in the series comes from a school that is obsessed by the image it presents.  It is portrayed rather like a retailer with a gleaming shopfront showing beautifully presented goods while out back illegal immigrants are forced to work 18 hours a day for 10% of the minimum wage producing fifth rate products that bear no relation to what’s shown in the display window.

Here’s a short extract from the piece…

“I’ve witnessed pupils’ work ripped up in front of their eyes, and criticised in front of the whole school. Teachers are warned to keep students well away from learning resources, should they end up looking worn for the visitors. Staff have even been asked to impersonate children’s work. Much like a show home, most of what you see is there for exhibition.

Avoid telling teachers what you sell and instead show them their relevance to the current school situation.

I have long been advocating the view that the current changes in school budgets don’t mean that schools will buy fewer products, but rather that they will cut the number of teachers (by far their biggest expense), enlarge classes, and start using other means of teaching.

Further, my argument is that this won’t mean redundancies, but rather will mean simply not replacing staff who leave and abandoning attempts to recruit when applicant levels are low to non-existent.

Recently, articles online and in the press have started to concur with this analysis, and the London Councils’ submission to the DfE’s consultation says, “As around 70% of a school’s budget is spent on staff salaries, funding reductions are likely to result in fewer teachers and support staff posts in schools, as well as increased class sizes.”

Why it is wrong to accept the popular notion that the arts are being pushed out of schools

A study by the New Schools Network has caused many to rethink the notion that the arts are in serious decline in UK schools and that no money is being spent on them.  

The argument throughout has been that the government’s requirement for schools to get students through GCSEs in specific knowledge based subjects, rather than creative subjects, means schools have followed this path.

But while some school managements do seem to follow government diktat in a slavish manner, many others don’t take this attitude at all.  And indeed the highly successful revolt by many LA schools against enforced academisation, and the continuing failure of parts of the Free School programme, seem to have emboldened many.

In December last year the government published a document headed “How schools are going to make £3bn worth of efficiency savings, and the opportunity this brings”

The Education Secretary Justine Greening said that “Funding every child fairly and according to their specific needs sits at the heart of delivering the government’s pledge to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

“The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, but the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated. It is based on patchy and inconsistent decisions that have built up over many years and on data that is over a decade old. This outmoded system allows similar schools with similar students to receive levels of funding so different that it puts many young people at an educational disadvantage.