Last week on the Public Accounts Committee – Parliament’s public spending watchdog – I warned the government that its demands for schools in England to make £3billion of savings by 2020 risks plunging schools into an NHS-style funding crisis.
The government says that it is making the schools funding system fairer by protecting the amount of funding it gives to councils and schools to spend on educating each pupil.
The Department for Education (DfE) website claims that “as the number of pupils increases, so will the amount of money that schools get”.
Unfortunately, this claim is highly misleading.
In fact, the current funding settlement for schools does not provide for funding per pupil to increase in line with inflation. This means that, with pupil numbers on the rise, funding per pupil will actually fall in real terms by 2020.
Schools haven't experienced this level of reduction in spending power since the mid-1990s.
No one wants to see a return to the days of over-stretched teachers and crumbling schools when even basic resources were in short supply. I want better for our children.
Head teachers say they are already struggling to balance their budgets and that they urgently need more teachers.
They are right to be worried, as the Education Secretary hasn't told schools how to manage with less without affecting our children's education.
Since most of a school's budget is spent on staffing, it's hard to see how head teachers will manage without cutting subjects, increasing class sizes or slashing support staff - who make such a big difference to our children's life chances.
The proposed introduction of a new National Funding Formula for schools may well lead to further cuts across schools in Sunderland.
Unless the government acts now and gives schools the funding they need, it’s clear that schools’ finances will go the same way as those of the NHS.
Put simply, ministers are asking schools to do much more with a lot less – an approach that can only put our children’s education at risk.
This article was originally published by the Sunderland Echo on 2 February 2017. You can read the online version here.