Should parents help schools pay for the essentials?

The British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) has published its annual survey and made media headlines with its finding that most schools are unable to afford the provision of essential equipment like furniture and computers.

Only 17% of secondary schools said they were well equipped with suitable furniture, including desks and chairs, and storage facilities, including cupboards and shelves – compared with 57% surveyed in 2016. And only 30% of secondary schools said they were sufficiently equipped with ICT infrastructure and devices – compared with 67% in 2016. Although primary schools are more likely to indicate being well-equipped with teaching and learning resources than secondary schools, it remains the case that less than half of primary schools are now optimistic about funding, compared to 79% in 2015.

The message is that school budget cuts are clearly hitting learning resources. And all this in the same week the NASUWT teaching union revealed that some schools are telling teachers they would lose their jobs if schools had to pay them this year’s cost of living pay rise increase, ranging from 1.5-3.5%, despite being given a £187 million government grant to help pay for it. A survey by the union of 6,900 teachers found 12% had been told they were not getting any pay rise, with 45% yet to be informed of a decision.

Going back to funding learning resources, and paying for things that used to be provided for free, we should remind ourselves of Parentkind’s latest annual parent survey which found that eight out of 10 parents support their child’s school with financial contributions and the average monthly donation rising to £11.35 from £8.90 in 2017. This support is encouraging and suggests schools do not have to battle on alone.

Worryingly, though, only half of these parents say they understand where their donation is invested. This is clearly a gap, and suggests that schools should be doing more to engage parents on school resourcing issues. Schools may also need to consider more carefully how this impacts on all parents and guard against the risk of increasing education disadvantage.

The FundStar team

30th January 2019

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