What is the biggest issue facing the new Education Secretary?
The appointment of Gavin Williamson as Secretary of State for Education represents another new dawn for the Department for Education – but there is no doubt that the long-running issue of school funding should be top of his in-tray.
In the lead up to the end of term, schools had high hopes that they would receive a multi-billion funding boost. Theresa May’s ‘legacy’ funding that was speculated never materialised, and instead attention quickly turned to the promise that Boris Johnson made in his Conservative leadership campaign for an extra £4.6 billion for schools by 2022-23. Sector influencers are already saying this is insufficient, with the NEU, Association of School and College Leaders and NAHT headteachers’ union calling for £12.6 billion.
As NAHT union general secretary Paul Whiteman was quoted as saying:
“Schools and colleges desperately need an immediate multi-billion-pound emergency investment, as well as a long-term commitment to education funding. Schools can’t wait until 2022 or until Brexit is sorted for this money – action has to be taken now.”
Our new Prime Minister is right when he says that “my job is to make sure your kids get a superb education wherever they are in the country”. The government has announced a spending review to “support” Boris Johnson’s ambition for extra funding for schools – but it will not give schools any extra money before September 2020. For Williamson, who is in the early days of his new role, this is a political sandstorm.
So where does it leave us? With no ‘quick fix’ immediately on the horizon, schools have to take action themselves. That is why more and more schools – in the state and independent sectors – are turning to parent donations to help. In a recent Worth Less? survey of 2,000 serving headteachers, two-thirds confirmed that they are becoming more reliant on such donations and, whilst this should not detract from the issue of government funding schools appropriately, this is something we cannot ignore.
Fundraising is not new to schools but there is an opportunity to do things differently. Dawn Adam, Director of Development and External Relations at Tring Park School, outlined how FundStar is helping her to take an innovative approach to raising money:
“FundStar has opened a line of communication with some parents who have previously avoiding development emails as they do not feel they can give sufficiently. It allows us to put the power in the hands of the donor, to ultimately make them feel in control.”