School spend behind eastern Europe: kick out cutters and profiteers!

photo Teo Sze Lee (Creative Commons)

photo Teo Sze Lee (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

‘Seth Brydon’, teacher, Birmingham

UK education spending is behind many eastern European countries, according to EU figures.

While the UK spent 5.1% of GDP on education in 2015, Slovenia spent 5.6%, Latvia 6% and Estonia 6.1%. Lithuania and Poland also give a greater share to schools.

Denmark is top of the pack at 7%, with Sweden and Belgium also above 6%. Britain might be still above the EU average of 4.9% – but that includes Romania which only spends 3% of GDP on education.

While the Tories continue to claim that school funding is at its highest ever, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that per-pupil funding will have fallen by 13% in a decade by 2020.

And if there’s no school funding crisis, why did Tory education secretary Justine Greening announce in July that £1.3 billion would be transferred from the ‘free schools’ budget towards ‘core’ schools?

This sum, by the way, is only a fraction of the £3 billion the National Audit Office calculates is set to be cut by this government on top of the Con-Dems’ slashing.

In my school, we are set to lose over £300,000 – the equivalent of nine teachers.

Already, standard resources are like gold dust. I have one ream of paper, for all my printing needs, to last until… whenever I get granted another one. No wonder my summer shopping list includes school supplies that used to be bought by the school.

One thing that isn’t being cut is contracts to private companies. My school doesn’t actually own the school! Instead it is rented from a private firm – one of New Labour’s ‘private finance initiatives’.

As a result, there are rules on where and how we can put up displays. And when the school was built around a decade ago, it wasn’t foreseen that class sizes would hit 30 – we haven’t got enough coat hooks for every child.

So some ‘efficiency savings’ can be made: kicking out the private profiteers, so all parts of education can be publicly owned and democratically run. We must fight not just to stop the cuts to come, but for an actual increase in per-pupil funding.

The newly merged National Education Union – formed from the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers – comes into existence this term.

Members will be looking for a combative approach on these vital issues.