Many parents will be receiving a copy of the Worth Less campaign’s School funding – Parent letter October 2018 from their school today. Some may not, and in some cases that will be because of concerns about recent updated staffing and employment guidance warning Headteachers and Teachers about not using resources for political purposes. But the first point I would make is that the Statutory Guidance has been withdrawn (Para 1.6) and replaced with non-statutory advice, so Headteachers and Governors can still use their judgement of whether or not to follow it. Secondly the relevant paragraph (5.33 on page 25) newly added in September is very clear that the advice is about not using resources for “party political” purposes.
OGA has a long history of lobbying all Governments of whatever political makeup for fair funding for all Oxfordshire schools. This is not in our judgement a party political issue, though of course it is inevitably political.
I remain concerned that the current discussions do not focus sufficiently on the High Needs budget which funds our Special Schools and additional support for SEND in our mainstream schools. Oxfordshire is also amongst the low funded authorities for this element of the Dedicated Schools Grant.
I was frankly appalled by the misinformation in the interview on the Today programme on the 28th September (currently still available on the BCC website, the relevant item is 1 hour 32 minutes into the programme.) There is a sensible analysis of this in the BBC Radio 4 programme More or Less on the 7th October (8 minutes 30 seconds into the programme) and further links in the letter for parents.
I noted the Minister for School Standards comment during the interview ‘Yes, and you pick your dates very carefully’, which made me think why do the Government keep quoting the 50% increase in funding since 2000? I was a Governor of a secondary school in dire financial straits at that time, even though what was asked of schools at the time bears absolutely no comparison to current expectations.
In 1995 OGA was formed, largely as a result of the dismal financial situation of many of our schools, to affiliate to the National Governors’ Council (founded in 1994) to provide a voice for Governors with Government.
In 1996 the F40 group was formed to lobby for Fair Funding for schools as the allocations were so varied across the country including in low funded Oxfordshire.
In January 1999 a group from OGA including myself and some of his constituents went to a constituency meeting with the MP for Oxford East Andrew Smith who at the time was a Minister in the first New Labour government. He reminded us that Labour had been elected on the basis of sticking to the previous government’s spending limits for the first two years. Subsequently in 2003 there was a significant school funding crisis which was alleviated by guaranteed per pupil increases. It was not until 1996 that the Dedicated Schools Grant was implemented, based on LEA spending in 1995…
Of course this is only a partial view of the history and there is a lot more involved, but if I go back to the question why the Year 2000? I suspect the date was indeed picked very carefully…
Carole Thomson (Chair of the Oxfordshire Governors’ Association)