A campaign has been launched against proposals to axe 34 jobs at a Plumstead school and to raise awareness of looming Government funding changes which could see schools thousands of pounds worse off.
A consultation has been launched on plans to meet a deficit of £750,000 this year at Plumstead Manor School. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the GMB union, along with the Campaign for State Education (CASE), are against the proposed loss of six teaching and 28 support posts on the grounds they will seriously affect the quality of education at the comprehensive. The unions back school governors as the debts are partly due to historical financial challenges and are calling for the council to step in. The deficit is also partly due to a shortfall in new students in Year 7 and the sixth form.
Campaigners from CASE and the unions are also warning many schools across Greenwich and Lewisham are suffering severe financial difficulties even ahead of the Government’s changes to the National Funding Formula in 2018. Under the changes cash will be shifted from urban to rural areas. It has been estimated by website www.schoolcuts.org.uk that the impact of the funding changes along with cuts to the Education Services Grant and inflation that school budgets will be reduced for 2019 by £20,659,106 – or £598 per pupil in Greenwich and £21,711,600 – or £600 per pupil in Lewisham.
Public meetings are being held to raise awareness of the changes and to encourage people to respond to the Department of Education consultation which runs until Wednesday next week.
In regard to Plumstead Manor, Kirstie Paton, the assistant secretary of Greenwich NUT, said the school lost 50 members of staff in 2015 due to cuts and added if the latest proposals go ahead “this can only have a negative impact on the quality of teaching and learning.” She said: “We are arguing that Greenwich council must support the school and come up with a financial and strategic plan. We believe the children deserve this investment to ensure that this caring community school can thrive in the future.”
Steve Oakes the Greenwich GMB officer, said: “The students will lose out when they no longer have a teaching assistant or learning mentor to guide and help them. And who will fill the gap – teachers are already over worked and the remaining support staff simply can’t give any more.
A spokeswoman from Greenwich council, told The Mercury: “The Royal Borough of Greenwich is aware of the ongoing consultation at Plumstead Manor and is offering input and support as appropriate. Regular meetings are taking place between the council, the school and unions. The council always puts standards of achievement to the forefront, to ensure excellence is not compromised and will continue to support Plumstead Manor in whatever way we are able.”
Public meetings run by CASE groups are being held to raise awareness of the looming financial challenges for schools.
Mum Juliana Johnston from Greenwich Case, told The Mercury: The changes to the funding formula are going to hit schools in London the hardest and a lot of schools are already dealing with large deficits already. Parents are already noticing less GCSE courses on offer and cuts to staff. In addition worries over funding is putting primary schools under pressure to go for academisation as they think having the economy of scale would help.”
Nicky Dixon from Lewisham CASE, told The Mercury: “A lot of schools are already facing huge budgetary pressures and are struggling to balance their books. They are having to cut posts and services like break fast or after school clubs and even coaches for trips – most school budgets have nothing left to squeeze. With the formula cuts the schools we will see a lot of staff cuts and bigger classes. A lot of really good work is going to be undone and there will be poorer educational outcome for thousands of children.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said the figures used by the campaigners are misleading. He said: “The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, with school funding at its highest level on record at more than £40bn in 2016-17 – and that is set to rise, as pupil numbers rise, over the next two years to £42 billion by 2019-20?. But the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated.
“London will remain the highest funded part of the country under our proposals, with inner London schools being allocated 30% more funding per pupil than the national average.? Significant protections have also been built into the formula so that no school will face a reduction of more than more than 1.5% per pupil per year or 3% per pupil overall.
A CASE public meetings in association with the Fair Funding for all Schools campaign is to be held at Edmund Waller School in Waller |Road on Thursday at 7.30pm and the speakers will include MP Vicky Foxcroft. A meeting is also to be held at The White Hart in Eltham Hill on Monday March 20 from 7.30 with speakers including MP Clive Efford.
A meeting on Plumstead Manor for parents and the community is to be held at The Slade Community Centre, Pendrell Street in Plumstead on Wednesday March 22 from 7pm.