Monday, 10 July 2017

Review Body 'divide-and-rule' on pay will only make matters worse in schools


Today's report from the School Teachers' Review Body has done nothing to 'break the 1% pay cap' as some initial reports have stated. No, only new teachers on the very bottom of the main pay range will get a 2% increase (and even that is still less than inflation - so still a cut in real terms). For everyone else, it's a performance-related award.

The STRB recognise there's a problem - but their recommendations could even make things worse

If you are no longer on the main pay range, it's definitely 1% only. But, even for most main pay range teachers, there's no guarantee of a 2% increase - the STRB want that to depend on your 'performance' and the state of your school's budget. 

Even though the maximum of the range (M6 in most schools) will be increased by 2%, it doesn't mean that eligible teachers will automatically receive it. The STRB have already trialled in a previous report the divisive idea that only some M6 teachers get the full award - others might get a lower increase, depending on their appraisal. Today's report is a further twist of the damaging performance-pay knife and another attempt to atomise national pay scales through school-by-school decisions.

The STRB say they are worried about teacher morale*, recruitment and retention. But how much more divisive and demoralising could they have been than to recommend this?!

The key paragraphs from the Report are quoted below but, in summary, the STRB are saying effectively that there's not enough in school budgets to give everyone 2%, even on the main scale, so schools should pick and choose who 'deserves' it most:

5.26 "Our remit requires us to consider the affordability of our recommendations. The Secretary of State emphasised to us that there will be no additional funding for schools to implement a pay award. We recognise that implementing a pay uplift of more than 1% within their current funding allocations may require some school leaders and governing bodies to take difficult decisions"


5.27 "As we have stated in previous reports, uplifts to the minima and maxima of the various ranges in the national pay framework do not automatically translate into the same level of uplift to all individual teachers’ salaries in payment. Pay decisions for teachers (including those currently paid at the maximum of their pay range) should be made locally in line with the school’s pay policy and related to an annual appraisal of performance, subject to all being paid between the minimum and maximum of their pay range. This allows school leaders and governing bodies to set pay policies that enable them to make differentiated pay awards, when justified by performance or local circumstances, and which allow them to make best use of their budgets".

NUT Divisions in London, with the support of other trade unions, have already announced a response:

SHAKE THE MAGIC MONEY TREE and SCRAP THE PAY CAP
Demonstration and rally
THURSDAY OCTOBER 12th
  • Assemble 5:30pm opposite Downing Street
  • March past Department for Health - Treasury - Department for Education - Home Office
  • Rally in Parliament Square

NOTES:

* Even the STRB state that NEOST, representing the employers, commented to them (para 2.50) that "schools would prefer to avoid making differential performance-based awards to avoid any negative impact on morale as they believe that this would outweigh any positive impact on individuals". It seems that the STRB has even ignored the employers' evidence.
* For an update on Justine Greening's false promises over funding, see this article

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

London Councils report on the impact of school cuts - why Forest Hill is getting it so wrong

London Councils have just published a significant report called 'Talking Heads' reporting the views of around 400 London school leaders. The research describes how "Headteachers face huge challenges in coping with reducing budgets, recruiting and retaining teachers, and managing teachers’ workload so that they can deliver the best quality education for our schoolchildren".

'Talking Heads' provides a valuable insight into the real difficulties facing London schools which I hope to summarise in a further post. However, on a day when NUT members took a tenth day of strike action to protest at the staffing cuts at Forest Hill School in Lewisham, the report shows that the steps being taken by Lewisham Council and the FHS management contrast with the solutions being reached by other schools. In short, it is more evidence that the Forest Hill staffing cuts need to be reconsidered.

1. Schools are trying to avoid cutting staffing budgets- why not Forest Hill?
No school should have to make damaging cuts to any areas of their budget but the National Audit Office have already warned in their report 'Financial Sustainability of Schools' about their concern that "schools tend to reduce the proportion of their spending on teaching staff before other areas of spending" ... which risks "detrimental effects on educational outcomes".  

Actually, the London Councils report suggests that the school leaders surveyed are taking heed of this warning and seeking to protect teaching staff budgets where they can:



In contrast, Forest Hill School has concentrated on reducing deficits by making staffing cuts while actually increasing its budget on 'professional services' ! It needs to think again.

2. Further evidence that Forest Hill has NOT been spending an excessive proportion of its budget on staffing
Lewisham Council have consistently peddled a line that the budget difficulties at Forest Hill School are due to excessive staffing expenditure. The NUT have been told that FHS spends an unusually high 81% of its budget on staffing. However, the NUT has challenged this figure since the school's own figures suggest it really stands at 73%, according to forecasts provided by the school for 2016/17.

Lewisham Council certainly needs to read the report produced by the London Councils body that it belongs to.  It makes clear that "London headteachers described staffing costs as accounting for around 80% of overall school budgets". 

So this is further confirmation that it isn't the proportion of the budget spent on staffing at Forest Hill that is 'unsustainable', as Lewisham Council claims, but their own mistaken benchmarking claims demanding excessive staffing cuts at the school. It needs to think again.

3. Schools recognise the dangers in cutting planning time - certainly to the levels being considered by Forest Hill


The Report includes evidence of some schools having to cut the school day to make up for reduced teacher numbers. There is a proposal to do this at Forest Hill too, if only for 25 minutes on a Monday, although this is counteracted by plans to teach other lessons after the official end of the school day.

Some schools are also having to look at cutting planning time.  For example, the report  quotes one Head as saying: "Currently our teachers teach 42 periods out of a 50 period fortnight so if we looked to increase that to 43 periods over 50 periods we’d probably save on about three teachers". But Forest Hill is imposing as many as 44 teaching periods out of 50 (22/25 hourly lessons per week). This will leave FHS teachers with one of the highest timetable loadings of any secondary school across London.

Another Head quoted confirms that "a main scale teacher teaches 42"  but then adds "I could have made the teachers teach more, however, their job is tough enough and my worry is if I make them teach more they’re going to leave in their droves and it’s actually going to become a false economy, or they’re going to get ill and then my cover budget goes up. So, I don’t really think that that’s a runner at the moment". Regrettably, that's exactly what is happening at Forest Hill.

Heads know the particular danger that teacher resignations can have to London schools - because teacher recruitment is even harder in the capital than elsewhere in the country:


Sadly, Forest Hill School have chosen to apply this 'false economy'. Teachers are leaving in droves. Those that haven't yet resigned are now being shown their teaching timetables for next year. Many will face teaching class after class without any break in their timetabled day to plan and prepare for other classes. More teachers will leave - and Forest Hill will struggle to replace them adequately. The Council and School need to think again.

 4. Most schools recognise the damage caused by staffing cuts - but Forest Hill parents have been told they will 'herald a new dawn' for the school.
'Talking Heads' states that "Headteachers were unanimous in their support for Teaching Assistants, and described their centrality to improving student outcomes. However, their lack of statutory requirement in the classroom leaves them in a vulnerable position. ... As a final resort, teachers have been lost".

Forest Hill School's 'new dawn' consists of starting a new academic year with 15 fewer teaching posts and 23 fewer classroom and non-classroom based support staff. That can only harm teaching, learning and student outcomes. 

The Council and School need to think again!
London is experiencing a school funding crisis that is damaging the quality of education schools can provide, research commissioned by London Councils has revealed. Headteachers face huge challenges in coping with reducing budgets, recruiting and retaining teachers, and managing teachers’ workload so that they can deliver the best quality education for our schoolchildren.

London is experiencing a school funding crisis that is damaging the quality of education schools can provide, research commissioned by London Councils has revealed. Headteachers face huge challenges in coping with reducing budgets, recruiting and retaining teachers, and managing teachers’ workload so that they can deliver the best quality education for our schoolchildren.

London is experiencing a school funding crisis that is damaging the quality of education schools can provide, research commissioned by London Councils has revealed. Headteachers face huge challenges in coping with reducing budgets, recruiting and retaining teachers, and managing teachers’ workload so that they can deliver the best quality education for our schoolchildren.

London is experiencing a school funding crisis that is damaging the quality of education schools can provide, research commissioned by London Councils has revealed. Headteachers face huge challenges in coping with reducing budgets, recruiting and retaining teachers, and managing teachers’ workload so that they can deliver the best quality education for our schoolchildren.

London is experiencing a school funding crisis that is damaging the quality of education schools can provide, research commissioned by London Councils has revealed. Headteachers face huge challenges in coping with reducing budgets, recruiting and retaining teachers, and managing teachers’ workload so that they can deliver the best quality education for our schoolchildren.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Why Forest Hill School needs more staff

The NUT has produced a leaflet to explain why our members at Forest Hill School - boosted by members transferring from both other teaching unions - are taking three days of strike action this week:

38 posts cut by September - what kind of ‘new dawn’ will that be for Forest Hill students?
Teachers and parents opposed to the £1.3 million staffing cuts at Forest Hill School have tried everything we can to persuade Lewisham Council and school management to think again.
We’ve written letters, held meetings, marches and strikes but still they refuse to accept that these cuts will damage education. Instead, they claim they ‘herald a new dawn’ for the school !
Next term will still see the same numbers  of pupils, with the same range of needs, coming to Forest Hill. As always at FHS, staff will do their best to support every pupil but, as things stand, there will be 38 fewer staff to do so.
The restructuring means 23 support staff and 15 teaching posts will have gone. What kind of ‘new dawn’ is that?
It’s time for the Council and School to  admit that cutting these posts means  cutting education. They need to think again for the sake of Forest Hill students.


These cuts can be stopped
As we explain in this leaflet, at least some of these staff cuts can be easily reversed. All it needs is for those in charge to stop digging their heels in and start to do what’s best for education.
So join us in demanding they:
●    Admit these cuts damage education
●    Admit they have cut too many staff
●    Use the options available to them to at least reverse the worst of the cuts so that Forest Hill students have the            education they need in September.


The NUT is striking to demand that at least some of the staffing cuts are withdrawn at Forest Hill
Our demands are very simple. We want assurances that the school will put in place a plan to recruit:
1. More staff to reverse the most serious cuts, especially to SEN and pastoral provision. Cuts to learning mentors and teaching assistants are already leading to cuts in   support to some of the students who most need that help.
2. More teachers to allow a reduction in teacher contact time. The new timetable will halve the amount of time teachers have in the school day to plan, prepare and  mark books, contact parents and speak to students.


The Council and School have got their figures wrong. Too many staff have been cut.
Lewisham Council’s mistakes have already had a bad outcome for one local school, Sedgehill School. Now their mistakes could also damage education at Forest Hill too.


Councillors keep giving the excuse that Forest Hill was spending too much of its budget on staff and that’s why cuts had to be made. When we questioned this, we received a written   reply saying that FHS spent 81% on staffing. But the School’s own consultation document shows this is untrue. It shows staff costs at £7,540 K from a £10,126 K total expenditure - or 74.5%. This is actually less than the 76% the National Audit Office say schools typically spend.


The School has swung the axe at jobs ahead of other savings. Worse, spending on some non-staffing headings has gone up! Budget forecasts have shown the allocation for ‘professional services’ going up by £300k alone since Xmas. We’ve asked why - but we’ve had no answer.


Why is the issue of workload and timetable loading so important to NUT members ?
Everyone involved in education knows that long working hours are the main reason why schools struggle to recruit and retain teachers. Forest Hill has shown what happens when you threaten to make workload even worse - teachers leave. At least 23 teachers have resigned for the end of term. Add all those leaving, e.g. through redundancy, and nearly ⅓ of teachers will be going.


The Head is telling parents that he has met workload concerns by having an early closure on a Monday (although it now seems some will be teaching classes after school on other days!) - but those 25 minutes won’t make up for losing 3 hours of non-contact time during the school week.


Think about a teacher with a class of 30 boys. Giving each book just two minutes of marking uses up a full hour. But teachers have lots of classes. They will have to do even more work after school. That’s not just a problem for teachers. As the Department for Education has warned Heads: "Teachers forced to mark work late at night and at weekends are unlikely to operate effectively in the classroom". Workload is an issue for parents, students & teachers. That’s why we are asking for extra staff to provide at least some additional timetable release for teachers. 


We aren’t asking for the ‘impossible’. Here are some ways to find additional funding:
1. The school budget forecasts include a £100,000 figure for emergency ‘contingency’. Use it!
2. Redirect money from rising non-staffing budgets towards reversing some of the staffing cuts.
3. The School has had to find an additional £0.5 million from its own budget to pay the costs of redundancies. The Council could be (we think by law should be) meeting these costs.
4. There is increasing pressure on the Government to find additional funding for schools. The Council could postpone some of the cuts while the national school cuts campaign continues.
5. As Greenwich Council has shown, there are clear mechanisms open to the Council to reduce funding pressures, particularly by agreeing to extend the time that it has set for the licensed deficit to be repaid from the school budget and/or by directing specific funding towards FHS.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Supporting schools, staff and families left with the consequences of Grenfell

Hundreds of schools are taking part in #GreenforGrenfell events today to show support, sympathy and solidarity with all those affected by last week's horrific fire.


The consequences of the fire will, of course, last long after the immediate events and publicity. As key parts of their local communities, schools will have a particularly important role to play but, against a background of school cuts, will need the resources to be able to provide the support required. 

School staff themselves have been directly affected by the fire and, across London and beyond, teachers will be sharing the same anger and concerns as others will, both about this avoidable disaster and the need to ensure the safety of all schools and homes in future as well.

On behalf of the London NUT Regional Office, I issued the following statement to our Divisions earlier this week: 

We have all been shocked by the disastrous fire at Grenfell Tower last week.

You have already received information about ways that NUT Divisions and schools can show their solidarity and support for those affected including ‘Wearing Green For Grenfell’ this Friday 23rd June and details of charities working in the area. However, I wanted to make sure you were also updated on how NUT members have been affected by the fire.

As trade unionists are part of their local community, it should be no surprise that a number of trade unions, including UNITE and PCS, have already reported that they had members living in Grenfell Tower. I can inform you that two NUT members were also Grenfell residents. They both managed to escape from the building that night but both will be grieving for neighbours who did not. The Union is, of course, offering these colleagues our help and support.

Schools in the area now have to support children and families in very difficult circumstances. We are liaising with the ‘Triborough’ Divisions of Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster to assist NUT members in making sure that schools and families have the support they need. A national joint union statement was released at the weekend calling for urgent action “to provide for the security, shelter and well-being of North Kensington’s children”.

Of course, it won’t only be in West London where staff and children will have concerns and fears about the safety of their homes and schools. A second joint union statement was released yesterday “seeking urgent reassurances about fire safety in schools in light of the tragic and avoidable fire at Grenfell Tower”. I would encourage Divisions to approach your Local Authority to seek reassurances about steps being taken by them to secure fire safety in schools and tower blocks locally.

If you have specific concerns and/or if you hear of NUT members who may have been directly affected by the fire, please do contact the London Regional Office for support".

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Parents and Striking Teachers to protest at DfE on Tuesday 20 June over school cuts

Please see below both a press release and a statement to parents from the NUT in relation to the ongoing dispute at Forest Hill School in Lewisham.

The ninth day of strike action will take place on Tuesday. NUT General Secretary Kevin Courtney will be attending the picket line outside the school in Dacres Road, SE23 from 8 am.

UPDATE: PHOTOS FROM THE DAY: 






PRESS RELEASE:

A group of school-age parents with their striking NUT teachers take their picket line to DfE offices at 10.30am today to tell Justine Greening to stop underfunding all schools and release emergency funds for Forest Hill School, an 11-18 boys school in Lewisham, south-east London.

Nationally, schools are facing the largest real terms cuts for 30 years (i) and there is strong evidence to suggest that expenditure levels directly impact pupil performance (ii). Locally, Lewisham Council instructed Forest Hill School (FHS) to recover an estimated £1.3 million pound deficit (iii) and a further £1 million cuts are scheduled to be made by 2022 (iv). 2017 savings are being made through staffing cuts which has caused 23 administration and classroom support staff posts to be cut and 15 teaching staff posts to be cut (v). In response, FHS NUT members have been on strike for 9 days so far this academic year.

All FHS teachers face increased teaching workload and a pay cut for many responsibility post holders. 23 teachers, many of them with more than 15 years experience at the school, have decided to resign rather than go through redundancy procedures or accept proposed changes. As a result, staff turnover will involve at least a third (30%) of teaching staff this academic year. This is before further planned changes to the national funding formula (vi).

The parent action group have held two public meetings, both with over 100 attendees, indicating the level of frustration with what they believe could be destructive changes to an otherwise excellent school. Parents have questioned why the school should prioritise the annual near £1 million pounds (vii) payment on its Private Finance Initiative contract above retaining experienced staff. Parents and teachers both claim that the success of the school, particular an inner-city boys school, is dependent on stable relationships built over time. They argue that these proposed changes, particularly increased workload and reduced non-contact time, will erode space for those vital relationships which many call the “Forest Hill spirit”.

Phil Beadle from Channel 4’s Unteachables and a FHS parent said:
“Parents, staff and the council all agree that the education of the boys at Forest Hill is paramount. As parents, we believe these draconian cuts can only have a negative impact on the educational outcomes of the boys and on the lives of profoundly valued members of the community: our children’s loved and respected teachers”

Saraid Dodd, NUT rep at Forest Hill School, said: “We are chanting ‘not our deficit, it’s our school don’t mess with it.’ Our students deserve better than this. We are striking to defend our school and to make clear to local and national government that we believe the value of education goes beyond numbers on balance sheets.”

Martin Powell-Davies, London NUT representative said: “Schools are already struggling to retain good qualified teachers due to workload. DfE should help Lewisham Council and all financially struggling schools to secure funding to protect good education for all pupils.”

ENDS

Notes for Editors:

Photo call at 10:30am at Department for Education Offices Sanctuary Buildings, 20 Great Smith St, Westminster, London SW1P 3BT

For further information contact Martin Powell-Davies of NUT on: M.Powell-Davies@nut.org.uk

i “Long-run comparisons of spending per pupil across different stages of education”, Chris Belfield, Claire Crawford and Luke Sibieta, The Institute for Fiscal Studies, 27 February 2017, https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/8937

ii “The Effects of Resources Across School Phases: A Summary of Recent Evidence”, Stephen Gibbons and Sandra McNally, London School of Economics, 2013, http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp1226.pdf

iii 9.4, “Application for licensed deficit for Prendergast Ladywell School and Forest Hill School”, Lewisham Council, 9th November 2016, http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/documents/s46348/Schools%20Licensed%20Defict%20Forest%20Hill%20and%20Ladywell.pdf

iv “Forest Hill School”, Institute for Fiscal Studies (author of data), School Cuts campaign (publisher), http://schoolcuts.org.uk/#!/schools?chosenSchool=2094289

v “Your child’s future is at stake”, Martin Powell-Davies, 22nd April 2017, http://www.mpdnut.com/2017/04/your-childs-future-is-at-stake-who-will.html

vi “Forest Hill School” Ibid

vii “Forest Hill School in deficit...”, Martin Powell-Davies, 7th March 2017, http://www.mpdnut.com/2017/03/forest-hill-school-in-deficit-how-do-we.html


STATEMENT TO PARENTS


As an NUT group, Forest Hill NUT members agreed to withdraw strike action for the main exam period and in the hope that management and employers would agree proposals that would allow us to settle the dispute without further strike action. Sadly, there has been no such settlement and all parties have not agreed to meet with us as we have requested, so we are continuing with action.



Positive and negative news

The intervening weeks have brought a positive change – a General Election result that makes it me likely that we can persuade a weakened Government to reverse school cuts – and should therefore persuade the Council to relax their demands on FHS. However, they have also brought the sad confirmation of what we have been warning all along – that a failure to act on jobs and workload would result in many staff voting with their feet to leave. We have been informed that 23 teachers have resigned for the end of term on top of 5 teacher redundancies and 3 temporary contracts not being renewed. Together with support staff, that means over 50 staff will have left this year.

Forest Hill needs more staff
The NUT’s figures show that the cuts package has been based on a faulty analysis from the start. It was argued that FHS spent disproportionately more on staffing and therefore staffing budgets had to be disproportionately hit. This was never the case. That mistake needs correcting by agreeing to restore some of the staff cuts. 
We are seeking assurances that the school will recruit:
1. More teachers to allow a reduction in teacher contact time
2. More staff to reverse the most serious cuts, particularly to SEN and pastoral provision.

We want to continue to go above and beyond for our students. Good education relies on strong relationships. We can’t reverse those resignations now, but we can keep putting pressure on the council to improve our conditions to prevent further resignations next year and allow us to give our students the quality of education they deserve.

The Local Authority and School CAN act to provide additional staffing
Up to now, the Council and the School have both insisted that it has no room to manoeuvre. We have shown that this is simply not the case. For example:
1. The school budget forecasts include a £100,000 figure for 'contingency'.
2. While staffing has been cut, a number of non-staffing payments are being increased significantly. This could provide scope for redirecting budgets.
3. The School has had to find an additional £0.5 Million from its own budget to pay for redundancy costs. NUT Solicitors have now written to the Council to challenge this decision
which we think is based on an unlawful Council policy.
4. There is increasing pressure on the Government to find additional funding for schools. The Council could postpone some of the cuts while the national campaign to reverse school cuts continues.
5. As other Councils have shown, there are clear mechanisms open to the Council to reduce the funding pressures on FHS, particularly by agreeing to extend the time that it has set for the licensed deficit to be repaid from the school budget.
6. Other Councils have also supported schools through directing funding towards them for specific purposes. Lewisham Council could also do the same.

Monday, 29 May 2017

GE2017: Compare the manifesto pledges on school cuts

The campaigning work around school cuts has helped to make it a central issue in many voters' minds when they go to the polls on 8 June.
 

All of the main parties have had to respond by making some kind of pledge that they will act on school cuts. However, not all of those promises are quite what they seem. That's why it's worth checking out the facts on the updated school cuts website to see the impact on your local school. Here's mine:


Why the stark differences between Tory and Labour pledges?
The Conservatives’ are only promising to give only £1 billion per year - but schools are facing a £3bn real terms cut in their annual funding by 2019-20 - and that's according to the National Audit Office, not the NUT or the political parties.

As the NUT said in response to the Conservative manifesto: “The £1 billion promised does nothing at all to cover the present crisis. Schools already need £2.2 billion more just to cover the impact of inflation and cost increases imposed by the Government since it was elected just two years ago. Class sizes will still go up, school staff will be reduced, subjects will be dropped from the curriculum, and school buildings will continue to fall into a state of disrepair ... In contrast, the Liberal Democrats are pledging to put in that £3 billion per year and Labour £6.3 billion per year by 2020/21". 

Check the facts - and Vote for Education on 8 June
In an election where the facts are often being hidden under a cloud of partisan reporting from the mainstream media, it's worth taking a look on the schoolcuts website and sharing it with your friends and family. You can also use it to email your local candidates to ask them to respond.

Luckily, young people in particular are not so easily taken in - have a look at the reaction to this acceptance speech by the 'Prom King' at Sydenham/Forest Hill VI Form last week:


This NUT campaigns video also makes the reality clear:


Vote for education on 8 June !

STOP PRESS: Help Get the message out in your streets:
There has been so much support for the School Cuts campaign that the NUT has ordered extra copies of a newly designed leaflet to be delivered by volunteers in their local area.  To order leaflets and/or to volunteer to organise leafleting, use this link:

Sign up now to take part in our final push to stop school cuts


Saturday, 20 May 2017

Forest Hill - 10 financial questions that need to be answered

Sadly, unjustified accusations have been levelled at Forest Hill NUT members over the last few days. Yet the people that should really be being questioned are those who are refusing to act to provide the additional financial support that Forest Hill School needs.

These dedicated teachers, who work so hard to support FHS students, are being accused, at worst, of striking without any thought as to how it might damage children's education. On the contrary, they are seeking to prevent the lasting damage that will be caused when a school is told to make £1.3 Million of staffing cuts and then also find the £0.5 Million that has to be paid out when you make so many staff redundant. 

Others, perhaps with more sympathy, are telling NUT members that, while their campaign is understood, it has to stop because they are fighting a cause that cannot be won. Parents and staff are being told that there is nothing that can be done, that the Council and School have no room for manoeuvre, and that the cuts simply have to be made.

The NUT does not accept that nothing can be done. Firstly, we believe that something HAS to be done both to make sure that posts are retained to support the most vulnerable pupils and also to address the very real danger of a teacher retention crisis at the school.

Secondly, we believe, from the sadly limited financial information that we have so far been provided, that something CAN be done. We have produced a factsheet and question sheet based on the information that we have been given.

So, instead of simply repeating the mantra that 'there is no alternative', we would like the Council to answer the following ten questions:

a) Why have the cuts fallen so heavily on the staffing budget? 

1) The National Audit Office has recently warned that reducing the proportion of spending on teaching staff before other areas of spending increases the risk that "schools will make poorly informed decisions that could have detrimental effects on educational outcomes”. So why have the cuts at FHS fallen so heavily on the staffing budget?

2) The answer provided so far from the Council has been that the percentage of budget spent on staffing at FHS is 81%. However, our calculations suggest that the real figure is 75%, slightly lower than the NAO report as the national average. Can the Council check their calculations and confirm the actual proportion of expenditure being spent on staffing?

b) What cuts can be made to the non-staffing budget?
 
3) The school budget forecasts include a £100,000 figure for 'contingency'. Rather than put money aside for the future, shouldn't it be spent on addressing the immediate problems?


4) While staffing expenditure is (we believe) being disproportionately cut, there are a number of non-staffing headings that are being increased significantly. These include ICT, the PFI Unitary Charge, 'bought in professional services' and 'professional services'. Just these four items total over £1.5 Million. Is it really not possible to cut some of these costs instead of cutting so many staff?

c) What assumptions have been made about staffing costs and future income?

5) Even though this is being legally challenged by the NUT, Lewisham Council are insisting that the cost of making so many staff redundant has to come from the school budget. Can Lewisham Council confirm that the cost of these payments is nearly £0.5 Million and can the School show where these costs appear in the budget forecasts? 

6) It appears from what the NUT have been told that the budget forecasts for staffing costs assume that the problems facing all schools - of income not meeting the actual costs of NI, pension and pay - will continue. Yet all three of the main parties have, to a greater or lesser extent, suggested there might be some additional expenditure on schools after the General Election. Whatever happens, the campaign to oppose school cuts is gaining strength. Why not postpone some of the cuts and then allow parents, staff, unions, school and Council to all work together to demand these national promises are kept?

d) Why not act as a responsible lender and restructure the loan repayment or use the other powers under your Scheme of Delegation to support the School?

7) Lewisham Mayor and Cabinet agreed last November that, as long as a recovery plan making £1.3M staffing cuts was put in place, they would loan Forest Hill School £879k to be paid back over a five year period in order to cover the school’s immediate budget shortfall. To support a school in similar difficult circumstances, Greenwich Council has just agreed to extend the loan repayment for one of their maintained schools from five to seven years. Why can't Lewisham Council do the same?

8) Greenwich Council also supported this school through directing funding towards it for specific purposes. Lewisham's Scheme of Delegation also states that "the LA is authorised to make sums available to schools from central funds, in the form of allocations which are additional to and separate from the schools’ budget shares". Why can't Lewisham Council act on this provision?

9) Lewisham's Scheme of Delegation also states (when discussing who pays for redundancy costs under Section 37(5) of the Education Act 2002) that "costs incurred by the LA in respect of the dismissal of any member of the staff of a maintained school shall not be met from a school’s budget share for any financial year except in so far as the authority have good reason for deducting those costs". So what good reason does the Council have for making Forest Hill School pay £0.5 Million in redundancy costs itself?

10) The Scheme of Delegation also states that  "any amount payable by the governing body to the local authority may be met out of the school’s budget share for any funding period if the governing body is satisfied that meeting the amount out of the school’s budget share will not to a significant extent interfere with the performance of any duty imposed on them by provisions specifically of section 21(2) Education Act 2002 (conduct the school with a view to promoting high standards of educational achievement)". Are the Governing Body satisfied that these significant staffing cuts will still allow them to carry out this duty to promote such high standards?