Dear Prime Minister,
I woke this morning to the news that you have decided to invest £320 million in the creation of another 140 new free schools – this on top of the 500 you have already pledged to create by 2020. I applaud your “personal mission to build a school system that works for everyone,” however, I do not agree that investing in free schools and grammar schools is the answer to issues facing our education system. The country already has an education system that works, but it’s faltering because of a lack of money. In my mind, the £320 million would be better invested in the current state education system, supporting the country’s existing schools to offer good or outstanding provision for their students.
As a headteacher, I feel privileged to have worked in London my entire teaching career. London is an education success story, with schools across the capital completely turning themselves around and now producing some of the best results in the country. Many London schools outperform schools in other areas of the UK in terms of improvement, and money has played its part in helping to achieve this. Yes, schools in London have received more than most in recent years, but this investment has been demonstrably worthwhile.
Many headteachers and parent bodies of schools in other areas would argue that this funding gap is unfair, and that a more equal distribution of money – as described by the Fairer Funding Formula – would give them a better chance of raising standards too. I agree. However, the answer is not to take from schools in the capital, but to give to those in other areas. A redistribution of what is already an insufficient sum is akin to ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul when both are dirt poor’.
I am not suggesting that money is the only answer to fixing the problem of underperformance; such an assertion would only undermine the hard work, commitment and drive of the many governors, headteachers and staff teams that have succeeded in turning their schools around. However, it cannot be denied that money plays a vital role in school improvement; without proper funding, it becomes harder for leadership teams to raise standards, since essential resources can no longer be provided, and valuable enrichment activities can no longer be offered.
Yes, schools should be economically streamlined and should look to reduce unnecessary expense, but the truth is, that even within better funded London schools, there is no fat left to trim without impacting upon opportunities for young people.
Please therefore, issue a vote of confidence in our current system by redirecting the £320million to the schools that really need it; the schools already in existence that are capable of improving themselves, but that do not have the financial resources to do it.