The schools in our area are amongst the best in the country and a lot of people, particularly headteachers and teachers, are working hard to make them even better.
The stark reality however is that that task is being made harder by cuts to school budgets and growing child poverty. Don’t take my word for it. The Institute for Financial Studies says school budgets have fallen by 4.6% in the last three years and class sizes are increasing in our local schools.
According to the respected Child Poverty Action Group in their report “The Austerity Generation”, in some areas a third of children in any class will live below the poverty line. Given that poverty is not evenly distributed, in some schools the proportion of poor children will be much higher.
Headteachers say after every weekend some children are coming to school hungry. It is now widely accepted that school holidays have a negative effect on some children’s diet and health. Some teachers report they are showering children, washing their clothes and feeding them at the start of each school day.
We should take it seriously when headteachers say welfare issues are taking precedence over grades. But it’s more than just a school matter; it’s also about the welfare safety net and about household income. After their social mobility advisers quit in protest, the Government produced a Social Mobility Action Plan. Let’s hope it’s more action and less plan.