Head teachers’ union confirms detrimental impact of school funding cuts at annual conference

School leaders’ jobs have been “made far harder by this Conservative government. School buildings are falling apart, pay has been driven down and teachers are being driven out.”

Hundreds of school leaders from across the UK and leading union figures gathered in Newport this week for the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) annual conference.

Addressing the challenges affecting schools in Britain, speakers pointing to the reality of school cuts.

Paul Nowak, general secretary of the TUC, said the job of school leaders has been made “far harder” by the current government, which does not understand the “value of school leadership.”

In a speech to school leaders, Nowak said that “every child deserves a good education.”

“This takes leadership, and we are all grateful to head teachers, assistants, deputies, and school business leaders for the incredible job they have done leading schools through difficult times.

“But their job has been made far harder by this Conservative government. School buildings are falling apart, pay has been driven down and teachers are being driven out.”

The TUC general secretary reminded the conference how, since 2010, head teachers’ pay has been slashed by 20 percent, which is “pushing good leaders out of the profession.”

NAHT was founded in 1897. It currently has 49,000 members. Its annual conference enables members to share their experiences and debate about the current issues affecting schools.

The 2024 conference came as austerity and cuts to schools are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. A recent survey by the Sutton Trust showed that 32 percent of school leaders reported having to make cuts to teaching staff. This included 69 percent to teaching assistants and 46 percent to support staff.

Rachel Young, who was introduced as NAHT’s incoming president at the conference, said that it is often the children with the highest needs that “really suffer because [you lose] the people who give those children the support they need.”

Young, who is also the NAHT’s Blackpool branch secretary, says it is vital that the challenges facing schools are raised, “because we’re trying to make things better.”

She said that being a school business leader has given her “unique insight into the impact of over a decade of austerity, the funding cuts on schools and the tough decisions they must make every single day.”

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, also spoke at the conference. He said:

“We’ve been clear in calling for a series of restorative pay rises for school leaders after more than a decade of real terms pay cuts.

“We have evidenced beyond doubt that a real recruitment and retention crisis exists. Teacher pay is too low and workload too high.”

The conference debated a series of motions about the challenges schools face. This included trade union law and the impact it will have on the education sector, and in particular school leaders. The conference said it is “appalling at the continued on the democratic right of trade union members to strike, as set out in the government’s Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 and accompanying regulations.”

Delegates also debated a child poverty motion, noting the “stress and anxiety that insecure housing causes to families and the life chances of young people.”

The conference called on the National Executive to work with housing and homelessness organisations, to support appropriate campaigns to highlight the situation for families and young people and the impact this has on education, and to lobby government to meet its existing obligations and commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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