Hitchin and Harpenden Labour Party has called for increased support and understanding for under pressure local headteachers as they begin the new school year. With the coronavirus pandemic causing huge disruption to school life so far in 2020, and a heightened sense of anxiety as children return to school this week, an already demanding job is likely to become even more challenging.
Headteachers already face a staggering set of responsibilities, including student safety and attainment, staff welfare, school finances, relationships with parents and carers, and this year ever changing advice from Government as the pandemic evolves. Back in June a survey published by teaching app provider Teacher Tapp revealed that 25% of headteachers were considering quitting in light of the increased pressures they are facing.
Headteachers are also being asked to do more with less. In 2019 the Association of School and College Leaders predicted a funding shortfall of £5.7 billion for the 2019-20 school year. Whilst government did announce extra funding since then it falls far short of making up for the cuts to education imposed since 2010. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that per pupil funding has fallen by 8% since 2010.
David Josephs is chair of Hitchin and Harpenden Labour Party. He said:
“Headteachers and their staff are amongst our most important key workers, and we want them to know they have our unequivocal support this year, more than ever. But they need more than our support. They need the money to do their job properly. Our ambition is to develop a state school system that is the envy of the world, but that requires investment, commitment and consistency, something that we believe the Government has failed to do.
“I know from my time as a school Chair of Governors that budgets are being stretched beyond their limits, despite outstanding levels of financial management. Headteachers are faced with making appalling choices as a matter of course. We must support them, and our schools, with money as well as gratitude.”
Across the County schools have been preparing for the new school year with aim of keeping everyone as safe as possible, but the months ahead will be challenging. Whilst the number of people testing positive for coronavirus in the UK is only climbing very slowly at the moment, it is climbing quickly in France, Italy and Spain, with local lockdowns on the increase. It is likely that will happen in the UK too given the evolution of the pandemic in Western Europe thus far. Thus it is only prudent that here in Hertfordshire, we need to approach the school year hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.
Lisa Hayes, a Hitchin primary school Headteacher said: “We are thrilled to be starting the new school year. We are as prepared as we can be thanks to a really strong staff team and very supportive parents. It will be challenging though. Even before coronavirus we were having to make choices over where we imposed cuts to call services. I feel that it is only going to get worse unless we have confidence in future revenue streams.”