Will we get this extra pay - or will it come out of the existing budget?
My daughter walked out of her Sheffield school for the final time last week, a few tears in her eyes and finding the whole event a little more difficult than she envisaged.
And it wasn’t just her. We were there too, a mum and dad who have been so grateful to all her junior school teachers that we felt a little choked as well. We shook hands with her teacher and the class teaching assistant before thanking the headteacher.
For four years they have nurtured our daughter and we have seen her grow from a fairly quiet year three to a confident year six ready to take on the challenges of secondary school.
Things like this don’t just happen, and we are one of many families in Sheffield who do not take this for granted. The care and professionalism these teachers put into their job is astounding and they deserve so much more than getting my thanks in a broken, quivering sentence as we handed over a basket of smellies to go into the ever-growing pile of gifts.
It was like Santa had come early with all those carefully wrapped presents, each one thoroughly deserved for motivating and making learning fun for 30 bubbly Sheffield children. I left thinking those teachers deserve even more than the adoration of the kids and a year’s supply of bubble bath.
The teacher in question had spent her own money on school supplies during the year, like so many teaching staff because budgets are so tight, and have had too many years without a pay increase due to austerity. Things might be about to change as Boris Johnson takes charge this week, his bumbling figure was waltzing into Downing Street just hours after the teachers were packing up their things and making their way home for a well-deserved summer break.
A lot of the positive, headline-grabbing news about schools comes in the final days of the summer term. It’s become an end of term tradition, and the cynic in me would say that this is because it’s not really good news and the politicians are after a quick soundbite before we forget about it over the summer. The positive news about a shake up to the funding formula came at the end of term, only for it to be dispelled as nonsense.
Last week, Theresa May announced a 2.75% pay rise for teachers as one of a series of positive measures in her death throes as Prime Minister. It was as if she realised her achievements in the previous three years could be scrawled on the back of a postage stamp and she needed to do some good.
A pay rise for teachers would certainly be welcome, but details about it were sketchy and it’s not certain what Johnson will do when his bluster actually becomes decisions. The biggest pressing issue is whether or not the 2.75% pay rise will be funded – that is, will the schools get an extra 2.75% in their school budget next year or will it have to come out of existing budgets as it has done previously. This would turn a happy story in a disastrous tale, amounting to another cut in school budgets that will affect frontline staff and resources at their disposal. The job of looking after kids like my daughter is getting harder as government expects more from teaching staff without putting the money in place to help them. Boris Johnson has hinted that the tide may turn for schools as he would like to see funding per pupil increase in some areas, and Sheffield would benefit.
I’m not going to refer to him as ‘Boris’ or ‘BoJo’ because this is not a laughing matter and our PM needs to be a serious world leader rather than somebody courting celebrity and laughing off mistakes. It’s time for him to stand up, stick to his promises on education and ensure that schools are properly funded, while the pay rise for teachers will be met. Time will judge Johnson for how he behaves and what he delivers, and while I’m not optimistic about what the future may bring I am, as always, full of hope for our young people.
Let’s see if our new PM achieves anything worthy of our children bringing him a cache of gifts when his term is up.