It is understandable that parents, heads, teachers and governors are angry about the increasing pressure within their school budgets (Schools urge parents to protest over funding cuts, 8 March). This is an important issue of national significance – a good society invests in its young people. However, the current debate is confusing two separate aspects of the problem. The first is that the government is not fully funding the extra costs that schools now face. It is protecting the cash value of the pupil grant, but that is not the same as the real value in terms of what it can purchase for schools (staff, equipment, facilities). For the government to claim that it is “protecting the core schools budget in real terms” is factually incorrect, assuming that, in these “post-truth days” we can agree on the meaning of the word “real”.
A separate issue is the proposal for a new formula for distributing resources more equitably. The Campaign for Fair Funding has been running for more than 22 years since it was initiated by what was then the Secondary Heads Association in 1994. Money for education has been distributed on the basis of historic decisions made separately by local councils over 30 years ago, but, since the early 1990s, schools have been judged against national criteria. The local/national mismatch was clearly indefensible. So the need for a new and fairer formula cannot be denied.
Sadly, the one proposed does not do the job properly and needs revising before it is implemented, but it would be wrong and even more unfair to continue with what we currently have. The snag is that teachers in relatively well-funded areas get used to their own school structures and provision, and assume it to be the norm. It is only when they move to another part of the country that they realise how fortunate they had been. After allowing for area cost differentials and deprivation indices, schools in some parts of the country get over £1,000 per pupil more than schools in other areas. This cannot be justified and must be addressed. It is doubtful whether it can be by a government that is prepared to spend millions on the irrelevance of new grammar schools instead of investing in mainstream schooling.
President, Secondary Heads Association (now Association of School and College Leaders) 1994-95
• Your report neglects to mention schools like Penistone Grammar school, my local comprehensive, which are set to gain significantly from the fair funding proposals. At long last they, and thousands of other schools, will be able to recruit the teachers and pay for the resources they need. Why should children in Barnsley or Sheffield get less than those in London or Manchester? The schools in the article protesting need to recognise the unfair advantage their students have had for years at the expense of others. I respectfully suggest a conflagration of real-term cuts in education and the fair funding proposals is unhelpful at this time; the former hurts all schools, the latter addresses a historic injustice.
Vice-chair of governors, Penistone Grammar school, Barnsley
• Your supplement Break into Apprenticeships (7 March) and its frequent mention of the cost of gaining a degree made me think of the time when, as an 18-year-old from a working-class family, I had to decide on what to do after A-levels. The fact that the cost of fees, living costs and transport to and from Wales to my place of study were all covered by the council meant that I could study beyond 19. Doing so has made my working life in various forms of education a delight. I am concerned that the current fees prohibit many young people from going to university. At one university the cost of a three-year undergraduate degree, including living costs, is given as £41,288. Your supplement draws attention to the fact that wages are paid to apprentices and this is an incentive to choose that route.
While accepting that an apprenticeship, freely chosen and not in the context of wanting to avoid debt, is a good thing, what concerns me is that we may be returning to a middle- and upper-class elite who are university educated and a workforce majority who aren’t. Add to this the government’s wish to expand the number of grammar schools and we may fast be returning to a world which resembles the 1950s – division at 11 according to the family’s financial state and the child’s showing in a revised 11-plus. While lauding the range of opportunities now available, let’s do all we can to avoid that.
• It is disappointing that the opposition to reintroducing educational selection (PM paves way for grammar schools, 7 March) concentrates on the financial implications. It is far more important to condemn the deliberately socially divisive policy. We fought for the introduction of comprehensives because our experience taught us that you cannot forecast the future intellectual development of a child. The infamous intelligence test was a sham. Many of the “successes” failed the 16-plus exam and many of the “failures” passed, despite having to overcome the devastating effect of that “failure”. I warned at the time that the reactionaries would try to reintroduce them and they did, first through the back door (free schools and academies) and then openly, as now. All who understand the value of a well-educated nation should stand together and fight this crime with all their might.
(A teacher for several decades and now 100 years old), Brighton
• On Monday we learned that being poor takes 14 points off your potential IQ (Report, 6 March). On Tuesday we read that the government is going ahead with plans to create more grammar schools where selection is based on IQ. Yet another Tory policy that advantages the well-off at the expense of the poor.