Budget cuts are effecting schools across Nottinghamshire which has impacted class sizes and the provision of creative subjects. The introduction of Academies was said to help combat these issues.

Budget cuts

There have been significant budget cuts to schools across the whole of the country. In Nottinghamshire there has been a total budget loss of £2,304,430 over the past 4 years. This means there has been a funding loss of an average of £296 per pupil in Nottinghamshire.

“Nottinghamshire schools have seen an average funding loss of £296 per pupil”

Larger Class sizes

Class sizes are also a contentious issue. In our data we found that there is an average increase of 2 pupils per class over the past three years. The Nottingham Emmanuel school has on average 10 more students per class than it did 3 years ago.

This is a measure to help schools save money. By having larger classes schools are employing fewer teachers. Members of staff are being given shorter contracts and schools are also employing Newly Qualified Teachers – who are paid less – to cut costs.

Personally for teachers it means that the amount of work they have is increasing. This means that they either give up more of their personal time to complete the marking or put less detailed feedback into their pupils work.

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Large class sizes

Larger class sizes also means that there is less specialised teaching for individuals and it means that attention can mainly be on controlling the class and having to focus on badly behaved students.

Consequently, higher achieving students often get left alone and aren’t being pushed to fulfill their full potential. The classes have a much broader range of students with differing abilities meaning lessons are more difficult to plan.

As teachers are having to teach a larger number of students there is less opportunity to form personal relationships with their classes, meaning they can’t tailor lessons to specific pupils, which would be more realistic with smaller classes.

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Overworked teacher

Academisation

Our research has shown that in Nottingham, 65% of schools have not improved or have got worse as a result of academisation, in what is a damning indictment of this government’s flagship educational policy.

More than half of Nottingham’s schools are failing to reach 60% of their students achieving grades 4-9 (formerly A*-C).

Academies are independent, state-funded schools which receive their funding from central government, rather than a local authority. All secondary schools which were previously run by Nottingham City Council have now been converted into an academy. 

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Nottingham Academy

Each academy is overseen by an “Academy Trust,” a charitable body who provide support, expertise and oversee the strategy of a school. The control from the local authority has been removed, and headteachers have a greater say on the overall direction of their school.

Initially, schools were brought into the academy system because they were failing. The Academy Trust acted as a sponsor to bring the school up to scratch.

However, in 2010 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government enabled all schools to convert to academy status.

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Children working in a classroom

Money is being diverted away from frontline education. Academy Trust CEO’s have been asked by Academies Minister Lord Angew to justify salaries of more than £150,000. With an average £296 per pupil loss, it seems hard to justify such inflated salaries.

The reason the government supported academisation in education was to improve standards within schools. However, our investigation shows they have failed to do so in Nottingham.

Provision of creative subjects

The provision of creative subjects has also been affected. Expensive resource materials and pressure to start GCSEs earlier for increased performance have caused great strain on creative subjects.

Creative subjects in schools

From the 39 out of 44 schools that responded to a freedom of information request in Nottinghamshire, they offered an average of 3 hours and 8 minutes per week in creative subjects. This is slightly above the government’s recommendation of 3 hours.

However, 47.5% of schools are starting Key Stage 4 in Year 9 – a year early. This means that in Key Stage 3, a years worth of drama, music and art is not being taught. Students are essentially missing a year of creative education if not chosen as a GCSE.

Effectively, all non-English Baccalaureate subjects, which include music, art, dance, physical education and technology subjects are not being taught as a balanced curriculum in almost half of Nottinghamshire schools.

The English Baccalaureate is a set of subjects at GCSE that aims to keep young peoples options open for further study and future careers.

It is presented at options evenings like it is a qualification, but it is merely a title that is a performance measure for schools.

Students have to pass English language and literature, Maths, all 3 sciences, geography or history and a language. Creative subjects are not included.

The higher a schools EBacc uptake and point score is, the higher it will be in a league table.

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Classroom learning

Early GCSEs occur to improve a schools rating, and are so common due to academisation allowing schools free autonomy over timetabling and curriculum.

The schools which are choosing to reach better grades by starting GCSEs a year early are not reflected in national results. Nottinghamshire has an EBacc uptake of 35.9% which is 2.5% lower than the national average.

Furthermore, pupils are not achieving pass rates, only 16.7% of British pupils achieve the English Baccalaureate.

This means schools are consciously making the decision to start GCSE’s a year early, meaning their students are losing one year of creative, design and physical education purely for school to look good in results and performance graphs.

It’s clear that budget cuts have had a significant impact upon schools, as Nottinghamshire schools has seen an average funding loss of £296 per pupil.

Class sizes have also been affected as they are slowly increasing as a result of budget cuts, at a rate of 2 more pupils per class over the past 3 years.

It seems that in Nottinghamshire as our research has shown, more than half of schools have not improved or have got worse as a result of academisation.