With the General Election looming, school funding is at the top of many educationalists’ agendas.
According to the Government, direct funding for schools is as high as it has ever been, but the increases in costs means that schools will need to make £3bn of savings by 2020. For many schools this will be achieved by cuts to teaching and teaching assistant posts, potentially reducing the quality of provision. Schools are already suffering an extreme recruitment crisis with 30% of newly qualified teachers leaving the profession within 5 years, and yet there is constant pressure on schools to be delivering the highest quality and results. It is easy to see how reducing the funding available to schools can only make things worse, leading Russel Hobby, the outgoing general Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) to warn that the cuts will put the stability of the whole education system at risk.
The funding crisis also reaches beyond the schools gates. Many school trips and visits are supported by school funds, and we are already seeing some of these being cut as budgets are squeezed. Schools will be forced to make hard decisions about where their funds are allocated and the result will be less opportunity for young people. The key issues affecting young people, especially resilience and mental health, are at real risk of being marginalised or forgotten, and there will be consequences that go beyond GCSE grades. Working along the supply chain, fewer school visits equals less business for residential providers, ultimately leading to less provision.
Outdoor learning opportunities and residentials allow children to make the most of the natural environment. Independence, confidence, self-awareness and resilience are just some of the achievable outcomes that make a major contribution to a young person’s development, wellbeing and life chances. At last week’s conference, the NAHT adopted a motion to campaign for protected funding to enable children to have greater access to high quality outdoor learning and residential experiences. We should be encouraging other educational bodies to make the same commitment.
For more information on how Brathay Trust can help to develop outdoor learning within the school curriculum or to discuss a residential that can make a real difference contact Dave Harvey by email here.