There’s a great campaign called #whatwouldyoucut but because I don’t really know how to tweet I haven’t contributed much. Nonetheless, the question is the right one. And, because we’re like that at Tallis, we have a list. Hold that outrage, it's not a list of what we would cut, but the things that a conservative government with a functionalist view of education informed by nostalgia, class constructs, elitism, obsession with the markets and sheer not-knowing-what-we-do-all-day-ness think we should do without. The list is about the extra things about which we shouldn't forget to tell an inspector calling. Mr Tomlin and Mr Nicholls are list-keepers-general for this purpose, thank you Sirs. It includes (fanfare drumroll deep breath)
Workshops, visiting authors, dance and drama companies. Trips and visits (about 150 a year) near and far, the mosque, the Wallace Collection, Norway. Performances and exhibitions. Competitions: debating, football, anything. Prince's Teaching Institute work (school of the week twice). Creative studying group workshops for year 10. Maths Day rock competition (and the concert tickets we won). GCSE Pod, the revision app (top 7% of users in country). Artsmark (hoping to get the platinum award). Thomas Tallis Centre for Contemporary Art, our Tate Exchange project (we're the only Associate school). The Shakespeare Schools Festival. The Wandering Bears photographic collective for year 9 & 10. Mentoring between years 12 and 11/7. A reduced curriculum in year 11 for those struggling (with additional maths and English support provided). PET Xi intensive specialist revision, weekend and holiday support sessions. Year 8 boys visiting primaries to read with their students. Primary school science workshops. 36 clubs (from ukulele & astronomy to ninja school). World Challenge To Ecuador. Charlton Athletic Academy. Tech Club and the go- bat-cart, Productions, (We Will Rock You in 2016). Year 7 and 8 outdoor events in June 2016, the jolly old Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, counselling, internal elections (mayoral, general elections, Brexit, school council). Teens and Toddlers Programme, attendance reward trips. International links with Taiwan. Free tea for staff at break time, Parent Coffee Mornings every week, a weekly newsletter with 1700+ subscribers. Psychologists, family support, on-call behaviour support.
We’ve got them on our list and they'd all of 'em be missed. Not that they're about to disappear at Tallis, I'm just showing the working needed to balance a budget.
I bet some readers are thinking 'some of those sound pretty cheap, so why the panic. Won't they carry on with less money, or are teachers doing that goodwill thing they did years ago?'. May I explain a bit about this?
Our money comes to us in age-weighted pupil units. We spend it on employing the teachers we need to teach the number of children we have, and ancillary services. Saying that money to schools is increasing doesn't prove anything other than that there are more children. More children need more teachers. (They're hard to find, so they're getting more expensive, but that's another story). If the amount of funding per pupil isn't enough to pay the teachers we need, then we have to cut.
Schools look at making other savings before they look at cutting teaching. That means less money for books, equipment and suchlike. Exams are expensive: up to £200k a year in a big school and we can't reduce that - though why the examination boards have to be profit-making and not free to schools is a mystery to me. If like us you have a PFI building with an annual charge to the school budget you can't save money on building maintenance, costs or heating, which is what schools traditionally do in hard times. We can't let it out and make money, because it's not ours.
So, heads finally look at how to take money from the teaching budget, by reducing the number of teachers or by having cheaper ones. If you reduce the number then you have to increase class sizes or increase the hours a week that a teacher teaches, or both.
Once either of the above happens, then, with the best will in the world, teachers have to reserve their energies for the day job. If you don't get a free period until Wednesday your capacity to run a club or a team, or a revision session is limited. If lunchtime's shortened so that supervision is safer with the same expenditure, then your day's more pressured.
School trips take a bit of planning so the time for that might be hard to find. Trips require teachers to be covered, which costs either extra school staffing or supply teachers.
And don't get me started on schools that only employ young teachers because they're cheap. Young is buzzy but older is important and young people need to know that wise people dedicate their lives to their service. I was a young teacher once.
Oh, and all those insights about how our children need pastoral care and help with the worries and anxieties that the twin pressures of cool and school bring? Forget them. Skilled support staff are expensive too, and there's no separate budget for them.
Does that help understand the debate? Does Philip Hammond understand why Band Night with 20 acts is important? Will Justine Greening calm an angry child? Can George Osborne give us a bit of his retainer to keep the visits going? Hands up at the back there, if the teacher can see that far.
I'd found a hat on the floor and recognised it as one I'd confiscated and returned a while ago. After a week I sought its owner and there was an emotional reunion. The hat-wearer in question is new to the UK and thought it perfectly reasonable to hug me in thanks, so we had a chat about that. I should have said: here are some more UK traditions. Slashing public spending and blaming the public servants. Not caring about children unless they’re like you. Grammar schools, and all they stand for.