On the 14th November, 50 head teachers proceeded to Downing Street with key intentions: to make education in Britain equal and thus give students the opportunities they need to go far in life. These head teachers represented more than 5,000 colleagues from 25 counties across England and together delivered a letter to Chancellor Phillip Hammond; in this letter they protested for a further £1.7 billion per year to make up for the inadequate funding schools across the country are receiving.

Among these head teachers was Caroline Barlow from Heathfield Community College (HCC), East Sussex. I spoke to Mrs Barlow to ascertain how schools are being affected by this insufficient funding as well as determine where the further £1.7 billion, if received, will go. She told me that HCC is ‘minimally affected in terms of the obvious cuts we have had to make, but we are amongst the schools funded below the average on current levels’ so the college suffers when it comes to running certain subjects: ‘I had to choose not to run politics at A-level and dance at GCSE simply because the funding isn’t there’. The consequence of this is it ‘limits student’s opportunities and potential.’ She also stated how ‘some schools have even had to offer less GCSE options to students’. This again creates lack of opportunity.

Ms Barlow also informed me on how unfortunately HCC, among many other schools, ‘does not fall into the category the government are investing in’.  A report from ‘The Department of Education’ describes how these categories were decided on and why particular areas are being put before others. ‘Opportunity Areas Selection Methodology’ states how one approach to identifying the ‘Opportunity Areas’ was to look at the ‘Social Mobility Index’ which ‘seeks to identify which are the best and weakest LADs [Local Authority Districts] in England in terms of the opportunities young people from poorer backgrounds have to succeed.’ The second approach was to also look into the ‘Achieving Excellence Areas Index’. This index ‘focused on school performance and capacity to improve and gave an overall indicator at local authority district level. This Achieving Excellence Areas (AEA) experimental analysis sought to combine indicators which showed current educational performance with indicators which showed capacity to improve to define areas most in need of support’.

Resultantly, underprivileged areas are given a leg up whilst schools in more privileged areas are left to make do with what they have, which teachers claim is ‘inadequate’. Since this extra money is not provided, these schools have consequently had to turn to asking for voluntary donations from parents. However, Ms Barlow told me how ‘the problem with this is only a low number of parents actually make donations and these funds cannot be relied on for the core functions of the school’. In HCC’s case, these voluntary donations go towards extra-curricular activities. However, some schools are struggling so much that they have to ask parents for money in order to provide students with basic equipment such as books.

The underlying issue here seems to be that as times are going on and costs are rising (inflation has now reached 3%), schools are struggling to maintain high standards due to their budget not rising proportionally. Unlike businesses, schools cannot increase prices so inflation can only be matched by more money being provided by the government; this is the only way of ensuring that education standards in the UK stay high. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, ‘an education is the investment with the greatest returns’.