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Why the Headteachers’ Protest March Matters

It may have been a touch too polite for some – but the headteachers’ protest march on 28 September couldn’t have meant more to those who participated...

  • Why the Headteachers’ Protest March Matters

I am a genuinely optimistic person; I always have been. I live my life expecting people to do the right thing. Of course I work in a profession where sometimes the young people – not to mention the adults – don’t always get it right, but I do have a profound belief that this is usually a temporary choice.

I am also incredibly proud to be a public servant, and to work in partnership with whatever government we have to help our communities be the very best they can be. I understand that if we are successful, as public servants, the individuals and communities we serve will benefit, and so will the government at the ballot box.

No choice

However, being an ‘optimistic public servant’ has certainly proved quite difficult over the last few years.

Many of my fellow headteachers, like me, are struggling to work out why any government would ignore those who can directly support their own success; which is why about 2,000 of us met up in Parliament Square on 28 September this year, determined to deliver our petition on funding to the powers that be.

I am so desperate for Damian Hinds, Nick Gibb et al to understand that every time they use the deliberately misleading line about school funding being at ‘record levels’ it is like a kick to the gut of headteachers who have had to make staff redundant, or decide not to replace someone.

We are not imposing redundancies because the jobs those people are doing are no longer important; we are not making cuts because it will make the educational experience of our young people better. We are doing it because we have no choice.

Deeper damage

We had to make 10 members of staff redundant two years ago. It was traumatic for everyone involved then, and the uncertainty still lingers today. Everyone in a school is more than their job title; they are a vital piece of infrastructure in an organisation that is focused on the most vulnerable members of our society – children.

Imagine how it felt to be sitting at home, working on a staffing structure that I knew would not improve the lives of our students, but would remove good people’s livelihoods.

And then to listen to a government minister saying that it shouldn’t be necessary. I’ll be honest; I sat there and cried tears of genuine anger.

I was upset because these comments were further damaging morale in our schools; after all, with more money than ever, I must have been losing staff because I wanted to – or because I’d screwed up, right?

Time for change?

That is why there was a genuine sense of sadness that Friday in Parliament Square; and the attempts by the usual agitators to derail the message by saying this was party political was the final blow.

I have a great local MP, Robert Halfon, and he always does all that he can to support schools in the town; he is the Conservative Chair of the Education Select Committee.

I hope he knows that the campaigns around school funding are not about forcing a change in government; they are about forcing a change in government policy.

As I write this, we are a few weeks away from the next budget and as much as I am fighting what looks like the reality of future job losses and cuts to what we can offer our young people, I remain optimistic.

Naively so you may say, but I cannot help it. Surely, surely, the politicians have to listen to the people who are trying to improve the future of our country every day?

I can only hope you are reading this thinking, ‘You were right to be optimistic, Vic’... and not, ‘Vic, when are you going to get real?’

Follow Vic Goddard on Twitter at @vicgoddard.

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