Hackney primary school teachers strike over funding row

Teaching staff pickets outside Hackney's Parkwood Primary School near Finsbury Park. 

Teaching staff pickets outside Hackney's Parkwood Primary School near Finsbury Park. - Credit: Hackney NEU

Teachers are striking at a Hackney primary school following "year on year" government cuts they claim are leading to possible redundancies and worsening working conditions.

Staff at Parkwood Primary School, on Queen's Drive near Finsbury Park, staged walk-outs on Tuesday and Wednesday this week in a bid to prevent job cuts, building on one day of picketing last week.

Jamie Duff, Hackney National Education Union officer, said government cuts to education funding "year on year" have had "serious consequences for Hackney schools". He said: "These cuts eventually lead to redundancies and attacks on the working conditions of education workers."

In a newsletter to parents, Hackney NEU said falling pupil numbers in Hackney were also a factor in placing financial and logistical pressures on schools. 

According to the council's School Organisation Plan for the next five years, demand for reception places across London has been decreasing annually since 2015. 

However the NEU added that a "decently funded education system" would allow schools to plan for this and avoid "drastic cuts". 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) states in a 2020 annual report on education spending in England that school spending per pupil fell by nine per cent over the last decade, representing "the largest cut in over 40 years" following a significant increase of over 60pc during the 2000s. 

However, the report adds that government has allocated an extra £7.1 billion for schools in England for 2022/23 which would increase spending per pupil by 6pc and "near enough reverse past cuts".

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Layla Ibrahim, NEU representative for the school, said: "No education worker wants to take strike action but the thought of our colleagues losing their jobs, after the horrendous year we have just had was not something we could accept."

She added that staff concerns are being listened to and hopes, by working together with the school's management, the issue can be resolved. 

Three more days of strike action are to take place next week, from May 4-6. 

A Department for Education spokesperson said its national funding formula is a "fairer way" to fund schools ensuring £5,150 funding for each secondary student, and £4,000 for each primary pupil from next year, meaning "more funding to those who have historically had less".

They added: “Schools are receiving a £14.4 billion funding boost in total over the three year period through to 2022-23 compared with 2019 - giving every school more money for every child.”

Update:  Hackney council however, has responded by saying Parkwood has not seen a decline in pupil numbers. 

A spokesperson for the council added: "Parkwood is a one form entry primary school and has maintained a full pupil roll. 

"Schools do have to balance budgets, and the squeeze on funding has resulted in a number of schools needing to reduce expenditure which often sadly means they must make a reduction in the number of staff. 

"Another factor for some schools in Hackney is a slight decline in pupil numbers over time since 2016. We are addressing this by some schools reducing their planned admission numbers."

They added that since schools are funded on a per pupil basis, when a drop in pupil numbers occurs the total funding available to the school is affected, meaning some schools in Hackney are having to make savings to balance budgets.