Claire Carter

Author: Claire Carter

09/02/2017 15:11:01

Funding the Future: supporting England's schoolsClaire Carter reflects on her experience as a school governor in 2017 

I did not become a governor to watch businesses and moneyed organisations take over schools for their own ends.

I did not become a governor to watch funding meant for new textbooks and teachers’ salaries spent on six-figure boons for corporate high-fliers.

I did not become a governor to meet attainment targets set by ill-advised government departments with constantly changing demands.

I did not become a governor to hear about teachers so stressed they can’t teach, wrung out because they are slaves now to assessments and convoluted grading systems.

I did not become a governor to see professional teachers treated as amateurs who care nothing for their charges.

I did not become a governor to witness my government create a creeping culture that reaches into communities and playgrounds rather than trust in the word of experts.

My school is in an affluent area of the country but one need not look far to realise that many children come from low income or struggling homes. Children at my school have learning difficulties and others are extremely vulnerable. This is the case in many of the schools in our community. But instead of being a priority these children are side-lined and overlooked by our government and its policies. It is a reversal of the kind of ‘shared society’ we aspire for.

I did not become a governor to be a used as a skivvy to administrate the government’s succession of cuts.

I did not become a governor to use my valued relationships with teaching professionals as the friendly face of their unreasonable demands. I did not become a governor to bruise or spoil the education of the young people I wanted to help.

I did not become a governor to tell teachers that their teaching assistant has served his or her last day and watch as they assimilate the news, overcome with fear for the well-being of their charges.

I did not become a governor to watch school buildings and play areas crumble like the biscuits we can’t afford to provide for staff, or tea bags or milk.

I did not become a governor to watch teachers look at me through tears and tell me the years they have spent trying to set up some simple service for our most vulnerable children have come to nothing.  

I became a school governor to give something back. I wanted to use the skills I’ve gained in life, including a music degree and an MBA, to stand up for the little school that is often ignored or considered ineffective – especially under Michael Gove. It was and still is the case that our towns need small schools to educate and nurture our primary aged children.

I became a governor because I could help with budgeting and planning and to ensure value for money for the British taxpayer. I believed that could be done while providing an excellent education for children. 

I became a governor to ensure that every child was given the best opportunity our school could offer. To question the school and its leaders and challenge them in order to strive for the best education for our children.

I became a governor to ensure school policies adhered to the law and to keep our children safe. To ensure our strategies were long-term and we improved the lives and experiences of our children as they grew within in our school.

To Justine Greening I would simply ask ‘how can I do this?’ As I write I realise the implications of the decisions that lie before me and I am brought to tears.

I regret that I have to consider the effects of our school becoming financially unviable at a time when our community needs our school the most. Because if I make the cuts necessary to ensure financial balance I will rob our children and those most vulnerable of vital teaching, help or services.  This will not be a deficit that you will have to deal with, Ms Greening, but I will have to watch our school and community become demoralised, heartbroken and miserable.

The choice I have to make is an immoral one. I could abandon it altogether but how can I? I know too much. I know that despite everything the staff will stay on. They’ll even give my own children an education. No - they need me and my governor colleagues to stick at it and not give up. 

Meanwhile the Department for Education (DfE) publishes A Competency Framework for Governance. Do they really want to discuss competence at a time when school budgets are bashed to pay for other government policies like the apprenticeship levy, which is already creaming our budget for 2017? Is it the school’s job to reduce the jobless figures now? And after many years the DfE has got round to looking at a ‘Fairer Funding’ policy - a policy that once again manages to stuff our school. And our county, already in the lowest funded 40 counties in the country, is stuffed too.

Our society and economy will pay in years to come when our productivity is low and our hospitals and prisons are full of those who were once the children we couldn't afford to help or educate.  In fact I believe it's already started.

Those with power - please help us, think about us, care about us, listen to us and do something.

Claire Carter is chair of governors at St Anne's Fulshaw C.E. Primary School, Wilmslow, Cheshire. 

School governors and trustees oversee the financial performance of schools and make sure public money is well spent. In recent times this responsibility has been getting tougher. If you have a story to share, get in touch.

Teresa Brooke
Exceptionally well put CLaire.
I have been a governor at a large, town primary school for 24 years and chair for 19 years and our school has always been in the lowest 25% for funding for the whole of that time. The NFF yet again kicks us in the teeth and we lose more money. How can we deliver the excellent education we strive for? What have our children done to deserve to be forever funded inadequately and at a lower level than other children? Not to mention the Victorian building we have to maintain...!
Teresa Brooke, Western Primary School, Harrogate.
29/03/2017 12:21:13

Victoria Clifford
Well written Claire! You capture the anger that Governors across the country feel

25/03/2017 20:15:47

Alison Kerevan
I completely agree with every word, you have captured this awful situation brilliantly.
20/02/2017 14:36:08

Chris Jorgensen
Thank you Claire for putting into words what most of us feel. I too became a governor because I wanted to put something back, to support teachers and most of all try to ensure that the most vulnerable received the education they deserve. All too often over the past few years I have wondered how long I will continue as I see the heart being ripped out of the education system which served me and my family so well. I keep going because we have a fantastic school with some of the most dedicated professionals it has been my pleasure to know who do amazing things for our pupils.

No wonder it is hard to recruit and retain governors when potential recruits realise exactly what the role entails.
19/02/2017 19:43:40

Andy Yule
Well said!
Thank you for so eloquently putting into words what so many of us feel.
19/02/2017 10:34:49

Michael Allen
Thanks Claire. So well put.
19/02/2017 07:02:56

Peter Harwood
Well said. I agree with Clare Lauwerys it should be offered to others to see, perhaps by using social media.
18/02/2017 10:50:22

Andrew Chell
Typo in my last comment, sorry. £1.7Bn, not £17Bn. My apologies.
18/02/2017 08:44:59

Andrew Chell
As an NLG I speak to many Chairs and the passion amongst Governors is still very humbling. But it is getting harder to justify when we see the Government spending c£17Bn to convert Schools to Academies when the evidence is that they are still amongst the worst performing Schools. Maintained Schools are still the highest performing. Who has won? Look at the audited accounts for the Lawyers who convert Schools at Academies and you'll discover every one is posting record profits. So our Schools are having budgets cut and our children are suffering yet Lawyers are getting record bonuses? How can that be 'Fairer Funding'?
18/02/2017 08:44:18

Duchess's High School
How can any governor not support Claire wholeheartedly? But I did become a governor to fight and to stay fighting and to stand up for our teachers, headteachers and support staff who are working so hard against impossible odds. And I want to tell the government about the 15 year old boy in my teacher son's GCSE History class at the start of half term. An hour after school he was still hanging around the school. "Go home" my son urged him. "It's half term and you're not in detention tonight." The boy replied "I have no home worth going to". I am so angry I will stay governing as long as anyone wants me.
17/02/2017 21:49:04

Steve Wordingham
Claire you echo my feelings exactly
17/02/2017 21:15:03

Kaye Leggett
Well said Claire. I will distribute to my governors as we discuss whether we should become an academy, something it looks like my county are forcing us to do but which we can see no benefit to our children
15/02/2017 09:30:16

Wilfred Phillips
Well done Claire you said it for all of us
13/02/2017 15:06:43

Stephen Adamson
Absolutely - you speak movingly for many of us. I also did not become a governor to see money taken from all the state-funded schools in the country to pay for reintroducing an outmoded and totally discredited grammar school system.
13/02/2017 09:38:18

Vivienne Porritt
I completely agree with the blog and the same issues are shared whether it's a small school or bigger one. In all cases I fear it could be the most vulnerable students who are affected. As governors we can do a lot to protect budgets in those aspects but when staff cuts bite, those children are affected.

Yes, please can this blog be shared more widely.
12/02/2017 11:54:23

Jean Wilson
As chair of a small village school I totally agree. However I still have concerns about funding, overworked staff, work life balance of our dedicated headteacher. Most of all that the funding structure does not allow us to give all of our children the best possible education and start in life.
11/02/2017 18:29:20

Patti Jones
I agree and identify with every word. The only thing I would add is that our children need small secondary schools provide them with the nurturing community so many are crying out for.
11/02/2017 15:37:49

Sue Gollop
Moved me to tears when I think what is happening-particularly in our small and in our vulnerable schools which big business really does not want to bother about. Huge waves of sadness as I read this. Thank you claire
11/02/2017 12:54:21

Fordcombe CEP School
Well put and, sadly, so very true.
10/02/2017 19:08:32

Maurice Codd
A different presentation but so true and thought provoking
10/02/2017 17:47:21

Graham Hotchkiss
You speak for so many of us!
10/02/2017 16:47:35

Julie Taylor
Claire, I could have written that myself.
Great article
10/02/2017 16:46:31

Alison Debenham
Well said Claire. Couldn't agree more!
10/02/2017 16:42:49

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