School Budgets?

Everything is always down to money, isn’t it? How much we value something is measured by how much we are prepared to pay for it.

They’re talking about school canteens now on ‘Schoolgate’ on Timesonline.  Last week it was toilets. Before that teachers and curriculum and faith schools. And what is the common denominator among all of the subjects? The fact that the quality of them is always governed, not by our integrity or responsibility or care for our kids, but by budget.

Obviously, for most of us, the whole of our lives is governed by budgeting. And we have to make choices and decisions accordingly. But sometimes the choices and decisions MPs and councillors make leave me speechless. It is simply the case that the quality of teachers, the quality of the meals, even the quality of the toilets is down to the budget – down to the question – what are they worth?

The quality of teaching that sometimes goes on in our classrooms is often poor because the budget is such that it won’t support the necessary number of staff to cope with the kids and their needs. And we don’t even pay teachers that are there the kind of salary that will attract dedicated and conscientious people.

Please don’t think I’m suggesting that there isn’t any dedicated and quality teachers who are there for the job and not the money – course there are. But we need more, and we need to pay them better. We need to ask what is the value of the people who teach our kids? What are our kids worth?

The quality of the meals in school canteens is about budget. I have a friend just started as cook in a new school meals venture in a school in a farming community. She had wonderful ideas to provide the children with excellent nutritional meals with all the local veg. That ideal had to go the minute she saw the budget. It wasn’t about buying the veg; it was the fact that she wasn’t paid enough hours to give her time to prepare it all from its natural state. So for quickness she has to buy it in; packaged, frozen, prepared, when they are surrounded by fields of beautiful fresh produce. She also only is allocated the time it would take us to do a family roast, not cook for a whole school. What is the nutrition of our kids worth?

And as for toilets – how does the budget affect them? Well, the head of a rural school was telling me about the argument she was having with the ‘powers-that-be’ over the need to spend money on the antiquated toilets at the school, or more accurately the drains. And it wasn’t until she eventually got crude with them and shouted that there was actually shit coming up through the drain covers into the school grounds that got their attention and money was spent. Only to be cut from educational resources!

So while our less significant schools and teachers cope with all this our MPs wallow in the luxury of posh restaurants and nice meals, often high quality education via private schools, mains drainage and second homes.

The budget for schools and the budgets for MPs seems arse about face to me, and I haven’t even mentioned expenses!

We as parents need to constantly pose them the question – what are our kids worth?


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