Diary of a Sheffield headteacher: ‘My staff and I are passionate about our jobs but the education system is at breaking point’

A Sheffield headteacher reveals how his team is having to work harder than ever to make a difference to the lives of their students, as part of a week-long diary series detailing the true impact of school funding cuts in England.

By Alana Roberts
Friday, 29th November 2019, 2:57 pm
Updated Friday, 6th December 2019, 2:58 pm
Watercliffe Meadow School at Shirecliffe
Watercliffe Meadow School at Shirecliffe

As part of a week-long series that began on Monday, The Sheffield Star is delving into school life at Watercliffe Meadow Primary School, in Shirecliffe, through the eyes of headteacher Ian Read.

It has come to the end of the week for Mr Read and his team, who have been forced to cover lessons and take on additional work due to staff illness.

In the last installment of the diary, which covers just one week in November, he details how – despite the extra workload – his team have remained both passionate and dedicated to improving the lives of their students, even buying their own classroom supplies when the already tight school budgets won’t stretch.

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Watercliffe Meadow School at Shirecliffe


Whenever I am in school and my day is not full of meetings, I like to make sure that I visit every classroom. There are many reasons I do this but most of all it reminds me of why we’re here doing this job. As I go around classes today, I am heartened, as I always am, by the quality of learning experiences going on and the care that is given by my staff.

Over 80 per cent of children who start in our nursery every year begin their education below, well below or significantly below where their peers are nationally. Despite this, through excellent teaching and sheer hard work, when they leave us, they are broadly in line with the national outcomes for English and maths. More importantly, they leave us as well-rounded individuals, capable of becoming good citizens and being in control of shaping their lives in a positive way.

I and my staff believe passionately in what we do, we don’t do the job for a fantastic wage, we do it because we want to make a difference to the lives of children and their families…a positive difference to the future of our country. Every day we do things over and above what our job says we should do for teaching and learning. Today I found out that at least three of my staff have bought themselves laminators this year because the person who used to do most of this job in school was made redundant and it just does not fit in the school day anymore, so they do it at home in the evening or weekend.

Watercliffe Meadow School Headteacher Ian Read

By the end of Sunday this week, I will have worked well over 70 hours, this has been a slightly harder week than average but it is becoming increasingly typical of my working week. I am not saying that for sympathy or effect, it is a simple fact of what happens when you already work hard and then you take away 10 per cent of your workforce. If you believe that what you do for children and families are the right things and you really want to make a difference, you can’t stop doing things because there is less money, or at least that is how I feel.

It is Friday in the second week of a long term, we are all exhausted, I can see it in people’s faces as I walk round, it’s evident in the conversations we have. We’ll all go home tonight, enjoy our weekend, prepare for next week and then come back and do it all again. I know that this is not sustainable, I don’t know how much longer we can keep going at this pace and this level of intensity.

Our education system is fracturing and breaking, we are already deep in a crisis because of the effective funding cuts. Unless a significant amount of government money is put into schools and the services that support children, young people and families then I dread to think what the impact will be on our future society and the cost to our economy.

The Star and Sheffield Telegraph launched a campaign, which was backed by over 8,000 people, calling on the government to redress the funding situation and provide fair funding for Sheffield schools.

To sign the petition click here.

You can read Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday here.