University heads speak out about fair funding Sheffield schools campaign
As The Star and Sheffield Telegraph continues with its campaign for fair funding for city schools, both universities have shared their thoughts.
Sir Keith Burnett, president and vice-chancellor of The University of Sheffield
"I was lucky to be born into a community that gave its last penny to educating its children. I started at infant school in Porth, Rhondda, at the age of two-and-a-half.
"My parents, like most mothers and fathers, had to work and the well-funded and maintained infant school was a complete blessing.
"They also had the nearly new NHS caring for me in the local clinics. I drank the free school milk in the morning and at lunchtime ate the chocolate pudding with pink custard served by jolly dinner ladies who knew us by name. And remember this was one of the poorest communities in the UK. What happened to all this? We lost the plot.
"How come a still depressed valley, with a declining coal industry, was able to put so much into its schools? Because they could and had power in their own hands to do it. The local education authority was a true pillar of that world.
"Local politicians had no doubt about their duty to make local schools the very best they could be. The teachers in their schools had no doubt about their standing in the community.
"The Rhondda Valley that I was born into in 1953 was a community in which education at all levels was treasured. My father and grandfather had to leave school when they were twelve and fourteen respectively but they would insist on every occasion how important my schoolwork was for me. They would be shocked to see where the future neglect would lead.
"Have we forgotten that the talents of our children are precious in every regard? Don’t we know that without the very best education they can never reach their potential and we can never be the community we need South Yorkshire deserves to be?
"The song got it wrong, the best things in life are not always free. Great schools need buildings and people and care and attention.
"In recent years in our city we have seen the amount given to schools drop to disastrous levels. At the same time an ideology has gained ground. It says that all you need to do is free schools from the dead hand of state control and fix standards by targets.
"Various governments have decided that the way to improve quality is to make them species of independent schools, although without the finances, facilities and social capital that go with them.
"They were ‘freed’ from local control only to have the new Stalinist central control of targets put upon them. Teachers voices of protest were dismissed as vested interests.
"What we need is a state that cares and understands the needs of local people, not a nameless bureaucracy with a set of rules designed to make politicians look good in headlines which are gone tomorrow.
"And our schools need the money to do the teaching which changes lives for children and for the whole of society.
"Recent efforts by the government to improve the quality of education has been an expensive disaster as shown by the recent studies by the Institute of Education.
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"This is the great institution led in the recent past by the head of our sister university, Sir Chris Husbands.
"He cares deeply about these issues and is personally putting his efforts into raising the attainment levels of our children.
"The research at the IOE was funded by Lord Nuffield’s foundation, funded by the workers of Morris Motors who also wanted education to change the lives of pupils and communities.
"Many of my colleagues at The University of Sheffield are working in local schools and I am very proud of the work they do.
"A number serve as governors in the most disadvantaged part of the city.
"But they are also seeing the dreadful problems that our dedicated teaching staff are having.
"They, like me, see an urgent need for change.
"I commend Sheffield Newspapers for properly focusing on such a crucial issue. I am proud to support this effort.
Prof Sir Chris Husbands, vice chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University
"At Sheffield Hallam University we believe in the power of education to transform lives.
"Working with our partners we are absolutely committed to improving attainment and raising aspiration for young people across the region.
"Across South Yorkshire there are outstanding schools and teachers and we simply don’t believe that young people from the region are less capable of achieving than their peers across the country.
"But if we are going to ensure our young people have the best possible platform to reach their full potential, our schools should have the resources they need to be able to deliver this."
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