There is no denying that these are challenging times in the education sector.
As I write this, concerns have been voiced by NAHT, the headteachers’ union, around cuts to teachers or teaching hours to save money.
While school funding is increasing, this has been negated by the huge rise in energy costs, for example.
We all await next week’s Autumn Statement with some fear and trepidation amid an expectation of sweeping public funding cuts.
What will this mean for schools and their budgets? It is impossible to say at this stage, but we will be scrutinising the detail very closely with all of our schools.
I understand the concerns our school leaders have – and we share them. At Unity Schools Partnership, we have set up a hardship fund where senior staff can make recommendations of funding to support the food bills of families particularly challenged at this time.
We also have a 365/24-7 wellbeing service which provides support to staff and their families on financial wellbeing, budgeting and practical advice on how to manage money and debt.
Equally, we read the headlines around a lack of special schools, suitable provision and specialist support.
For the last few years, addressing this need has been a priority for our trust.
We have recently opened a new SEND school in Bury St Edmunds (Sir Peter Hall School – pictured) and we are working towards a second, in Romford, next year.
Alongside our existing four special schools, we also have SEND hubs within some of our primary and secondary schools – which is a great way to integrate students within mainstream education, when suitable.
And there is so much great work going on. At The Bridge School in Ipswich, an unused plot of land on the edge of the school site has been transformed into a café where pupils can learn some crucial life and work skills.
It is a fantastic initiative and another example of one of our SEND schools going above and beyond.
These are difficult times for us all, across all of society.
But every day I see reason why the education profession is such a special one to be part of.
We would love to share some of these reasons with you as we prepare to hold two recruitment open evenings later this month.
Held at the Sir Bobby Robson School on Thursday 17th November and then The Bridge School on Thursday 24th November, school and trust leaders will be on hand to talk to you about a job or career in a special educational needs setting.
We know recruitment is one of the big challenges facing education across the country.
But I truly believe it is one of the most rewarding careers out there. Help us make a difference to young lives across Suffolk and beyond.
Tim Coulson, Chief Executive, Unity Schools Partnership