My sister just got home and showed me a letter signed by eight headteachers from across Sheffield, that was presumably sent out to all those schools, that describes how a combination of government spending cuts and inflation means they are going to have to cut their offerings to sixth form pupils. The numbers:

The present Government has decided to reduce the level of financial support by about 20% over the next 3 financial years. A 3% cut Will be made from April 2011 followed by further cuts in 2012 and 2013 … [l]ike every school in Sheffield we are planning for budget cuts arising from inflation, increased pension and national insurance contributions.

The staggering thing is what this is actually going to mean. It’s not an issue in some parts of this city that they’re cutting enrichment, careers stuff etc. — rich parents will fill the gap. And when times are tight maybe Sixth Forms should stop offering subjects very few take. But

Some classes may be taught in less time with alternative methods of delivery, including the increased use of ICT, being used … [f]or 2011–2012 High Storrs is proposing to maintain Y12 AS Subjects and Y13 A2 Subjects at 5 hours tuition per subject. We hope that we can maintain this in the longer term as this is the tuition time that we feel students need in order to be successful.

which implies very clearly that there is the threat of losing lesson time. Yes: the government have decided that teaching people full time 16–18 is no longer affordable. This is deeply sad, not only because it’s going to handicap so many, but because it’s something very difficult to claw back. Look at how well they tick boxes and pass exams with the virtual teaching they receive! Why spend the money on reinstating actual teaching?

The purpose of the letter is clearly to get parents and angry older siblings and indeed pupils themselves to write to MPs and kick up a fuss; the tone throughout is that the headteachers don’t want this, and that the letter is their attempt to turn the tide. Look how they note the potential loss of lesson time in such a non-specific way to engender anger. I don’t blame them and I wish that there was something that could be done, but it doesn’t feel like there is — look how little was achieved in trying to regain EMA. Come on Labour…