No let up on school budget campaigning

KEVI School buildings  in Morpeth
KEVI School buildings in Morpeth

One of the last acts of the Tory Government before the summer Parliamentary recess was to announce what Education Secretary Justine Greening claimed was a £1.3billion boost for schools.

What she described as “significant investment” would, she claimed, underpin the Government’s aim to ensure that students benefit from a “world class education system”.

Readers will know that for months I have been writing about the new national funding formula that Ms Greening announced before Christmas, which was greeted with dismay by teachers and parents the length and breadth of the country because of the potentially devastating impact it would have on school budgets.

Figures produced by the two teaching unions, the NUT and ATL, supported by the National Audit Office, predicted that £3billion would be cut from school budgets by 2020.

Every school in Northumberland faced a damaging cut, which together added up to £16million. Between them, our eight schools in Morpeth would have their budgets slashed by £1.2million, putting 29 teaching posts at risk.

I encouraged parents to add their voices to a national protest by signing up to a Wansbeck Against Cuts campaign that I launched, and I thank all of you who did so.

The cuts in real terms would have seen King Edward VI School (KEVI) receive £577,116 less, which meant it would have £597 less to spend on each student.

The other figures were equally alarming — Morpeth All Saints, minus £53,417 (£321 per pupil); Newminster, minus £220,977 (£427 per pupil); Chantry, minus (£164,681); St Robert’s, minus £41,535 (£289 per pupil); Abbeyfields, minus £91,813 (£309 per pupil); Morpeth First, minus £71,238 (£239 per pupil); and Pegswood, minus £51,597 (£344 per pupil).

Ms Greening said the Government has listened to concerns, but what she did not go into detail about was how ministers have simply agreed to recycle the overall education budget and that there is not a single new penny from the Treasury.

She was unable to go into detail about where savings would be made or how the money would be found.

Any additional funding should be welcomed, but our primary school pupils would be able to tell Ms Greening that £1.3billion is still £1.7billion short of that £3billion figure the unions and the National Audit Office said would be needed to maintain funding at its current level, given rising costs and pupil numbers.

Nor did Ms Greening have an answer to questions from backbenchers as to whether the funding formula “unfairness” would be addressed in their constituencies, a question which applies in our Wansbeck constituency.

The public sector pay cap will continue to have a negative impact on the recruitment and retention of teachers.

The devil is in the detail when it comes to what will be delivered.

What I can promise is that, along with my Labour Party colleagues, I will be keeping the pressure on the Government to ensure our schools get the real funding they need.

Whilst we are away from Westminster we will launch what I have said as Chairman of the Labour Party will be the largest campaign we have mounted outside a General Election.

We believe the Tory Government, riven by internal strife, is on the verge of collapse and we need to be ready to take over the keys to 10 Downing Street.

We will be focusing on six key issues — pay, standards of living, industrial strategy, aspiration, health and social care, and education.

By the time we return to Westminster in September we will have got the message out that we are ready for the challenge of being the next Government of this country.