I am no music buff, but wasn’t it Whitney Houston who once sang about children being our future, imploring us to “teach them well and lead the way”.
Wise words that I have no doubt each one of us would wholeheartedly support. Who would deny that every child deserves the very best by way of a good education to set them up for the rest of their lives?
When I was first elected MP for Wansbeck one of my first pledges was to get to know every school in the constituency. I have had the opportunity to do that over the past few years. What that experience has taught me is that we have excellent schools, run by dedicated teachers, backed by committed support staff and parents, who deserve our heartfelt thanks for the wonderful work they do.
Sadly, all that is under threat because of funding cuts outlined by the Conservative Government.
Education is the cornerstone of our society and we need to ensure that everyone gets an equal opportunity to learn and gain qualifications to give them a chance of building the sort of work opportunities that will stand them in good stead.
However, the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers are warning of the potential catastrophic situation which will arise because of the cuts being proposed. They, and the National Audit Office, say that between now and 2019/20 overall schools will lose around £3billion in real terms, with cuts affecting every pupil in 92 per cent of English schools.
Information is available detailing the cuts our schools would face, broken down into how much less will be spent on each pupil and the potential loss of teaching jobs in every school. Space does not allow me to show those figures for all of our schools and it would be unfair to highlight the impact on just one or two.
What it is fair to say is that across Northumberland schools’ funding would be cut by more than £13million by 2019, an average of £347 less would be available to spend on every pupil, and more than 350 teachers’ jobs could be at risk. In some cases, the cuts would be significantly worse.
The unions say that disadvantaged children would likely to be the hardest hit, but nine out of ten schools in England would face budget cuts in real terms.
All the figures can be found by logging on to www.schoolcuts.org.uk and entering your postcode.
The figures are totally unacceptable and should worry every one of us. I quote Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the NUT, when he said: “They are shocking figures that will create despair in schools up and down the country. More money needs to be given to our schools to give the country and education system it can be proud of.”
Former Chancellor George Osborne announced that a “fairer” national funding formula would be introduced this March, but Education Minister Justine Greening has since said there will be a year’s delay and the Government would respond to consultation.
We have to take the opportunity of this breathing space to let the Government know in no uncertain terms that its proposals are not acceptable to us, nationally and locally. To that end I have launched a petition to demonstrate the outrage we feel, and in association with local Labour councillors I plan to write to every headteacher of a school in Wansbeck setting out our opposition.
I would urge anyone who feels strongly that we should be investing in our schools, rather than cutting funding, to sign my petition at www.ianlavery.org.uk
Together, we need to send the strongest possible message to Prime Minister Theresa May that in Wansbeck we totally reject her Government’s plans to deprive our children of the quality education they deserve.