It's vital to fight school funding cuts

By the time you are reading this column Chancellor Phillip Hammond will have delivered his first budget speech in the House of Commons.

Thursday, 9th March 2017, 4:12 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:11 am
King Edward VI school in Morpeth.

It will come as no surprise to you that I was not privy to what he was about to say when he rose to his feet at the Despatch Box, but I had read the press teasers about the Chancellor saying there was “no spending spree”, despite the economy being “robust”, before adding that there was still a need for fiscal discipline ahead of the UK leaving the EU.

In the run-up to Budget Day the Chancellor had come under increasing pressure over spending on health services and the need to do more to support the NHS and social care for people in their own homes. We’ll have to wait to see what he had to say.

Like many MPs, I had my own wish list.

I wanted to see Mr Hammond deliver, and health and social care was up there at the top, alongside the need to do more to protect and provide jobs and ease the burden of savage cuts on local authorities like Northumberland County Council, struggling to deliver the everyday services we need.

Also right up there in my eyes is education and the need to do all we can to give our young people the best start in life.

Sadly, in the current climate of the Brexit debates and the way the crisis in the health service hits the headlines, it seems the Tory Government’s proposed savage cuts to education budgets have almost slipped under the radar.

Let me remind you of the facts. The two teaching unions, the NUT and ATL, have been warning for some time of a potentially catastrophic situation that will arise because of cuts in school funding. Their figures show that between now and 2020 £3billion will be cut from education. Initially they predicted that cuts would affect pupils in 92 per cent of English schools, now they have revised that to 98 per cent.

But it is not just the teaching unions saying this. The figures are supported by the National Audit Office. After they were criticised as exaggeration and scare-mongering, the National Audit Office discovered that the cuts were actually much worse than anticipated.

Across Northumberland school budgets would be cut by £13million, an average of £347 less would be available to spend on every pupil, and around 350 teaching jobs would be at risk. The website has all the details, which broken down into Morpeth schools, paint a worrying picture.

They show that King Edward VI School would lose £577,508, with £598 less per pupil and 14 teaching jobs at risk, while St Robert’s funding would be cut by £38,454, with £268 less per pupil and one teaching post at risk. Altogether Morpeth’s eight schools would have £1,243,725 cut from budgets, with 29 teaching posts at risk — figures which should alarm every parent.

Realising the devastating impact the cuts will have on our families, our communities and our children’s future, I have decided to take action by launching a campaign against these cuts. I would urge everyone to follow me on Twitter @ianlaverymp as well as joining the #schoolsjustwannahavefunds campaign.

Members of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet are totally opposed to the plans and the Labour Party is fully supportive of the campaign, along with the NUT, ATL, Unison, Unite, GMB and the NAHT, which are all shocked and concerned at the scale of these proposed cuts.

Your support as parents, grandparents or guardians of children now being educated in our schools, as well as those yet to start their schooling, is vital to the success of our campaign to get a fair deal for our youngsters and the sort of excellent education that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.