There are a lot of things that I never thought I’d see that have come to pass over the past nine years of a Conservative Government. Massive rises in the use of foodbanks and people sleeping rough on the street, terminally ill people dying in poverty because their benefits have stopped, increases in crime because police numbers are slashed – it appears that nobody is safe from Tory cuts. Unfortunately, this even includes children.
Since they came to power in 2010, the Tories have removed billions of pounds from the education budget, leaving schools at breaking point. In many schools this has meant larger class sizes, cuts to vital support staff, equipment shortages and an end to the additional activities which enrich our children’s educations.
Most shocking of all, many schools across the country are now being forced to close early on Fridays just to keep afloat. One of these schools is Vale View Primary in Reddish, which has seen its funding cut by over £430,000 since 2015 – a per-pupil drop of £446.
It’s not just Vale View though – since 2015, schools across Stockport have seen a cut of £24.2 million, a per-pupil loss of £264. Not one school in the whole borough has escaped these cuts.
At Vale View, the cost pressures haven’t just led to early closures on Fridays – many staff are leaving and earlier this month some parents came down to London to join the march against school cuts. Parents and supporters of Vale View even organised a massive 113,000 signature petition which I presented in Parliament in June.
The petition called on the government to increase school funding so that they can afford the staff and equipment they need without taking cost saving measures like cutting school hours. In their response to the petition, the government laughably claims to have “prioritised school spending”, showing once again how out of touch they are with the reality facing schools.
Of course, we now have a new Prime Minister and, with him, a new Education Secretary – Gavin Williamson. I was a bit surprised that such an important role was given to a man who was sacked just a couple of months previously following the leak of confidential information from a National Security Council meeting. For the sakes of our children and young people, I hope that he approaches this job with more professionalism.
The new Government will want to be seen to be doing something about the school funding crisis and indeed the Prime Minister has already made the vague pledge to “level up” school funding. Unfortunately, it became clear during his leadership campaign that Boris Johnson’s proposed increase would actually amount – according to Schools Week – to only a pitiful 0.1% rise. Hardly “levelling up”, given the vast amounts that have been taken away.
I sincerely hope that the new government take this crisis seriously and give schools the money they need. Until then, I will continue to stand with the parents of Vale View – and other schools across Stockport and Tameside – in demanding that our schools are funded properly. Our children’s futures depend on it.