The issue of school funding has been making waves across the country. Locally, my own schools have mobilised support from parents and I have been lobbied by every school in the constituency. Most of the communications have finished with a request that I speak with Ministers, raise the matter in Parliament and be prepared to speak out and evidence my support.
Since December, I have been working to do all which has been asked and I hope that readers will take a little time to view my website where I have this included as a specific campaign.
I wrote to all Headteachers in the constituency in December to alert them of the new funding formula. I was the first MP in to the Department of Education to speak with the Schools Minister to understand why many of my schools, which were supposed to do better under the new mechanism, are facing reductions in their funding. I have also spoken out in national and local media with my concerns.
The Government seeks to explain that the £40bl+ funding for schools is at record levels and has been protected. This is correct but schools are facing rising costs due to welcome increases in pay and benefits for staff. In my view, we need to find ways to deliver more funds to schools or, as with the Apprenticeship Levy, remove the costs altogether. This can be done by increasing taxes, reducing (or transferring) spending from other related departments or by a fairer reallocation from metropolitan areas to rural areas like ours (in Hackney a pupil attracts £7,000 of funding per year whereas our pupils get £4,500).
In addition to lobbying Government, I have arranged a meeting with the Local Education Authority to see if they will free school budgets from having to cover the costs of specialist education for those with special needs. I have also contacted Wealden District Council to ask why schools in the north of the constituency had been told to plan for increased housing and pupils (money follows the pupil) only to have housing numbers revised downwards.
I work extremely closely with my local schools and I have worked in conjunction with the Headteachers who lead the campaign to lobby me and, via me, the Government. Having met with many Headteachers and Governors, it has been agreed that we will shortly hold one constituency-wide meeting with me and all of our Headteachers and Governors. I congratulate everyone who is fighting on this front. I am determined to do everything I can to support my schools and speak up for them.