One of my very favourite parts of being your MP is visiting local schools. From leading award assemblies to chatting with school councils, and not forgetting my absolute guilty pleasure of joining the children for a school dinner (please say it’s sausage and mash!), a visit to one of our nurseries, primaries, secondaries or colleges is always the perfect tonic to a week in Westminster. The children’s questions and ideas are always impressive and thought-provoking. If it was your little girl who asked if I’m Prince William, please tell her she made my day!
Educational attainment has always been one of my top priorities as your Member of Parliament. Whether we get a decent education is not just crucial to our individual life chances, but to the whole success of our borough – how much investment we attract, our health outcomes, the calibre of local jobs. I know just how hard our local teachers, school leaders, support staff and governors work to strive to ensure our schools are constantly improving.
However, the reality is that budget cuts have made offering our young people an outstanding educating harder and harder over the past few years. Figures compiled by the National Education Union are deeply troubling. Across England, 83% of schools will lose out next year because of Government cuts, which will affect children in 147 of 150 local authorities in England. 16,523 schools will have less pounds-per-pupil in 2020 in real terms than they had in 2015. And this is after empty reassurances from Johnson and May that the age of austerity was over. Our local children deserve better.
Schools serving the most deprived intakes -including Tameside- are experiencing higher per-pupil cuts, on average, than those with the least deprived intakes. This flies in the face of widespread consensus that state education exists to level the playing field and give every child and young person the best chance in life.
A recent House of Commons Education Select Committee report backs up what local headteachers have been telling me for years: funding simply hasn’t kept pace with the ever growing demands placed on schools and colleges. Schools are having to cope with growing numbers of pupils, shrinking budgets and rising costs. Schools are also being tasked with covering crucial services like complex special needs education and disability provision all with inadequate funding, with the “high needs” deficit predicted to reach an unacceptable £1 billion by 2021.
With some schools having had to lose valuable staff due to cuts, teachers are also having to purchase basic resources out of their own pockets, or have pupils go without. The NASUWT found a fifth of teachers dips into their own wages on a weekly basis to buy classroom essentials, and 45% have personally bought food or clothing for pupils in need in the past year alone.
Meanwhile the Sutton Trust found that 43% of schools have had to cut back on visits and trips in the past year. We all remember our own school outings to museums, country houses and activity centres -they often become our most formative memories. Today’s children should not be denied these enriching experiences.
In areas like Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley, Dukinfield and Longdendale, nursery schools, primaries and secondaries are set to lose hundreds of pounds per pupil between 2015 and 2020. If you have internet access, you can visit www.schoolcuts.org.uk and type in your postcode to discover how badly your local school may been hit. Or simply chat to any teacher you know about how much harder budget pressures have made their jobs in recent months. I am yet to meet a state educator who has not felt the impact.
This Government is failing an entire generation. I won’t stop fighting it until every school in Stalybridge & Hyde has the money it needs to give children an education which will allow them to shine.