Alex Chalk MP has praised the work of local schools during a House of Commons debate on the Queen’s Speech.
The Cheltenham MP highlighted the hard work of Cheltenham’s teachers. He called for a fairer deal for Gloucestershire schools and urged the Education Secretary to introduce a new funding settlement that offered an “even brighter” future.
The Cheltenham MP has been a key member of the national f40 cross-party campaign to ensure schools and pupils from poorly funded areas of the country are properly funded.
Speaking in Parliament Mr Chalk said: “I want to pay particular tribute to teachers in my constituency. They work immensely hard. They follow their calling and give a huge amount of themselves.
“They include teachers in schools such as St Gregory’s, which takes an increasing number of schoolchildren from eastern European backgrounds and in doing so fosters a tolerant and unified society in Cheltenham; Balcarras, which now sends 50% of its pupils to Russell Group universities; and Pittville, which successfully addressed challenges in the past and is now going from strength to strength.”
Mr Chalk reminded the Education Secretary that Cheltenham’s schools had been significantly underfunded for decades. He said:
“For decades now, Cheltenham schools have been significantly underfunded compared with the national average—and not by a small sum, either. In 2014-15, the block allocation for Cheltenham schools was £4,195. The England average was £4,545—a difference of £350—and yet we have Opposition Members such as Meg Hillier, who made a very eloquent speech last week, complaining that funding in her constituency is planned to rise from just over £5,400 to £5,500. Those are figures that in Cheltenham we could only dream of. They amount to just under 30% more. If I turned up to a meeting of my headteachers in Cheltenham with a promise of an additional 30% in funding, I would be welcomed like Moses.
“However, it is also the case that the current proposal that officials have come up with needs some surgery. Let me deal first with the impact. Although Cheltenham gains overall from the proposals, albeit modestly, the way in which the cake is divided creates distorted outcomes and risks fostering resentment. Some schools, such as All Saints’ Academy and Pittville, do very well, but others actually lose—and those are schools that are located near to each other. All that poses the risk that regional geographic inequity will be replaced by neighbourhood geographic inequity.
“What we need is a funding settlement that allows all schools to provide a full and rounded education, not just those that are able to satisfy the criteria for funding uplifts. We need a funding settlement that consolidates the extraordinary progress that has been made over the last seven years, and lays the ground for still more progress.
“The prize is great. If we get this right, the future for education in Cheltenham and in our country, based on the work that has already taken place, can become even brighter.”
Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Education, said: “We are committed to introducing fair funding.
“It is right that we hold all schools to the same standards and the same accountability framework, and it makes sense that we should ensure that children with comparable needs are funded comparably wherever in the country they are. I will set out shortly the details of how we will do that following the consultation.”
Speaking after the debate Mr Chalk said: “I’m pleased that the Education Secretary is reviewing the original proposals. For more than 20 years Gloucestershire pupils have received less national funding than pupils in other parts of the country. It’s absolutely right that we grasp the nettle of unfair schools funding. It shouldn’t have been ignored for so many years. But the original proposals that civil servants came up with need serious surgery. Although Cheltenham schools would have gained overall, the way the pot is distributed didn’t make sense. We also need more money in the pot to ensure that no school loses out.”