Cheltenham’s schools are some of the best in the country. Thanks to talented teachers and head teachers they are delivering better outcomes year on year, as this summer’s A level and GCSE results showed. It’s teachers’ passion and professionalism which is driving up standards, and equipping Cheltenham’s young people for the challenges of tomorrow.
And so I am delighted that a major funding boost has been announced to support them in their work. In this week’s Queen’s Speech, the Government pledged that from next year funding for secondary schools like Bournside, Balcarras and Pate’s will be a minimum of £5,000 per pupil per year. That’s up from around £4,180 in the 2015/16 academic year. For Pittville and All Saints’ Academy, the annual grant will be significantly higher.
This boost helps meet rising costs, but it also helps level the playing field with other parts of the country. It was outrageous, frankly, that under the old funding formula imposed back in the late 1990s, Gloucestershire schools received less per pupil than urban areas like Liverpool and London. That was unjustified, unfair and unsustainable. Thanks to a strong campaign, not least from parents and teachers in Cheltenham, that is now being put right.
Equally important is getting more funding for SEND (special education needs and disabilities). For reasons that are poorly understood, special schools like Belmont, Bettridge and the Ridge Academy are coping with pupils displaying far greater emotional and behavioural complexity than was the case just fifteen years ago. Mainstream schools aren’t immune either.
This is a cause I’ve taken up repeatedly and passionately in Parliament. I’ve been profoundly moved by the sense of duty shown by teachers in difficult circumstances, and so I’m delighted that the SEND budget will be going up by over 10% next year. That means more than £6m extra every year for Gloucestershire to help teachers meet the growing challenge.
Education is the most precious gift we can give our children, and the most valuable investment we can make in society. It must have our full support.