For an MP representing an unfairly funded local education authority, debates on schools funding in Parliament can be frustrating. This week was no exception.
That's because I had to listen patiently whilst London MPs complained that funding in their constituencies is projected to rise from ‘just’ £5,400 to around £5,600 in 2020. Not enough, they say.
Eh? Try coming to Cheltenham. The fact is that in 2014-15, Cheltenham secondaries received just £4,195 per pupil. That’s due to a decades-old arbitrary and unfair funding formula which I’ve been passionate about overhauling since I was first elected.
As I said in Parliament about the funding for London schools: “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.”
And look at what our teachers and governors have achieved over the last decade despite this unfairness: consistent above-average results, exclusively ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ secondary school ratings, and excellent integration of our increasingly diverse community. All this, against a backdrop of increased mental health issues amongst students which teachers have to contend with.
So we need this additional funding. Our schools can’t do more. They have done what has been asked of them – cutting costs, improving procurement, streamlining services. But the cupboard of savings is increasingly bare.
So I welcome the Government’s commitment to grasp the nettle of unfair schools funding. It shouldn’t have been ignored for so many years. But the new version that civil servants came up with last year needs serious surgery. I’ve made clear what I think needs to happen, and I’m afraid it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that an additional cash injection is required. And we can no longer tolerate a situation where Gloucestershire taxpayers continue to subsidise enhanced funding for Londoners.
Following my speech, the Education Secretary confirmed that she will review the proposed formula and is committed to introducing fairer funding. The prize is great. I’ll be campaigning cross-party for our schools to get the resources they deserve.
Finally, there are still a few places available for the trip to Parliament on Friday 14 July (just £13). Please contact Hannah.email@example.com or ring 01242 210 473 for details.