The highlight of the Party Conference in Manchester for me has been the announcement of a major boost in funding for schools. From next year, schools from Balcarras to All Saints’ Academy will receive at least £5,000 per pupil per year. To put that in context, when I was first elected in 2015 our schools were receiving £4,200 per pupil, well below the national average. That was because of an outdated formula, devised in the 1990s, which prioritised urban areas at the expense of rural authorities like Gloucestershire.
That unfairness was utterly unacceptable to me. And it’s why I led the national “F40 fair funding campaign” to secure additional funding for Gloucestershire and other poorly funded areas across the country.
I’m delighted that with the support of so many local people it has been possible to deliver this £800 a year increase for every Gloucestershire pupil. For more than twenty years, Cheltenham’s head teachers, teaching teams and governors have done a heroic job with fewer resources than schools in Manchester, Liverpool and London. It’s a tribute to them and their pupils that in that time our schools went from strength to strength, delivering ever stronger results.
One of the biggest pressures that schools have faced is the astonishing surge in demand for special educational needs provision. Learning and behavioural difficulties have increased dramatically in Gloucestershire, both in mainstream schools as well as special schools like Belmont, Bettridge, Battledown and the Ridge Academy. Although the reasons for the increase are unclear, there can be no doubt that more resources are needed.
That's why I raised SEN funding directly with the Chancellor and in PMQs, and I’m pleased that funding will be increased by £700 million next year - an 11% boost.
The excellence of our local schools is one of the single biggest factors that make Cheltenham such a special place to live and raise a family. Now that sanity is being restored to our nation’s finances, I am delighted that our schools are at the front of the queue to benefit.