The Cuts that never heal

11 Apr 2017
Dave meets local head teachers recently
Dave meets local head teachers recently

One of Labour's greatest achievements in Government between 1997 and 2010 was the huge investment we ploughed into education, after years of Tory neglect.

Thousands of schools up and down our country that were left to decay during the 80s and 90s were rebuilt or refurbished under the Building Schools for the Future Programme.

We also prioritised the creation of Sure Start in 1998 and developed the role of teaching assistants to intervene with those groups of children who needed more support.

Both have sadly been savaged over the past six years as our fantastic "Every Child Matters" agenda fades into a distant memory.

When Labour promised a programme of national renewal based on "education, education, education" we really meant it.

Genuine fair funding for all schools is something that we should all agree on, yet once again we have a government who are unwilling to invest properly in our young people.

Every child deserves an excellent education, especially if we are to compete on the global stage when we leave the EU.

So all schools should have access to the best resources to meet the needs of all their pupils.

But with a widening school funding gap, estimated at £3 billion, the Government is simply not making enough cash available to schools to deliver on the ground.

Under the Government's current funding proposals, Gateshead schools are set to lose over £8 million. That equates to £362 per pupil or 227 teachers across the Borough. I'm deeply concerned that we could see mass redundancies in our schools as well as cuts in learning materials such as books and IT resources, as well as extra-curricular activities, school visits and healthy school meals.

I recently met with our brilliant Primary and Secondary Heads in Gateshead, who believe their schools are now at a tipping point because of the cash shortage.

They reported being increasingly unable to afford to replace teaching assistants and teachers who have left, they are struggling to pay for classroom materials and don't have the funds to undertake building repairs.

They are concerned that potential changes to the school funding formula would make the situation even more uncertain for schools in this area. Such large cuts would have to fall on staffing budgets and my local schools could lose great teachers and support staff just to balance their books.

Education cuts never heal. Gateshead schools have made massive progress over the past 30 years, from being amongst the lowest attaining schools to some of the best performing in the country.

This has only been possible through decent funding. The funding gap for schools threatens that progress.

The 2015 Conservative manifesto included a pledge to protect per-pupil funding in real terms. The National Audit Office has confirmed that this pledge has now been broken.

Head teachers and their staff have, for many years now, carried out everything expected of them including school reforms, rocketing workload and non-stop curriculum changes.

It is only right that the government should now show some respect to the professionals and listen to their concerns, as ultimately they are the experts doing the work on the ground. Any failure to deal with the school funding crisis will be a disaster for everyone.

Our school leaders, teachers and learning support staff need the backing of parents, governors and the wider community if we are to change the government's mind on school funding. We need to be united and stand up for our children's education together.

That's why I've been encouraging people to visit the School Cuts campaign website; New window to find out more about the impact of government cuts on your local school and to campaign for change.

Newcastle Chronicle and Journal

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