Sunday, 22 September 2019

John Howell MP on the education funding march

John Howell MP on the education funding march

I RECOGNISE that core funding for schools and high needs has risen from almost £41 billion in 2017/18 to £43.5 billion this year, a record amount.

But, in the Henley constituency, schools are still struggling and the increased education budget has simply not been felt.

Teachers should not have to make savings by increasing class sizes, reducing teaching hours, cutting pastoral support and slashing service costs. Parents should not have to contribute towards the running costs of their children’s school.

That’s why I am glad that the Prime Minister has anticipated the Comprehensive Spending Review, which sets government expenditure for the next years, by announcing a cash injection for our schools of £14 billion spread over three years.

According to figures I have seen, this will mean an increase of
£2.6 billion for 2020/21, rising to an increase of £7.1 billion in 2022/23. These are figures that are better based on what it costs to provide education and go a long way to addressing the pressures faced by schools both now and historically.

I would prefer the figure for each school to be “hard”, whereby schools get the full amount they have been told to expect rather than the current “soft” figure. I will continue to press for these changes with government.

The new national funding formula, which allocates money to schools but was unfair and out of date, is being used to address historic injustices.

But this needs to take into account those historic injustices of a capital nature, such as the state of the schools. It also needs to recognise the difficulties for teaching staff in the high costs they face in Oxfordshire, the likes of which are only seen in London.

All this reflects my long-standing commitment to education in the constituency and more generally nationally.

I have asked questions of ministers, arranged meetings for teachers and school governors with ministers and been part of the f40 schools funding group which campaigns for fairer funding in education.

I also recently signed a letter to the Prime Minister, organised within the House of Commons, pointing out that across the country, schools have faced increasing costs with the national teachers’ pay award increase in 2018, the apprenticeship levy imposition, additional human resources costs, increased pension costs, higher levels of special needs and difficulties with transport, all of which are imposed as a result of government policy.

Most importantly, on behalf of Henley schools and those in Woodcote, I recently raised two petitions in Parliament which asked for a further funding review on schools in the constituency and for some specific requirements, such as a review of areas of inflationary pressures and situations where schools provide additional services such as social care or deal with criminal behaviour to examine the real costs of providing education.

We have a large number of small primary schools in the constituency. They play a crucial role in the lives of our communities and I would like to see specific action to ensure that they stay healthy.

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