Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Date set for march on school funding

Date set for march on school funding

MP John Howell was given a petition about education funding as part of the campaign

A MARCH through the streets of Henley will be held in September in a bid to persuade the Government to increase funding for schools.

The protest has been organised by a group of parents and town councillors under the banner of Together for Education Henley.

It will take place on Saturday, September 7 from 10am and will start and finish in Market Place in front of the town hall.

The group is led by Councillor Michelle Thomas and also includes Louise Pegley, Leslie Skinner, Selina Craig, Judith Phelan, Vanessa Bird, Laura Reineke and Dan Herbert as well as councillors Ian Reissman, Paula Isaac and Stefan Gawrysiak.

They came together following a public meeting in May after it was revealed that Gillotts School in Henley has to spend money intended for pupils’ education on maintaining its buildings.  

Cllr Thomas, 50, of Belle Vue Road, said: “Our parents didn’t have to take action like this to get the funding they need for their children. You only get one chance in life to have your education and we can’t have cuts to modern languages, drama, art and music, which is happening at the moment.

“That leaves the education focus too narrow because we need to have all these skills, for all of our sakes. We need to invest in our children now for all our futures, for the children who will be the next generation of adults.”

The group is urging residents to turn out for the march, which will go along Bell Street, New Street, through the graveyard of St Mary’s Church and along Hart Street.

Cllr Thomas said: “We will be making banners and we will launch a competition for all schools, early years and the college to design their own banner over the school holidays to bring with them on the day where there will be prizes.”

She says that when Gillotts became an academy in 2012, the per pupil funding was £4,700 and since then has risen by only £100.

This means the school is short by £650 per pupil — a total of £500,000 — and a 13.5 per cent increase is needed to get back to the spending power of 2012.

Cllr Thomas said: “This is a parent-led campaign. Even though I am a town councillor, I am a parent first and foremost.

“This is not about efficiency savings any more as we are now seeing increased class sizes, cuts to the curriculum and children not getting the help they need. Parents are noticing the difference.

“Headteachers have tried to shield the reality from us but in September they too will be marching. When they did it last time there was about 2,000 but now they are expecting closer to 5,000 and parents want to do what they can to support them.

“The funding issue has had a really big impact on the retention of teachers. There are so many teachers and childcare professionals who are leaving education altogether because they feel they don’t have the resources they need to do the job they want to do.”

A petition with more than 900 names calling for fairer funding for schools was presented to Parliament in May by Henley MP John Howell (pictured). The response should be made this month.    Cllr Thomas said: “John Howell did say he would roll out the petition to the rest of his constituency and he is doing that — he is keeping to his word and that is great.

“The more petitions that are going to Parliament the better and there are more MPs who are saying that the funding levels are not good enough. This can only be a good thing.”

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