Saturday, 20 July 2019

March to demand better school funding approved

March to demand better school funding approved

PROTESTERS are to march through the streets of Henley in a bid to persuade the Government to increase funding for the town’s schools and college.

Scores of parents, staff and supporters who attended a public 
meeting at Henley town hall on Tuesday night voted to go ahead with the march on a date to be fixed.

They also agreed to launch a fund-raising campaign to help schools plug the gap between rising costs and their income.

The meeting was organised by new town councillor Michelle Thomas after it was revealed that Gillotts School is having to spend money intended for pupils’ education on maintaining its buildings.

This was followed last week by the launch of a parliamentary petition calling for better funding for the secondary school and others in the Henley constituency by MP John Howell. The petition is open for signatures until next Friday.

Councillor Thomas said she hoped the march would attract both parents and people without school-aged children.

She said: “We don’t want to squash anything that’s being done by any of the parent-teacher associations, teachers or other fund-raisers —  this is additional and will hopefully get all the Henley community involved, including friends and family members.

“I can’t tell you what a big deal John Howell’s petition represents as we can’t really get what we need without his support. He is the best person to argue our case because he can take it up with all the departmental heads. I would encourage everyone to sign his petition as we don’t have much time left. The march will take a little bit of organising as we have to apply to close the streets, inform the police and agree the best date. We won’t find one that suits everyone but we will try to make it as accessible as possible and will announce it as soon as we can.

“We’ve had discussions about inviting every school in the Henley constituency but that’s a bit complicated. I’m not saying they won’t be involved, though, as we’ve already been contacted by three of them.”

Tim Coulson, headteacher of Valley Road Primary School, said: “It can’t just be about this town but the national problem as we cannot stand in isolation. If the Government sees this happening in a leafy shire like Henley they will really take notice as it’s their core audience.”

Town councillor Ian Reissmann, said: “John Howell is bound to listen to our concerns because he will have no choice. He has to reflect his constituents’ concerns and if every town in the country started doing this it could make a difference. Everybody votes but if we don’t say something about this we can’t expect change.”

Town, district and county councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said the Conservatives’ poor showing at the local elections had been a “wake-up call” for Mr Howell. He said: “He understands the importance of this and wants to lobby the Treasury to loosen the purse strings.”

According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, school funding across the country has been reduced by eight per cent since 2010 in real terms while funding per student in sixth forms is now at its lowest since 2002-3.

To get involved in the campaign and march, email Cllr Thomas at henleyschools@gmail.com

The petition can be signed at Gillotts School, the town hall or the Henley Standard’s offices.

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