Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Mother to beef up campaign on school funding

Mother to beef up campaign on school funding

A MARCH will take place in Henley urging the Government to increase funding for education.

The date of the event will be decided at a public meeting next month where campaigners will discuss plans to lobby politicians and how to raise money for the town’s state schools.

Organiser Michelle Thomas will chair the event at the town hall on Tuesday, May 7 from 7.30pm. It will take place in either the council chamber or the Queen Elizabeth II hall, depending on numbers.

All town councillors and Henley’s representatives on South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council will be invited to attend as will Henley MP John Howell.

Henley’s state schools will also be asked to send
representatives.

Mrs Thomas, 50, of Belle Vue Road, Henley, said: “We want as many people as possible to get involved, especially parents, prospective parents and town organisations and residents.

“There will be an open and frank discussion on the issues.

“The meeting will have three key aims — to keep the pressure on the Government to make sure that schools have their capital budgets properly restored and funding per pupil goes up in line with inflation.

“We also want to start a fund-raising campaign for the schools to fill the gaps in their funding and we want to set a date for a march.

“We will put each resolution forward and invite questions from the audience, which I or some of the councillors present can answer, and we will take a vote.”

Mrs Thomas, who is standing in next week’s town council elections, said she discovered that spending per pupil in England’s schools was down eight per cent since 2010, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies,

The Education Policy Institute said almost a third of all council-run secondary schools were now in deficit and, according to last year’s Kreston UK report, eight in 10 academies were in deficit.

Mrs Thomas is married to David, 50, with two children Tom, 13, who attends Gillotts School in Henley and Eleanor, 10, who is at Trinity Primary School.

She began campaigning for fairer funding in education in 2017 but says that “nothing had been done” since then.

She decided to hold the meeting after Gillotts headteacher Catharine Darnton revealed that she had to spend money meant for children’s education on maintenance of the school’s crumbling buildings.

The school, which became an academy in 2012, was one of five due to be rebuilt under the Labour government but this fell through when Michael Gove, then the Conservative education minister, cancelled the Building Schools for the Future programme in 2010.

Its capital budget used to be about £80,000 a year but this was cut to £18,000 in 2011 and has remained at that level while its £4,700 in funding per pupil has not increased since 2012.

Mrs Thomas, who works at Leander Club in Henley, said: “Education funding should never be cut — you should tax more or borrow more to pay for it. Parents shouldn’t have to dip into their pockets.

“Schools, parents and children hold cake sales and quizzes and, yes, they have their place, but they can’t be used as a sustainable source of funding.”

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