Thanks to the campaigning work of many teachers, headteachers and parents, the issue of school funding cuts has been planted firmly on the agenda.
Last week I attended a rally in the North of Cambridge where I heard firsthand about the problems in our schools. I heard from teachers directly about the difficulties they have in managing their workloads or securing the proper resources for teaching.
My own step-mother is a teacher, as well as a some of my close friends, so I’ve heard these concerns regularly. The teachers I know work frighteningly long hours to ensure their work is good and they teach their pupils well.
Their campaign to resist school cuts is gathering lots of momentum and I’m happy to say I support them.
We share a common goal, an inspiring education system than transforms lives and gives children a good, well balanced education.
That can’t be done without adequate funding and the new National Funding Formula being introduced by the government will see real terms decreases in funding per head of pupil in Cambridge. Some schools in Cambridge will see budget cuts of £500 or £600 by 2019 that will force them to lay off teachers and increase class sizes.
A report by the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament recently claimed schools are facing their most significant funding pressure since the mid 1990’s.
This is not good enough. Investment in our schools must be protected.
Which is why I’m glad to say today we’ve pledged to invest £7bn in schools to address the funding gap and ensure real terms increases in funding per pupil.
It’s also so important that we allow children to be children without the strain of early year’s testing. Testing at SATS age is an unnecessary stress and takes the enjoyment out of education for too many young people.
We would support the calls of teaching unions to end SATS testing in primary schools. This should not be replaced by testing at an even earlier age, a proposal we already vigorously opposed.
And finally, we would put an end to the Government’s academies programme. There remains little evidence that academies improve attainment for children and there are serious concerns about their accountability.
I am particularly worried by the growth of big MATs (Multi-Academy Trusts) and the lack of accountability to parents and local communities, a concern expressed by the education select committee earlier this year.
At a time of great financial stress for schools it is also not acceptable that some executives and directors of these trusts are being paid lavish wages and expenses (https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jul/23/education-academies-funding-expenses) whilst planning cuts to save money on the front line.
We would bring existing academies into local authority control so they are accountable to local communities and so that we can focus on improvements in all schools across the board.
I am sure these issues will come up at the education hustings being sponsored by the National Union of Teachers, at the Holland Street Social Club on the 30th of May. If you’re interested in discussing education and our policies, please come along and talk with me.
See https://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2017/05/15/green-party-pledges-to-scrap-sats-and-ditch-academies/ for details.
See my video discussing this at https://www.facebook.com/StuartTuckwoodCambridge/