I don’t often find myself wishing to quote Tony Blair but twenty years ago when we swept the Tories from power one thing that united all of us in the party was his mantra of ‘Education, education, education’.
As a teacher at the time, I saw at first hand that this commitment was genuine and effective with improved facilities, improved teacher-pupil ratios, the abolition of the hated and counter-productive Key Stage 3 Standard Assessment Tests, and improved teacher morale. Above all, there was a feeling that education mattered to the people in power.
The Tories, with the acquiescence for five years of their LibDem friends, also claim that education is important, but their actions demonstrate that, in reality, they are only really interested in educating the right sort of people.
They claim that they are increasing spending on education to maintain it at record levels, and in one sense they are. Our governments between 1997 and 2010 consistently raised education spending in terms of: overall amount, money per pupil, capital expenditure, in fact any measure you can think of. Since 2010, Tory led governments have usually increased overall expenditure by inflation but they have not taken into account rising pupil numbers, meaning that the amount of money spent on each pupil is declining. A significant proportion of the capital budget is being diverted to opening Free Schools which are often in areas where there are already sufficient school places; another portion of the capital budget is earmarked for their other vanity project, new grammar schools, while existing schools are expected to skimp on repairs and will slowly decay. They also forget to mention that, out of their budget allocations, schools are obliged to pay increased National Insurance Contributions, increased Business rates if they’ve been socially responsible enough to install solar panels, and increased contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (to forestall any objections, let me point out that the obligatory increased employer contributions do not provide any increase in pension benefits for teachers).
That the Tories favour the types of school which are most likely to be used by Tory supporters will surprise no-one – even Tories would agree that their whole political philosophy is based on the idea of self-help; not for nothing did “there’s no such thing as society” become the defining phrase of Thatcherism. What is DEEPLY DISHONEST about the Tories’ approach to education is their introduction of their new FAIR FUNDING formula.
No-one would disagree that there are anomalies in the existing funding formulae, and I’m sure that, with the benefit of hindsight, most of us would agree that we could have done more to address some of these anomalies while we were improving the funding for all our state schools. However, what the Tories are doing is taking the opportunity of reforming the system to reduce the budgets for the vast majority of schools. It is estimated that across the country almost 99% of schools will see a cut in the amount of funding they receive for each pupil with the average secondary school losing £470,433 or £554 per pupil and the average primary school losing £103,754 or £403 per pupil.
DERBYSHIRE DALES does not have ‘average’ schools, we have very good schools despite our County Council having traditionally been underfunded by successive governments.Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Ashbourne (which despite its name is not a grammar school) is set to lose £607,108 or £582 per pupil from its 2019 budget – if all this is met by cutting teacher posts, the school will lose sixteen of its teaching staff. For Lady Manners in Bakewell the figures will be £496,437 or £432 equating to thirteen teachers: for Highfields in Matlock, the figures will be £687,357 or £698 equating to eighteen teachers, and for Anthony Gell in Wirksworth the figures will be £326,223 or £597 equating to eight teachers.
The County Council is doing all it can to resist these changes but neither this Government nor our local MP have much of a record of listening to local authorities. It is important, however, that as many of us as possible WRITE TO McLOUGHLIN to express our concern about these CUTS. It is also important, and will possibly be even more effective, if we make sure that every parent and grandparent in the constituency is also aware of what is happened. While I am fairly sure that letters from known Labour activists such as myself are unlikely to change McLoughlin’s mind, if he starts to get letters that contain phrases such as : ‘I’ve always been a Conservative supporter but…’ then we might be able to FORCE ANOTHER GOVERNMENT U-TURN.
Anyone who argues that the answer to the problem is for schools to become academies and leave Local Authority control may be interested to know that for Crich Junior School (which is in Derbyshire Dales), the designated secondary school is Alfreton’s David Nieper Academy. The David Nieper Academy is due to lose £246,976 or £585 per pupil which equates to six teachers.
According to Parliament’s website, McLoughlin does not publicise the address of his constituency office but he is happy for constituents to contact him at: House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 3511