Following our petition against school cuts, presented to our local MP at a march and rally in November, Mrs Murray wrote to many of those who had signed. Our Campaign Coordinator responds…
Dear Supporter … Thank you for signing our petition to the government on fair funding for schools between June and November last year. We managed to get almost 2000 signatures from our Saturday morning street stalls. This shows how important protecting funding of our schools is to the people of South East Cornwall and how, like you, others in the constituency are concerned that the government is trying to save money at the expense of the education and future of our children and grandchildren.
I am sorry that instead of presenting our petition to Parliament as requested our local MP, Sheryll Murray, spent time and resources on matching names and postcodes from the petition to addresses so that she could write to you and others who had signed the petition enclosing a letter from the secretary of state for education that contains misleading OECD data with the purpose presumably of suggesting that the UK government spends more money on education than other OECD countries.
The presentation of this data has already been discredited by the government’s own statistics authority, The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), which complained in October last year that it had written to the Department for Education (DFE) on four separate occasions in the past year about its presentation and use of education statistics. In an unusually strongly worded letter, The UKSA chair, Sir David Norgrove, said he had ‘serious concerns’ about the DFE’s use of statistics. The UKSA complained that the figure used by the government in its OECD data ‘included a wide range of education expenditure unrelated to publicly funded schools … rather than a comparison of school spending alone’. It included university student tuition loans as well as fees paid by private school pupils. In other words, it was not just money spent on schools and some of it was not government money at all.
Furthermore, the government’s claim, repeated in Sheryll Murray’s letter to you that ‘funding has risen every year and the proportion of children in good or outstanding schools has also risen from 66% to 86%’ was also criticised by The UKSA which complained that the information was presented in cash terms rather than real terms and should be set in the context of increasing pupil numbers, changes to the inspection framework and out of date inspections.
Instead of manipulating figures to hide real terms cuts to school budgets, it would be better if Ms Murray and her government invested in the education of our children and grandchildren or at the very least stopped applying their financial squeeze on our schools. According to The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) school budgets have been cut by 8% since 2010 and £1.7bn in real terms since 2015. That means that annual spending on school budgets would be 1.7bn higher in 2018-19 if funding per pupil had been maintained in real terms since 2015.
If you want to know the real effect of school budget cuts ask the headteacher or the staff in your local school or look up your child or grandchild’s school on the school cuts website at https://schoolcuts.org.uk. The website shows how on average primary schools are losing £52.5k per year and secondaries £178k. In our constituency, Torpoint Community School is losing £213k per year; Saltash.net community school, £188k; Looe Community Academy, £92k and Liskeard School & Community College, £85k. The worst affected primary schools include, St Cleer which is expected to lose 78k; Brunel, £55k and Lostwithiel, £54k.
In addition, this year teachers were awarded a 3.5% pay uplift for those on the main pay scale and a 2% uplift for those on the upper pay scale. This was less than the recommendation made by The School Teachers Review Body (STRB) and follows eight years of zero and below inflation pay increases. However, apart from having to fund the first 1% of this from existing budgets, schools need to apply to the DFE for the additional money to fund the pay uplift which is then released to schools not on the basis of the cost of the uplift in salaries but through a complicated formula based on the number of pupils in the school. This means that some smaller schools are likely to lose out. Also, the extra money has only been made available until the end of March 2020. So how will the pay uplift be funded beyond that?
Furthermore, the ‘funding increase’ in the October budget that Ms Murray refers to is for capital spending in schools and actually hides a huge cut in this budget. The schools’ capital budget went down from £7.6bn in 2010 to £5.2bn just before the budget. The chancellor’s ‘little extras’ brings it back to £5.6bn but that is still a £2bn cut in cash terms since this government came into office in 2010.
What these cuts mean for our children and grandchildren are the loss of teaching and support staff as schools cut posts in order to balance their budgets; larger class sizes; fewer subjects on the curriculum and less time for extra-curricula activities. Also, the government’s own figures show that over 2000 pupils with special educational needs and disabilities are not getting access to the equipment and resources they need to learn as a result of funding cuts.
What you can do is write to Sheryll Murray and ask her to present the petition that you signed to Parliament as requested and to put pressure on her government to restore funding to schools to at least its real term value of 2010. Furthermore, at the next election you can vote for a Labour government that will build a National Education Service that will cater for the many, not the few; restore the funding of schools to their 2010 level in real terms as a minimum and introduce a genuinely fair National Funding Formula in which no school loses out. Our young people are our future and investment in their education should be a priority.
Glen Mynott, Campaign Coordinator, SE Cornwall Labour