John Pugh MP writes: Campaigning for your local school

Its Spring and much is stirring as people look cheerfully ahead at prospects new. Every well informed individual in the schools sector though looks ahead with scarcely disguised pessimism.

There is one very obvious reason for this. School funding is scheduled to nose dive. Heads know it,teachers know it and gradually parents are getting to hear about it. Today we have seen a new report published by the Education Policy Institute underlining the same grim statistics that troubled everyone from the National Union of Teachersto the National Audit Office. https://www.nao.org.uk/report/financial-sustainability-in-schools

The message is stark. Rejigging pupil funding on a national formula within a budget falling in real terms by £3 billion spells gloom for all. Nearly every school they suggest will lose and on average that will cost two teachers to primary schools and six to secondary schools. In many places the impacts will be worse.

Tragically the government is in denial but worse still intent on squandering what spare cash it has on pointless exercises in re-introducing selection and setting up free schools where no real need exists.

We are not talking crocodile tears here; we are talking real terms reduction. Money is not a sufficient condition of educational progress but as the impact of the London Challenge shows, it really helps.

As Liberal Democrats in government we did the right thing in ploughing significant resources into the pupil premium and watched the Conservatives reap what limited political benefit resulted from it.

Now we see a Conservative government taking schools in funding terms back to the 90s and in policy terms back to the 50s.

Let’s not them get away with it. We need to champion the clear public interest and get home to ordinary voters where all this is heading. Our first chance is the County Council elections this May- our opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with our schools if not outside schools.

The data is all there and ALDC with the help of my office have put together an excellent campaign pack. As campaigners we need single-mindedly in a way parents can easily grasp get home the message that poorly funded schools can only mean poor outcomes. Happy campaigning.

* John Pugh was Liberal Democrat MP for Southport until 2017 and was elected as a Councillor for the Dukes ward of Sefton Borough Council on 2 November 2017.

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3 Comments

  • nigel hunter 17th Mar '17 - 2:08pm

    The BBC on its news broadcast at 1pm mentions that when the new plans are on operation it benefits Tory areas at the expense of cities, towns implying it is a political fix.

  • Peter Watson 17th Mar '17 - 3:13pm

    “As Liberal Democrats in government we did the right thing in ploughing significant resources into the pupil premium and watched the Conservatives reap what limited political benefit resulted from it.”
    A Pupil Premium was in the Tory manifesto in 2010 (and Labour’s) so they were entitled to share the political benefit.
    Also, in 2015 the National Audit Office reported:

    Other real-terms reductions in school funding mean the Pupil Premium has not always increased school budgets. Over the last four years, the Department has given £6.0 billion to schools under the Pupil Premium policy but reduced other school funding in real terms at the same time. As a result total per-pupil funding has increased in 55% of schools in real terms, but it has decreased in real terms in the remainder. Some schools with very disadvantaged intakes have less money per pupil now, in real terms, than in 2010, despite the extra funding provided by the Pupil Premium. We estimate that the per-pupil funding of 16% of the most disadvantaged secondary schools fell by more than 5% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2014-15.

    (https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Funding-for-disadvantaged-pupils-summary.pdf)
    so it is a little disingenuous to imply that funding was only a problem once the Lib Dems were no longer in Coalition Government.

    Coalition still casts a shadow over the party when it comes to free schools as well (and perhaps academies).

    But I welcome the drive and commitment shown here. Perhaps it should be fleshed out with an indication of where the extra funding would come from, and be part of a vision for schools. I love the party’s opposition to selection (this government is not “re-introducing” it, it never went away), especially the brave move towards a position of scrapping existing grammar schools from the last party conference, but I’d like to know more about the sort of education system for schools and beyond that the party desires.

    P.S. The campaigning pack seems to be available only to ALDC members. Perhaps it could be useful for a wider audience.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Mar '17 - 7:15pm

    I guess schools are not such a hot topic then. 🙁

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