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Questions to Anita - Will you promise not to support school cuts?

May 31, 2017 5:00 PM

Voters in Grantham and Stamford have raised concerns about the funding crisis in our schools, and colleges.

In particular they comment:

The Government is imposing real terms cuts to education, by freezing per-pupil funding while inflation and costs increase. And its proposed new National Funding Formula will not solve these funding shortages.

Schools are already struggling with their finances. Budgets have been cut, class sizes have increased, subjects have been dropped from the curriculum, and materials and resources are increasingly scarce.

Anita says

Thank you for drawing my attention to the "School Cut" website and particularly the detailed information on the schools in Grantham and Stamford.

Education is at the heart of the Liberal Democrats agenda. Every child deserves a great start in life - it shouldn't be determined by who their parents are. We want to create an education system that helps children grow into healthy and engaged members of their local community, equipped with the skills to thrive in the workplace. We can't achieve this if our teachers feel devalued and if the school timetable is narrowly focused on climbing up the league tables.

National Funding Formula

We recognise the need for a fairer distribution of funding, but it is not right to try and fix historic underfunding in some areas by simply taking money away from others. Moreover, research by the Education Policy Institute finds that the proposed National Funding Formula works against the poorest students. Funding is shifted away from the poorest pupils towards the 'just about managing' group. Secondary schools in the poorest areas lose funding and pupils who live in the richest areas experience the highest relative gains.

Liberal Democrats will introduce a fairer national funding system which will include a guarantee that no school loses money. We will make sure that the funding system provides proper support to those schools with more disadvantaged children and children who speak English as an additional language.

School budgets

Liberal Democrats will invest an additional £6.9 billion in the schools budget by 2022. This will allow us to:

  • Protect per-pupil funding in real terms from early years up to age 19;
  • Protect the Pupil Premium in real terms;
  • Provide 25 hours' a year of Continuing Professional Development for all teachers;
  • Ensure that no school loses money as a result of a national funding system.

Class sizes

Schools are in the midst of the worst funding crisis since the mid-1990s, and Ministers have told schools that over half of their cuts must come from the staff budget. The Liberal Democrats will reverse these cuts by providing £6.9 billion additional investment by 2022.

Teachers

We also want to properly invest in our teachers. Too many good teachers are leaving the profession due to heavy workloads and cuts to staff budgets. This has got to stop. Rather than demonising teachers, we should be empowering them, raising the status of the profession and supporting them in their work to drive up standards.

To reduce the gap between a new teacher's salary and starting wages in the private sector, we will abolish the 1% limit on teachers' pay rises. Their pay will instead rise in line with inflation.

We will also tackle unnecessary teacher workload. Liberal Democrats would reform Ofsted inspections so that they focus on longer-term outcomes and check that teachers are not being overworked.

To ensure that England recruits enough teachers, we will create a long-term planning system for initial teacher training places, working closely alongside universities and specialist training routes such as Teach First. We will focus our efforts on recruiting the highest-quality teachers in subjects with staff shortages, such as STEM subjects and the creative arts.

The Curriculum

We will stop politicians from meddling with the curriculum by creating an independent Education Standards Authority that will properly pilot and phase in new policies.

Liberal Democrats will make sure that children who want to study arts and creative subjects can do so and we will remove barriers to pupils studying these subjects, such as by reforming the EBacc. We will introduce a new minimum curriculum entitlement: a flexible, slimmed-down version of the National Curriculum that all state-funded schools must teach. This will include age-appropriate sex and relationships education, financial literacy, first aid, lifesaving, mental health education and citizenship.

Special Educational Needs

When MPs on the Public Accounts Committee met with head teachers in January to discuss the school funding crisis, they were clear that specialist support staff, such as Learning Support Assistants, counsellors and pastoral staff would be first in the firing line. This is simply unacceptable. Our £6.9 billion investment in our schools will ensure that support services do not have to be cut.

In addition, Liberal Democrats will ensure that children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are identified as early as possible and are provided with appropriate support. We will make sure that any future changes to education policy include an assessment of how they affect pupils with SEND. Support for children with high needs must be integral to our education system, not an inconvenient bolt-on to other policies.

Our education agenda is a bold new offer to ensure that no child misses out from the best possible start in life. Parents have a clear choice in this election. Whilst the Conservative Party is squeezing school budgets and wasting millions on pet projects such as new grammar schools, the Liberal Democrats are fighting against a destructive hard Brexit and offering a credible solution to the crisis in schools funding. We are the only party that can challenge Theresa May and be the strong opposition that the UK needs.