There has never been more public money spent on education, and the Government are to be commended for that. Indeed, the diversion of a further £1.2 billion is a good start, but I want more cash for schools in my constituency.
Readers may ask whether I have, as a Conservative, lost my sense of fiscal responsibility. Am I, for saying “spend more money”, seeking to be a pale imitation of a socialist? I think not. Rather, like any good Conservative, I believe in investing money wisely in things with a proven record of return, and there is no greater stock worth investing in than our children’s education.
Schools in Stockport, are among some of the most poorly funded in the country, so it is a tremendous credit to them that they achieve such good results. Yet we are at the point where this is becoming unsustainable, because, given that they have had to be careful with the budget for years, there is now little scope for any further the efficiencies as envisaged by the Department for Education.
Since being elected as the MP for the Hazel Grove Constituency, I have built strong professional relationships with the schools and headteachers in my constituency. I am grateful for their insights on the issue of school funding, and I am particularly grateful to those who met with me including the headteachers of Brookside Primary, High Lane; Torkington Primary School, Hazel Grove; Fairway Primary School, Offerton; Mellor Primary School; Werneth High; and Harrytown Catholic High School.
I am also very grateful to Jacqui Ames, the headteacher of Norbury Hall Primary School, and Joe Barker, the headteacher of Marple Hall School, who are the respectively primary and secondary heads representatives for Stockport Council. They have provided me with important facts and financial analyses that have been very helpful as I have sought a better deal for my local schools, and recently they met with me and the Education Secretary to tell him first hand the challenges local schools face. It was a constructive meeting and I know Education Ministers will argue strongly for their budget in the forthcoming spending review.
We are asking not for the world, but merely for comparable resources with similar schools in other parts of the country. It is inherently unfair to expect schools with similar characteristics to achieve the same results on wildly differing budgets.
I am calling for the Treasury to fund pay settlements, national insurance increases and additional pension contributions, which are giving rise to the vast bulk of the cost pressures on school budgets. It is completely right that teachers have better pay and conditions, although this should not adversely affect overall teaching and learning.
There has recently been much understandable focus on the NHS, but we must not allow justifiable funding needs of one department to crowd out other vital areas of the public sector. To my mind the schools budget is one such that deserves equal attention, care and consideration.
(Article written for Stockport Express Column 11.07.18)