Monday, 20 March 2017

Funding New Grammar Schools While Cutting Existing School Budgets Is Wrong

Government ministers and local Tory MPs like to boast that more is being spent on schools and education than ever before. But what they fail to say is that with more children in schools than ever before funding per pupil is actually falling. 
Local school heads have estimated that cuts in Reading alone could add up to over £7.2million. Budgets cannot be slashed in this way without there being significant impact.
It was therefore so disappointing that the recent government budget simply confirmed that things will get worse for the vast majority of schools.
The headline-grabbing mess over National Insurance contributions for the self-employed stole much of the media attention from the announcement by chancellor Hammond that an additional £320million would be made available for new grammar and free schools. Later we learned that new grammar school pupils could be ferried up to 15 miles by taxi to their schools at a cost of £5,000 per pupil every year. 
But the reality is that local schools are already holding out begging bowls to parents to help, some thinking of cutting the range of subjects they will teach and support for school transport including for disabled and disadvantaged pupils being cut or new charges being introduced.
Others are making the case that grammar schools do nothing to improve social mobility, including former Tory Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Labour's former shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell and former Deputy Prime Minister Lib Dem Nick Clegg when they say "Those championing selection as the silver bullet for tackling social mobility or as the panacea for creating good new school places are misguided".
My view is that, at a time when we are repeatedly told that public finances are limited, to choose as a matter of political dogma, to fund new grammar schools while existing school budgets are being cut is plain wrong. 
Headteachers and governors are struggling to make ends meet now, so this misguided and ill-timed idea must be stopped. 
With such a slim majority in Parliament there is still time to get it right and provide fair funding for all schools instead of pursuing such a narrow agenda for the benefit of the few. 

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