There is nothing more important than our children’s and grandchildren’s futures; as a former teacher, educational textbook writer, exam marker and current primary school governor, I feel this to my very core. I’m also mum to two young children, so I see first-hand the effect cuts have had on our state schools. This is why I’ve made education one of my very top priorities.
I want our children to learn in the best schools and colleges so there is no ceiling to their ambition and I will fight for the investment needed to deliver that. Sadly, the Conservative government do not share that view and are inflicting millions of pounds of spending cuts on our schools. Sometimes local Conservatives seek to pretend that the children are benefiting from the new funding arrangements, but that’s just not true. The cut statistics have been confirmed, not by Labour, but by respected independent bodies such as Institute for Fiscal Studies and the National Audit Office.
Firstly, the figures my opponents use are indicative figures which will not apply to our schools in reality. The National Funding Formula will on average raise funding by 1.7% in its first year if applied BUT that increase is not nearly enough to cover the increases in costs schools will face due to rising pupil numbers, inflation and the cutting of the £615m education services grant. So what happens in the majority of schools is an outright cut. See projected cuts to individual schools in the area by clicking here.
Many schools in Dover, Deal and the villages are seeing over £300 per pupil slashed from their budgets. The local grammar schools do comparatively well in this new funding formula, but most others, including almost all primary schools are losing out. This is not a fair funding formula, this is a broken system. Headteachers and teaching unions agree with me.
There are also current threats to merge Deal’s primary schools into a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) and I stand against this move. I feel that there is no need for more more Academies in our area. In fact, I believe there should be no need for any more Academies at all and that strong, fully-funded local authority-run education is the future we should be championing for our children.
All Deal’s primary schools are already rated as at least ‘good’ and they already work closely together as part of the Deal Learning Alliance. Why cannot other options such as increasing Co-operative modelling, bulk purchasing and skills sharing be developed instead of an irreversible merger into a MAT? Academies can mean lower pay for teachers, no guarantee that future leaders won’t cream off big salaries at the expense of our children’s learning experiences, and they can begin the employment of unqualified teachers. Turning schools into academies can also mean that MATs can do away with local governing boards, meaning less parent involvement and less local accountability. Whilst the current proposals for the Deal schools promise that many of these things won’t happen, there is no guarantee that future leaders of any Deal MAT or future trustees in the years to come won’t move the goalposts and change the ethos of the merger.
I’ve worked in state schools in areas of real social deprivation and I’ve worked at Eton College – there can’t be many MPs, or indeed candidates, who can really claim to have seen both sides of the educational divide and thus really know the real state of educational inequality in our country.
Where do I stand on other key education issues? Well, I would like proper taxation of private schools as businesses not charities; I would like a fully funded and fair comprehensive school system across the whole of the UK, I would abolish all SATS and ensure that all curriculum design is teacher-led. I would work to introduce free school transport to all secondary schools where they are over a mile from a student’s home; I would introduce universal free school meals to all primary-aged children.