Schools are rightly one of the most important issues for people living in Southwark.
The teachers and support staff in our primary and secondary schools are working hard but there is still a long way to go. Parents, pupils, teachers and the local community all want our schools to continue to improve but now the progress that has been made is under threat. As happened with the Tory governments of the 1980s and early 90s, once again the Tory government is cutting back funding for schools.
They are harming every area of education for our children and young people, from closing 107 childcare centres across London since 2010, to slashing over £800m from university budgets. And now they are cutting school funding.
The Tories are about to make the first real-terms cut in the schools budget for over two decades, the steepest our schools have faced since the 1970s. The National Audit Office reports that there will be an 8% cut in funding per pupil in mainstream schools. This is in stark contrast to when Labour was last in government – we increased school funding, especially for students from the poorest backgrounds and in the 10 years from 2000 to 2010 funding went up 5.1% every year.
Over half of schools up and down the country are facing Tory cuts and it is unlikely any area of the country will be spared. But the cuts are particularly bad for schools and families across Southwark.
The National Union of Teachers has calculated that students in my constituency of Camberwell and Peckham will be the second worst hit in the country – schools are going to lose around £1,006 for every pupil, falling from £6,601 to £5,596. And Camberwell and Peckham is second only to Bermondsey and Old Southwark – who are the worst hit with estimated cuts of £1,051 per pupil.
Cllr Peter John, Leader of Southwark warns “headteachers will be forced to make difficult decisions, including increasing class sizes, reducing curriculum choice and cutting down on extra support for all pupils.” The NUT are anticipating losses to school staff. Southwark schools already have problems recruiting teachers, particularly heads and deputy heads.
The Government say they are addressing unfairness in school funding between different parts of the country. But the result will be to take funds from areas like Southwark which have the greatest need.
The Council and our schools need more support from central government. As a country we should be enabling all children to learn and fulfil their potential. That requires investment.
Cutting funding for Southwark schools will be a huge backwards step, undoing the good progress they have made in recent years. That’s why I along with Southwark Council will be writing to the Secretary of State to urge her to reconsider and to request a meeting to discuss the impact of the cuts. Labour will oppose these cuts all the way.