Parents rise up to battle school funding cuts

Published on: 30 May 2017

HUNDREDS of South Gloucestershire parents, including many from the Downend area, have been taking action in protest against cuts to education funding.

The Fair Funding For All Schools campaign began in the spring as it became clear that a proposed new national funding formula, designed to reduce inequality in the way education budgets were allocated, was not going to benefit 98 per cent of schools, including those most in need.

As reported in last month’s Voice, more than 300 people attended the first South Glos meeting in Hambrook on April 6, the day after campaigners had urged councillors to back their concerns.

Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election brought the matter into sharper focus, with supporters being encouraged to question candidates about their views on school funding and a number of hustings meetings being organised.

South Gloucestershire receives some of the lowest per-pupil funding in the country so head teachers, school staff, parents and students are angry that they will face more real-terms cuts in the coming years.

Some schools are warning parents that the pressure on their budgets - including increased pension and National Insurance contributions and rising bills - will mean some tough decisions. 

Staple Hill Primary governors have written to families saying the school faces a £100,000 cut in the 2018-19 financial year - equivalent to a monthly contribution of £33 per child.

“The school needs to take drastic action,” they say. 

“We will be looking at options such as:

* reducing staffing levels

* changes to school hours

* increasing class sizes

* reducing provision such as breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and school trips."

Eric Mutch, a parent governor at the school, told Downend Voice: "These cuts will affect every parent, regardless of their political persuasion."

About 100 parents and teachers attended an Education Question Time at Abbeywood School chaired by Dr Lisa Harrison of UWE Bristol.

The four candidates contesting the Filton & Bradley Stoke seat agreed that schools had received more  money but increases in student numbers and other costs meant head teachers faced a real-terms funding gap. 

Jack Lopresti, who was MP for the area from 2010-17, was consistently booed when he argued that the Conservatives had put put more funding into schools, with audience members saying it did not reflect the actual needs. Concerns were expressed about the threat to the  jobs of teachers and teaching assistants and the impact on children with special educational needs and/or disabilities. 

South Glos and Bristol parents, teachers and many children joined a Fair Funding for Schools march in Bristol on May 20, with an estimated turnout of 5,000.

Councillors of all parties on South Gloucestershire Council, at its annual meeting on May 17, welcomed the actions of the Fair Funding for all Schools campaigners.

They unanimously passed a motion praising and endorsing the group's aims and vowing to write to the Government immediately after the election on June 8 calling for increased funding for all schools.

 

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