Thelma Walker: Only Labour will listen to teachers, listen to the parents and take action now over school funding crisis

It will take a Labour government to ease pressures on school funding, says Colne Valley MP Thelma Walker.
It will take a Labour government to ease pressures on school funding, says Colne Valley MP Thelma Walker.
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PUPIL numbers in secondary education are rising, and the number of secondary school students is due to rise by 14.7 per cent by 2027.

Costs have been rising and are continuing to rise – teachers’ pensions, National Insurance contributions and the Apprenticeship Levy, to name but a few.

Thelma Walker is the Labour MP for Colne Valley.

Thelma Walker is the Labour MP for Colne Valley.

Only two schools in my constituency of Colne Valley have not experienced a shortfall in funding since 2015.

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Over two-thirds of schools in Colne Valley have seen a cut to funding of more than £150 per pupil since 2015, and seven have lost over £400 per pupil.

The Sutton Trust has found that over two-thirds of secondary school heads have said that financial pressures have forced them to cut staff.

Schools are shortening the school week, and literally turning the lights off. Teachers are paying for classroom resources out of their own money.

Our school buildings have leaking roofs, and buckets are placed around the building to collect drips from the leaks. It is just shameful.

The curriculum is also being squeezed. The Fabian Society has revealed a drastic decline in arts provision in our primary schools.

The Sixth Form Colleges Association has uncovered that 50 per cent of schools and colleges have dropped A-Level courses in modern foreign languages.

Research by Sussex University found that the number of schools offering music A-Level had fallen by more than 15 per cent in the past two years.

A narrow curriculum limits children’s opportunities, and their ability to adapt and engage in different types of learning.

Support for pupils is also struggling to survive the budget cuts.

Colne Valley headteachers have told me that funding pressures have led to cuts in learning resources, staffing and provision for special education needs and disabilities.

As the Education Committee found when taking evidence during the inquiry into special educational needs funding, schools and local authorities are struggling to provide the necessary support, causing stress for pupils and their families, and demand is growing.

And here’s the thing: this debate is about school and college funding, but the problems we are seeing in the system are not just about the lack of sufficient funding in schools.

It is about schools picking up the cost of a near decade of cuts to public health, youth services, community outreach, early intervention services and housing benefit, and the roll-out of Universal Credit.

Between 2010 and 2020, local authorities will have seen reductions of £16bn to core Government funding. Inevitably, this causes a reduction of provision in areas such as social care and support for families, and for agencies such as the police force.

Schools are having to divert the scarce resources they have to cover for services that no longer have the capacity to provide the support so desperately needed by young people and their families.

Schools are the hub of our communities. They are on the front line every day. I know; I have been there. They support our youngest and most vulnerable.

We need well-trained, motivated and passionate teachers who believe in the common purpose of preparing children and young people for life and the love of lifelong learning.​

The gravity of the situation is only too clear to many of us here. For the first time, thousands of headteachers marched on Westminster, hundreds of maintained nursery staff marched on Westminster, teaching unions are united and marching on Westminster, and parents, teachers and governors are united and marching on Westminster.

Listen to the professionals. Listen to the parents. Take action now.

Everyone is related in some way to a teacher or has children in school. These people can see the system as it is at the moment, and they will be using their 
vote in the next election, whenever that may be.

It will be education, and our country’s respect and value for it, that will help to return the Labour Party to government.

Thelma Walker is the Labour MP for Colne Valley. She spoke in a Commons debate on school funding.