Letter to the Editor re school cuts

The full text of my letter to the editor of the Bury Times about school cuts.

Letter to the Editor

23rd March 2018

Dear sirs,

Anyone suggesting Bury’s schools are better off, not worse, is refusing to acknowledge the drop in per pupil funding facing our schools. Pupil numbers are rising so the budget is divided between more, so per pupil funding drops. Furthermore, inflation going up along with national insurance, pay, pensions, equipment, resources, student support all costing more than before. Not to mention the new apprenticeship levy and schools now having to fund £6,000 from existing budgets for each child needing special educational provision.

The figures referred to as “politically motivated guesswork” on this page last week are in fact taken from the Department for Education. In 2015, primary schools in Bury received £4,172 per pupil, in 2020 this will be cut to £3,873. Secondary schools received £5,034 per pupil in 2015, this will be cut to £4,856 in 2020. This totals £6.6 million. 73 out of 74 schools across Bury will lose out as a result.

To suggest otherwise is attempting to play smoke and mirrors with school funding. I recently carried out a detailed survey of all our local schools. 40% of Bury headteachers responded and the results make for damming reading (available on my website at jamesfrith.org/saveourschools). 65% said pupil numbers have risen since 2015. Three quarters of Bury schools have been forced to cut staff due to funding pressures. 84% have cut spending on books and equipment. 56% have cut special educational needs provision. 72% have cut student support. And a large majority of schools say they’ll be forced to make further cuts over the next two years.

Through my cross-party work on the Education Select Committee, I’ve heard testimony from headteachers and experts across the country that matches the reality for schools in Bury. Part of my job is to speak up about this experience in our schools and demand a change of direction, not throw out a party line at election time.

That so many of Bury’s schools continue to be outstanding is a testament to the extraordinary work of our brilliant teachers and school leaders in the face of such adversity. To suggest that schools can continue to be outstanding with fewer resources seems to imply that we should not invest in the education of future generations. That we should just hope we can get by with less being spent on our children’s education. I doubt local parents would agree with that assessment.

James Frith MP

Member of Parliament for Bury North

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