The Conservative government has all the wrong priorities when it comes to education, turning to the past not the future. It is now causing a damaging funding crisis that is engulfing our schools.
Instead of wasting money on projects that will only help the few, such as expanding grammar schools, the government should be focussing on helping the many, by providing the much needed funding our schools require.
Schools, not just in Brighton and Hove, but across the country, are facing big reductions in their budgets over the coming years and will really struggle to make ends meet.
A report by the National Audit Office last year highlighted that schools face an eight per cent real terms reduction in their funding by 2020 leaving schools across the country a total of £3 billion to find in so called ‘efficiency’ savings. Under this government our school funding is now going backwards.
I have been visiting schools across the city and speaking with head teachers, and they have also said publicly how concerned they are for the future and the budget pressures they are facing. It is apparent that the government do not understand that schools have already made savings and that Conservative government policies, like the apprenticeship levy and the removal of the education services grant, are creating even more pressure on budgets that are already close to breaking point.
The education of our children should be the most important issue for any government, including ensuring that children from all backgrounds have the same life chances. Sixty per cent of the educational attainment gap has emerged by the age of 11, so if the government is committed to social mobility then it should do the right thing with the millions of pounds it has “reserved” for grammar school expansion and invest it in our existing schools so every child can benefit, not just the selected and privileged few.
We must continue to get the message across, that it is essential we fund our schools properly to give every child the best possible start in life. We need to continue to shout loudly about school funding, to make the government understand what is actually happening in every single classroom across the country, and we need to shout loudly to support our amazing teachers and head teachers in our family of schools in Brighton and Hove with the fantastic job they do in increasingly difficult circumstances. Without an education system that works for everyone we cannot create an economy that works for everyone.
Cllr Daniel Chapman is Brighton & Hove City Council’s lead member for children’s services. He is also a Labour councillor.