Caroline Lucas tells Prime Minister to meet with Brighton headteachers over school funding

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion

Theresa May should meet with Brighton headteachers to hear 'the real pain' caused by education funding cuts, Caroline Lucas said.

At Prime Minister's Questions today (February 20), Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas said: "The Local Government Association has identified a potential £1.6 billion deficit for special needs education, but the Government has responded with a paltry £350 million.

"As a result headteachers in my Brighton constituency are literally having sleepless nights. Vital reading programmes for children with SEN are being cut, crucial support staff are being lost.

"So instead of repeating her usual line on schools funding, will she agree to meet a delegation of headteachers from Brighton so she can hear direct from them about the real pain that's being caused?"

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The Prime Minister responded: "I am sure the hon. Lady will look forward to working well with the largest group on Brighton and Hove City Council, which is now the Conservative group.

"She raises the issue of education funding, and she refers to answers I have given in the past.

"We have been putting more funding into education, and we have been doing it in a number of ways.

"We have announced extra support, as she says, for children with complex special educational needs, and that is building on the £6 billion in place for it this year—the highest level on record. She says it is not enough, but it is the highest level on record.

"We are also putting money into new school places and better facilities for children with special educational needs."

This comes after the MP wrote to Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, asking him to meet with local headteachers to discuss funding in the city's schools

She said: "As an MP I’ve repeatedly called on the Government to properly invest in young people, and to stop the years of under-funding our schools have faced. Despite very vocal and innovative campaigns from amazing groups like Save Our Schools, and evidence about the real-term budget cuts, the Government has doggedly dug in its heels, and failed to fully acknowledge the scale of the funding crisis in our schools.

"I was prompted to go back to the Minister after hearing about many local primary schools losing vital support staff because they do not have the money to keep them on. I have had some truly heart-breaking messages from local heads about the difficult decisions they are being forced to make, and the impact this is having on their ability to support pupils. The message has been clear; heads are simply saying “I can’t cut any more”.

"Special needs education (SEND) has been particularly hard hit. In my surgeries, and in the correspondence I receive, I hear from parents about the delays they are having getting an education, health and care plan (EHCP) in place for their child, or other problems, such as their child not being in school because of the complex needs they have – and the subsequent struggle they have accessing suitable places, or support.

"I want the Minister to hear directly from heads in my constituency about the impact cuts are having on them, their teaching and support staff, and pupils. Losing staff and not halting the damage caused by cuts risks failing a whole generation of pupils – with successful literacy schemes like Every Child a Reader (ECaR) no longer being sustainable, with SEND in crisis, I hope that the Minister agrees and acts."