………AND MP HELEN HAYES RECALLS HER SCHOOLDAYS
In the same debate in which Steve Reed spoke (see story above) Helen Hayes, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood recalled her own days at secondary school – and praised some of the schools in her constituency.
I attended an excellent secondary school with brilliant teachers, but there were holes in the roof and often not enough books to go around.
It was a national problem in the 1980s, but there were much more serious problems in London, where the desperate state of too many schools was driving population outflow from the capital and generations of children were failed.
The transformation was achieved through leadership on quality standards and investment in buildings, facilities and staff.
Schools were given the resources to deliver, but there was a clear expectation from the Labour Government that poor standards, either in schools or in local education authorities, would not be tolerated.
Many London councils also had a clear commitment to press hard on education standards.
I am hugely proud of the schools in my constituency. I have met so many inspiring, hard-working teachers and see amazing things happening in our schools.
There are too many examples to mention them all, but I think of Hill Mead Primary School, an outstanding school under the new inspection framework in the middle of the Moorlands estate in one of the most deprived wards in the whole country, the Gipsy Hill Federation of outstanding primary schools, The Elmgreen School, a parent-promoted secondary school that achieved its best ever GCSE results last year, The Charter School, an outstanding secondary school launched following a parent-led campaign that is now setting up a second school to meet demand, and Evelyn Grace Academy, where Labour’s investment enabled the employment of the late, great Zaha Hadid to build a school in Brixton that won the Stirling prize for architecture.
The funding formula has reflected both the additional costs that London schools have to bear over and above other parts of the country for building work, staffing, catering and a range of other issues, and the additional challenges faced in London, such as higher levels of deprivation, higher incidences of children with special educational needs, looked after children and pupils with English as a second language, and higher pupil mobility.
There are also huge challenges around the need for new school places as London’s population expands. The Government’s funding formula proposals could result in London schools losing £260 million or more of funding, which is equivalent to almost 6,000 full-time teachers or nearly 12,000 teaching assistants.
Inner London would be hit the hardest, losing 9.4 per cent, or £586 per pupil on conservative estimates, compared with a 4.5pc cut across London.
The impact of such losses would be devastating, leading to larger class sizes, less support for pupils with particular needs and challenges, and the loss of extra-curricular and enrichment activities.
Music, art and sport are already stretched as a consequence of the Government’s approach to the curriculum.
The cuts will also exacerbate the problems facing teacher recruitment and retention. There is already a crisis in headteacher recruitment in London, and many schools are struggling to recruit teachers.
Fifty per cent. of headteachers are over 50 and approaching retirement, and the impact of the housing crisis on younger teachers is devastating. Such cuts will have a terrible impact on the ability of London schools to overcome inequality and disadvantage, and we will be heading back to the bad old days of the 1980s and early 1990s.
Proposing such large cuts to London schools makes no sense, because of all the types of public revenue expenditure, spending on education is perhaps the closest to a straightforward investment rather than a cost.
It is an investment in the potential of our children, the talent of the next generation and the economy of our capital city. To fail London’s schools is to fail not only our children—that would be terrible enough—but our economy.
The difference in funding between different local education authorities is due in no small part to the commitment of so many London councils to ensuring that there is investment in our children.
“I have no problem with the principle of levelling the funding formula to some extent, but a fair and independent assessment of need must be made and the funds must be allocated according to need. “There must be a levelling up, not a levelling down.
Schools in my constituency do not deserve, nor can they bear, a further cut in their funding of 10pc or more, and neither do good or outstanding schools deserve to be forced to become academies.
Perhaps, as my colleagues have suggested, the money that would be spent on the lawyers’ fees for forced academisation should be reallocated to help protect the funding for our schools.