The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas MP has written to the Chancellor ahead of this month’s Budget urging him to boost funding for hard-pressed schools.
The MP for Brighton Pavilion urged Philip Hammond to reverse per-pupil funding cuts, fully fund a 3.5 per cent pay rise for all teaching staff and address the impact of a government freeze on sixth form funding.
Caroline told the Chancellor she has heard “heart-breaking” accounts from headteachers in Brighton who have been forced to cut counselling services and support for children with special educational needs and disabilities, and to rely on support from parents and charities.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that the Government has cut per-pupil funding by 8 per cent since 2009/10. Caroline said it “beggars belief” that a letter she received this week from Education Secretary Damian Hinds – which attempted to rebut criticism over school funding – failed to address these stark findings.
The letter to the Chancellor comes ahead of an event in Parliament today, hosted by Caroline and Save Our Schools Brighton & Hove – where children and parents will speak directly to MPs about how budget cuts are affecting their schools.
Caroline Lucas MP said: “Schools and sixth forms in Brighton and across the UK are in crisis. I’ve had heart-breaking emails from headteachers in desperate need of extra funding to deliver a decent standard of education. Enrichment activities, school trips and even counselling are fast becoming longed-for luxuries in our city.
“The Government’s feeble excuses and exaggerations will no longer wash. The Chancellor must urgently grant schools and sixth forms the funding they need to educate our children.”
Contact Sophie Armour, Media Officer to Caroline Lucas MP: 07885 459 904 / firstname.lastname@example.org
I am writing to you ahead of the Budget and following the recent protest by over 1,000 headteachers about the funding crisis in our schools.
Yesterday morning I received the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter on school funding from the Secretary of State of Education about the Department’s use of OECD figures on education spending. The purpose of the letter appears to be to rebut the criticism from Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, that education ministers have made "exaggerated" claims that "do not give the full picture" on school funding. You will be aware of Sir David’s concerns about repeated misuse of statistics, and the Government’s deliberate distortion of data on the schools crisis: “…figures were presented in such a way as to misrepresent changes in school funding. In the tweet, school spending figures were exaggerated by using a truncated axis, and by not adjusting for per pupil spend.” 
I am writing to you ahead of the Budget to make it clear that Damian’s letter has not allayed my concerns, nor those of the headteachers, staff, parents and children in Brighton Pavilion, and no doubt across the country. Given that Sir David’s letter specifically raises the key issue of adjustment for per-pupil spend, it beggars belief that the letter did not address the Institute for Fiscal Studies finding that total school spending per pupil fell by 8 per cent in real terms between 2009/10 and 2017/18 . Moreover, the National Audit Office have also identified an 8 per cent real-terms reduction in per-pupil funding for mainstream schools between 2014/15 and 2019/20 due to cost pressures .
It is vital that the Government reverses the per-pupil funding cuts and also fully funds the 3.5 per cent pay rise recommended by the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) for all pay ranges and allowances. Heads are talking about being forced to make redundancies in order to afford well-deserved pay rises for their teachers.
Heads, teachers, teaching assistants, parents and pupils all know the impact of the cuts. There are particular concerns for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). I have received heart-breaking emails from headteachers for many months. Counselling services cut, vital SEND support cut or not provided, staff not replaced, enrichment activities and trips cut back, basic supplies paid for by charity, repairs not undertaken. To provide just a few examples of the most recent messages from headteachers in Brighton Pavilion:
“…if it was not for our parents and friends we would not manage”
“Already we have had to rely on parent fundraising to update our reading books”
“…significant undervaluing of and mean spirited approach to children's education in this country and the totally inadequate funding”
"where do I find the money from?... We don't have the money.”
“…the building is falling apart, there is no money for trips, enrichment activities or other things that help to enhance children's learning.”
For children with SEND: “we have nothing left to provide for their needs adequately.”
“We increasingly rely on volunteers”
I am also receiving representations from sixth form colleges who face a serious shortfall between the funding they receive and the amount they need to educate their students. I urge you to take account of the new report produced by London Economics on behalf of the Sixth Form Colleges Association: Understanding the funding shortfall in sixth form education . It shows the dramatic impact of the government freeze on sixth form funding combined with a sharp increase in running costs. The report found that sixth form colleges need an increase in funding of at least £760 per student in 2020/21 to continue providing a high quality education to young people. The report also found that, in real terms, sixth form colleges received £1,380 less per student in 2016/17 than they did in 2010/11 – a 22 per cent decline in funding . I trust you will urgently address the issue of sixth form funding in the forthcoming Budget.
Lastly, and in short, the purpose of this letter is to ask that we do not get the same barrage of lame excuses about OECD spending comparisons on Budget Day. As you will understand from the quotes and information above, they simply do not wash, and I urge you to directly address the issue of rising pupil numbers in schools. Talking about ‘more money’ is an old political trick that fools no-one and leaves this funding crisis unaddressed. Educational standards are in jeopardy. Yet, with the per-pupil funding they need, our schools could deliver great outcomes for all children. Without it we are letting down a generation. The Budget is yet another chance for you to respond as the crisis requires and I sincerely urge you to do so.