In recent weeks, the Government have revealed their reforms to the national funding formula. The reforms paint a bleak future for the schools of Bradford, promising stagnant funding allocations that fail to meet increasing pupil demand. The city has faced, and continues to face, difficult times, but it is trying its best to improve standards. This perfect storm of funding cuts will damage Bradford’s education system and harm the life chances of our children.
What I fear most is that the reforms mark a determined and intentional culture of underinvestment by this Government in our school system. What do the national funding formula reforms mean for Bradford? Overall, 89% of Bradford’s primary schools, secondary schools and academies face cuts to their budgets, with funding for early-years provision set to be cut by £2.4 million, which is more than 6%.
Difficult funding decisions are already being taken in Bradford. In recent weeks, the Bradford schools forum took the difficult decision to divert millions of pounds from the budgets of mainstream schools to help to fund additional school places for pupils with special educational needs. Every child, whether they are learning in a mainstream school or a special school, deserves an excellent education.
Against that woeful financial backdrop, it is not only day-to-day teaching budgets that are becoming ever more constrained. Investing in new provision is becoming less and less viable for our schools system. In recent months, the Prime Minister has said that she wants parity for mental health provision in this country. That must be as true for our young people as it is for the rest of the population. Many believe that mental health provision for our children and young people is in need of urgent improvement.
In response to my recent parliamentary question, the Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families said:
“Schools are able to decide on, and make assessments of, the support they provide for their pupils, based on their individual needs.”
At a time when our schools’ budgets are facing real-terms funding cuts, it is unlikely that they will be able to find extra funding for new provision, even if they believe that additional support would benefit their pupils.
If the Prime Minister is truly committed to parity of care between physical and mental illness, her Government must seriously consider making additional ring-fenced funding available to schools. If, as a country, we are genuinely committed to driving improvements in educational attainment, tackling inequality and supporting our children with decent mental health provision, fair and decent funding is nothing short of vital.