Schools: Nottingham

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:15 am on 12th July 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham North 11:15 am, 12th July 2017

I will start by declaring an interest as chair of governors at Rosslyn Park Primary School. I shall not impose on the Minister’s time for more than four or five minutes; I am enormously grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to speak. I congratulate my hon. Friend Lilian Greenwood on securing the debate. She, like me, made school cuts the focus of her terrific re-election campaign, and she and I vowed to use all the devices of this place to raise the issue loudly and assertively. We have both spent a lot of time meeting parents at school gates; it is impossible to overstate the strength of feeling on this topic.

Getting a good start in life in order to thrive should be something we aspire to for every child. Regrettably, in my constituency too often that is not the case. That is both the cause of and caused by cyclical poverty in my community. That was the theme of my maiden speech, and it will be the golden thread running through all my work in this place. It is critical that our schools are sufficiently supported to make sure we can close the gap, or too many of our children will start behind and simply never catch up. That is a shame. It is not a fact of life and people rightly look to this place and to the Government in the expectation that there will be action to tackle it. It explains the dismay at the idea that schools in Nottingham might receive real terms budget cuts. Left wing or right wing, whatever their politics, people do not see that as a sensible idea. It is a false economy for the state and will lead to greater dependence in the future. None of us will win. I can understand that there may be historic inequities that need to be ironed out, but I urge Ministers to think creatively and to level up, or they will take from those with the least in order to give it often to those with the least need. I defy anybody to join me at the school gates in Bilborough and explain that to parents.

School improvement is an imprecise art. As I declared, I am the chair of governors at one of Nottingham’s biggest primary schools. We have been on a journey with Ofsted and have got to the point where we are very excited and cannot wait for Ofsted to come and see how well we are doing. Our results last week put us virtually at the national average for attainment and above that for progress. In future years I have no doubt we will go even further. That is all built on current levels of investment and on having outstanding leadership that works outside the classroom, meaning that each leader can make half a dozen or more staff better, leading to better teaching on a daily basis in each class. It means never needing supply and always delivering quality, but that is at risk from real-terms school cuts—nearly £2 million-worth across the constituency.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South mentioned, there are only so many physical budgets that the cuts can come from. In the end, they will come from staff. The public will watch us discuss cuts and talk about real terms and cash terms. That is a political argument for now, but it will mean naught in future. When P45s go out to teachers and teaching assistants, that is what parents will understand and they will not see that as a good thing. It is not helpful for Nottingham and we ask Ministers to revisit those plans and come up with something that works.