Education Funding: Wirral

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:36 pm on 31st October 2017.

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Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey 5:36 pm, 31st October 2017

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered education funding in Wirral.

I am grateful to have obtained this debate about such a critical issue for my constituents ahead of the Chancellor’s crucial autumn Budget on 22 November. I trust that the Minister, who represents the Government, will listen to what I have to say and convey to the Chancellor as he deliberates on the content of his Budget the anxiety of so many people who are involved in education at all levels. The reality is that the overall funding pot for schools is too small. Whatever claims the Minister may make, the lived experience of my constituents—parents, teachers, support staff and pupils—is that school budgets are not enough to keep up with rising running costs. The consequences are huge pressures and deteriorating education opportunities for Wallasey’s kids.

In the 25 years that I have represented Wallasey in this place, I have paid regular visits to local schools and met many teachers, support staff, pupils and parents, and I have to tell the Minister that the warning lights are flashing. In all my time in Parliament, I have never heard expressed such wide-ranging concern about funding pressure as I hear now about the pressure that all Wallasey’s schools are experiencing. That pressure extends right across the Wirral. It came up forcefully during the general election, and the Government subsequently had to find extra funding. Although that is to be welcomed as a good start, it is not enough to alleviate existing pressures, and the Government’s decisions about how to distribute it disadvantaged further those who were already struggling from significant disadvantage.

This funding crisis hits the most vulnerable hardest. This crisis is happening now; schools in Wallasey are being forced now to cut back on staff, on the curriculum and on teaching materials. A National Audit Office report last year concluded that schools will need to reduce spending by an average of 8% per pupil by 2020. That would be the largest real-terms cut since the 1970s. School budgets have been cut by £2.8 billion since 2015 at a time of rising and additional costs, and schools are struggling to cope.