I will carry on a little.
Of course, it is not just primary schools that are feeling the strain; our secondary schools face real funding problems. Steve Haigh, head of Whickham School, says:
“The more pressure on my budget, the more class sizes have had to increase. We started a national petition to tell the Government that these cuts can’t go on, because children in Gateshead and across England deserve better. Headteachers are facing impossible choices. They care deeply about the whole of their communities—children, parents and staff. When choices are made to cut deeply in areas of need, making staff redundant and cutting the support for vulnerable young people, hard won gains are at risk, and effort and sacrifices made over the last decade may be thrown away if schools are not adequately funded. I stand proud with my community for our successes and I feel every cut I have to make—well concealed, painfully made, shamefully felt.”
I agree with Mr Haigh, who does excellent work in our local secondary school, especially in supporting pupils’ mental health.
Let us not forget the impact on children with special educational needs, who are also losing out because of the pressure on school budgets. Joanne, a parent, wrote to me:
“I am writing to express my serious concerns about school funding. I have an 11-year-old son and a 9-year-old girl in primary school. A regular topic of conversation in our house is how disgusting the school toilets are. It’s not that they are not cleaned;
they are so old and dilapidated they are beyond looking nice. There is no spare money to replace them, nor has there been for many years. My son has autism, and during his whole school life he has never received the one-to-one support to which he has always been entitled, due to funding. My daughter regularly runs straight to the loo after school, after holding it in all day rather than use the toilets. I cannot fault the school, they try their very best at all times. Isn’t it the job of Parliament to do better for our children, our next generation?”