Yes, I most certainly agree. When visiting schools, I see the enthusiasm that teachers have, but also the strain they are under because of the lack of support and resources.
Susan, another teaching assistant, said:
“As staff, our main concern is the welfare of the children in our care. We are making as many adjustments as we can to try to absorb these cuts with minimum disruption to the education we provide for the children. But there is only so much we can do!”
And Dominic, a secondary schoolteacher, wrote:
“This is at a time when students in general appear to have greater needs. The rates of mental illness are on the increase. We have a talented team of pastoral and welfare teachers who would willingly spend more time one-to-one with students, but who have no time because they are dealing with endless cases of misbehaviour. There are increasing incidents of self-harm, internal truanting and bullying, which could be addressed with more money for more staff.”
I have received dozens more stories from parents and governors as well as from staff, and I am sure colleagues will share their own experiences.
For headteachers, parents, teaching and non-teaching staff, governors, and—most of all—children, this should not be about politics, and the petitioners have made that clear in speaking to me. Our schools simply want to go about their jobs, delivering high standards of education, and preparing our children and young people for life, ensuring that they have the best possible start. We cannot afford not to fund our schools properly.
Sir David, the petitioners do not just want me to tell you how hard things are because of the funding problems they face; they want to ask the Minister for some action, to provide adequate funding—fair funding—for our children and young people. They call on the Government to increase funding for schools, so that they can provide the education their pupils need.
Mr Ramanandi was talking to me earlier about how tomorrow he will be telling his staff at St Joseph’s the outcome of his funding and redundancy consultation—not something he is looking forward to. He would like to tell them that in the future his school will be able to offer the broad, rounded curriculum and supportive environment that makes our children healthy, rounded people who have had the best start in life. I hope that the Minister is able to tell Mr Ramanandi that he can do that, because of the actions the Government have taken. I also invite the Minister to join me in visiting the schools in Gateshead, to see the great work they are doing.