School Funding — [Sir David Crausby in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:34 pm on 4th March 2019.

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Photo of Thelma Walker Thelma Walker Labour, Colne Valley 5:34 pm, 4th March 2019

I absolutely concur. I can speak personally about that. Under the last Labour Government, I had a headship for two schools and had a school with a Sure Start centre, which was funded adequately and making a real difference to the quality of children’s and families’ lives. I can speak personally about the investment from the previous Labour Government.

At my latest meeting with Colne Valley headteachers, I was told that funding issues have led to cuts in staffing and resources, and difficulties in SEND provision. I know that that is the case for headteachers up and down the country. The cuts have also limited opportunities for learning in schools. A recent report by the Fabian Society found that there has been a dramatic decline in arts provision in primary schools, and that it is of a poorer quality than in 2010.

It is the same for modern foreign languages. Analysis from the BBC shows a drop in the number of pupils taking a GCSE language course of between 30% and 50%. The Sixth Form Colleges Association revealed that 50% of schools and colleges have dropped courses in modern foreign languages because of funding pressures, with A-levels in German, French and Spanish the main casualties. James Cartlidge spoke about equipping schoolchildren for being the future workforce. A decline in the number of young people taking modern foreign languages will have a negative impact on that.

The funding cuts not only put an unnecessary and unwelcome amount of pressure on professionals; they take away from what should be a broad and balanced curriculum. The Government need to listen to professionals—on issues in the system, and on the types of learning and environment that benefit children and the level of resources that it will take to deliver them. Decisions should be responsive to what is happening, and should not trivialise concerns, offering only “little extras” here and there. I know that the people supporting the campaign better to fund our schools, colleges and sixth forms will keep going. I hope that today’s debate reassures them that they have allies in this place who are listening and who will stand with them.