School Funding — [Sir David Crausby in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:55 pm on 4th March 2019.

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Photo of Laura Smith Laura Smith Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 5:55 pm, 4th March 2019

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship in this incredibly important debate, Sir David. I am proud that nearly two years on since local parents, children, support staff, teachers, head teachers, Fair Funding For All Schools, the Labour party and I protested in Nantwich town centre and marched in our thousands on the streets of Sandbach, my constituency is still demanding answers to the crisis the Government and 10 years of austerity have inflicted on our education system. We still come in the top 10 constituencies in the country for responding to this petition, and I thank every single person who took the time to do so.

Since being elected, I have spoken many times about the funding crisis that has gripped our schools. I speak as an ex-teacher, an educational campaigner, a parent and now as a Member of Parliament and as vice-chair of the F40 group, which represents the worst-funded authorities in the country. Today I speak on behalf of all of those brave professionals who continue to stick their head above the parapet and speak honestly about life in schools. In Crewe and Nantwich, they constantly hear the misleading claim that this Government are providing more money for schools than ever before, but they know full well that they have faced real-terms cuts on a massive scale. After all, 100% of schools in my constituency have experienced such cuts. They do an amazing job at trying to deliver the best experience they can for the children and families that attend, but it is becoming an impossible task.

I regularly meet head teachers in my area, both as a collective and as individuals. Without exception, they relay the same message: they cannot shave any more meat off the bones of their budgets. They are demoralised and devastated, and they feel let down, because teachers believe that every child matters—that is a fundamental idea that should unite everybody in this place whenever we discuss education. It is the belief that every child matters that inspired me to go into teaching.

I want to focus specifically on the issue of SEND provision. It is not only the first topic mentioned by the majority of head teachers, but shows that somewhere along the line this Government lost the belief that every child matters. The F40 campaign states that the funding currently available is not enough to deliver education for the modern world. All SEND in schools has increased dramatically in recent years, including the low levels of SEN. Schools are dealing with those higher levels, an increase in pupil numbers and the increase in the cost of running a school, while their budgets have been slashed in real terms.