Ensuring the vitality of our local schools

Just before Christmas I watched in anticipation as the Secretary of State for Education delivered a long awaited speech set to signal an end to the ludicrous way that schools are funded and to provide fairer funding for Wiltshire’s pupils.

Michelle Donelan’s column in the Gazette & Herald [05 January 2017]

Having campaigned for years on a fairer funding model, earlier this year I organised a petition for our local schools, teachers, parents and pupils to sign, calling on the Government to back plans to make education funding fairer. Astonishingly, over 8000 local residents signed the petition which I then presented to parliament.

I have spoken about school funding more than any other issue in Parliament and am in the leadership of the national campaign to bring fairness to the system – a system which has led to a situation where the ten best funded areas of England receive an average of £6,300 per pupil, while Wiltshire pupils receive over £2,000 less, I was expecting to hear that Wiltshire schools will see a significant boost.

In regards to the announcement, our schools are comparatively significantly better off than other areas of the country. The Government is moving towards making it a fairer system based on the same basic formula for each pupil with additional funding for deprivation, rural areas and other key factory and yes, the system now makes more sense. However, the proposed model does not improve the stricken finances of some of our schools, whilst others receive a significant financial boost.

Many local schools want to expand, but cannot acquire the right permissions, others are struggling with the burden of debt from stretching ‘PFI’ contracts, whilst all are having to contend with additional pressures of staff pensions and increased National Insurance payments. Many of our schools do benefit financially, for others the impact is a little less clear.

Since the announcement I have spoken with many of our local head teachers to understand the impact of the details of the complicated new school funding proposals. We are currently in a period of Government consultation where the views of schools will be closely listened to, so in order for schools in my constituency to explain directly to the Government what impact the proposals will be for their school, I have arranged for a delegation of heads from across the constituency, representing all types of schools from each of our towns, to come to Parliament to meet with the Schools Minister to discuss the proposals.

I am determined to ensure that Wiltshire schools and our students get a fair deal and will not rest until they do so. I will continue to update local residents via my Facebook page, website, in this weekly column and through letters to constituents.

I have spaces available in my weekly constituency surgeries. To book an appointment please email michelle.donelan.mp@parliament.uk or call 01249 704465.

This column is also published online at the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald.