Save Our Schools (SOS) Brighton and Hove organised a school assembly rally in the sunshine at the Level yesterday and Brighton MP Caroline Lucas was the first to take to the podium.
She applauded the work of hard-working teachers across Brighton and Hove, thanking them for their hard work, dedication and courage.
However, Mrs Lucas criticised the Conservative government for a real-terms fall in pupil funding because of a projected increase in pupil numbers.
She said: “In real-terms, there is still a three percent per pupil funding cut between now and 2021-22 when you allow for the expected increase in pupil numbers. The schools budget needs to increase, not be cut.
And it needs to increase by between six to seven billion pounds according to the Association of School and College Leaders.”
Save our Schools estimate a cut of £487 or £193,425 per school in Brighton and Hove by the next election in 2022 if cuts continue at the present rate. For secondary schools the national figures is much higher: £378,298 suggesting that cuts to secondary schools are offset by smaller cuts to primary schools.
Mrs Lucas also criticised Conservative plans to scrap free lunches and replace them with (cheaper) free breakfasts which she said, is to give with one hand and take with the other. She said the Conservative manifesto reads like Oliver Twist.
Defending Conservative education policy, Prime Minister Theresa May said the dedicated schools grant: “is at its highest on record at more than £40 billion in 2016 to 2017 and is set to rise to £42 billion in 2019 to 2020, with increasing pupil numbers.”
According to Sandra McNally, Professor in the School of Economics at the University of Surrey, Conservative figures are misleading. This is because the “per pupil figure” was frozen between 2010 and 2011 and again between 2015 and 2016.
She argues that an increase in the core funding for schools is not the same as an increase in the amount per pupil. A freeze in cash terms is likely to result in a reduction in real-terms of 6.5% between 2010 and 2020. This reduction has not happened yet and school funding has doubled in the last 20 years.
If you want to check the figures, you can search for your child’s school on the school cuts website here.
Chair of Governors Marisol Smith said that the cut to funding at Moulsecoomb Primary means 40% of their children can’t go away for five days towards the end of Year 6 because the school can’t subsidise the children anymore.
It also means the school has had to make their counsellor redundant, leaving vulnerable children to join the waiting list for CAMHS while their mental health deteriorates.
Mrs Smith explained that extending free school meals means there is now no easy way to check eligibility for the pupil premium. She said: “We now have an administrative nightmare. A large proportion of our pupils are from deprived areas. Extending free school meals has had a perverse effect on our budgets. We used to have an easy way of checking eligibility.”
She said it was often a challenge to get parents to apply for free school meals but when they did, that provided the evidence for the pupil premium.
Solomon Curtis, Labour Candidate for Brighton Pavilion, said: “We have to seriously make sure we have the right policies: 37.5% of the population is under 30 years old but only 2% of MPs are. No wonder we’ve seen cuts, no-one in Parliament is standing up for us.”
Labour Candidate for Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle said: “I will not sit down, I’ll not wait a second to attack this government. They have cut school funding because this government hates education for all, they only care about education for the richest.
Do not be intimidated by people who tell you we can’t afford to fund education. Keep on with the struggle because failure cannot be an option.”
Lib Dem Candidate Emily Tester who was sitting exams yesterday at LSE said: “Lib Dems would reverse the £3 billion funding cuts and protect per-pupil funding in real-terms. In addition, we’d lift a £4 billion investment to lift the pay freeze on teacher’s salaries, give more free school meals and triple the early years’ pupil premium to £1000 for a fairer start in life.”
This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News.