A couple of weeks ago, amidst the latest chaos of Brexit, prorogation and the speculation of a general election, there were still vital discussions happening about important local issues in Parliament. Specifically, I opened the debate in Westminster Hall on school funding in East Anglia.
MPs from across the region joined me to discuss the impact of the extreme funding cuts to education in recent years. Not only has it resulted in bigger class sizes, fewer teaching assistants and teachers teaching out of specialism, but, shockingly, parents and carers are also being asked to donate time and money towards school provisions that have historically been the repsonsiblity of the government.
Schools are increasingly acting as the front-line of the welfare state, as there is so often nowhere else for people to turn, placing huge pressure on already under-resourced schools.
One of the biggest issues in Norwich is the impact this has had on children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). In Norfolk there are 21,000 children with SEND – many of whom are simply waiting for appropriate education health and care plans and special school places. Places that never materialise.
There has been a dramatic reduction in specialist teaching assistants, counsellors and speech and language therapists – support staff that are essential in helping SEND pupils thrive in a mainstream school environment. As a result, parents are increasingly taking the County Council to tribunal over SEND provisions and winning, because they are right – their children are not getting the education they have a right to as set out in legislation.
No new money (as announced in the Chancellor’s spending review) can ever make up for the lost opportunities of those pupils who have been failed by successive Conservatvive Governments, after billions of pounds of cuts have led to chronic underfunding.
We have to turn this around now, and fast. Labour will committ to a fully-funded National Education Service that recognises every child is unique, and invest in an innovative education system that allows every child to thrive.
You can read the full Hansard transcription of the debate here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-09-03/debates/A8CE5BC7-B52C-4126-9C6F-41353B64F0B2/SchoolFundingEastAnglia?fbclid=IwAR2JVXQUjWvyyvR7pIsWOnRkxd7hrKTpHLA_ARlcp9fWcxzAznFkdMDXUWA
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