22nd Mar, 2019

Solihull school heads send 'crisis' letter to Julian Knight MP - after his 'tosh' jibe

Felix Nobes 14th Mar, 2019

HEADTEACHERS from 15 hard-pressed schools have sent a strong message to MP Julian Knight on their funding ‘crisis’.

They sent a joint letter imploring the Solihull Conservative MP to attend a schools funding debate and speak up for them in the House of Commons last Monday (March 4).

Mr Knight was recently criticised for appearing to describe the school funding campaign’s figures as ‘tosh’ on Twitter, prompting fury from campaigners.

Mr Knight did not attend the Commons debate. Nor did his colleague Meriden MP Dame Caroline Spelman.

Both MPs have said they have previously supported a campaign which won better funding for Solihull schools announced in 2017, as we reported.

But governor and member of the Fair Funding for Solihull Schools campaign, Jeni Mills, says it is the first time she has seen borough schools band together to issue an appeal – showing how desperate things are in classrooms.

Alderbrook Secondary School headteacher Dr Janette Smith spearheaded the letter to Mr Knight.

She says some schools in Solihull are seriously considering moving to reduced hours due to funding pressures.

Dr Smith said: “Some of our kids are desperate for extra support and there are very little cuts Solihull schools can make to fund it.

“At Alderbrook we are actually downsizing. We can’t take on any more teachers.

“We really need some new IT equipment. Some of our computers are 14 years old.

“But we also have leaking buildings and others that are beyond repair.”

Ulverley Primary School headteacher Mark Pratt issued a newsletter last week.

It states: “This letter (to Mr Knight) shows the continued determination of headteachers to secure adequate funding to provide the level of education our children deserve.”

Ms Mills said: “For many years Solihull has suffered as one of the lowest funded areas for core per pupil funding.

“The introduction of the Fair Funding Formula is supposed to address this imbalance but, given that the funding pot overall is insufficient for need, our schools continue to struggle with real term cuts and are experiencing rising pressures.

“Many schools face a deficit this year and it is a sad reality that our schools have to continue to cut staff in an attempt to balance the books.”

Dame Caroline couldn’t attend as she was was chairing a debate on the £4billion restoration of the parliamentary estate.

But, in response to our questions, she has promised to issue a fresh call to Chancellor Phillip Hammond to further increase funding for schools.

It comes despite successive schools funding injections of more than £1billion announced for 2018/19 and 2019/20, she claims.

A member of Mr Knight’s team told us they ‘will provide responses to specific media requests within 72 hours’ and therefore would not comment as we went to press.

In response to Tory MP James Cleverly who shared an article criticising the Schools Cuts Coalition’s campaign, Mr Knight had tweeted: “I faced this tosh at the last election and the campaign had an impact in marginal seats no doubt but it was based as ‘UK statistics’ says on misleading figures.”

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