I am pleased to see that Norman Baker is finally acknowledging the dire funding situation of our local secondary schools. As a parent of a child at Priory School I was shocked to receive a letter from the head teacher in November asking all parents to consider making a contribution to the school funds by regular direct debit. A cut in their funding by £90,000 the previous financial year and further similar reductions proposed this year mean ‘it will not be possible to fully protect the level of education’ that they currently provide. Mr Baker is keen to lay the blame at the door of the local authority, conveniently forgetting to mention that their budget has been cut so savagely (£110m over four years) by his government that even Conservative councillors are protesting. The deputy leader of the cabinet met with local government minister Brandon Lewis MP recently to ask why they had received such deep cuts, and admitted that ‘an impact on frontline services is unavoidable’.
Mr Baker is worried that there will be an increasing gap in educational resources between schools and I share his concern, but cutting local authority budgets to such extent that schools feel they have no other option but to send begging letters to their parents in order to maintain current standards will do nothing to close any gap. Schools in affluent areas might just manage to struggle along propped up by the support of well-meaning parents whilst in other areas parents will simply not be able to afford to do the same.
This lottery of opportunity is not the way to provide the decent standard of education that all of our children deserve. If Norman Baker and his government really want that, then they will have to stop blaming the local authority and start funding it properly.