After the recent referendum on Brexit, schools in East Cheshire have been holding their own referendum on Government funding for pupils' education - and the result is clear. Fiona Bruce MP made clear that the proposed National Funding Formula for schools just doesn’t add up.
As soon as the new proposed Formula was announced, Fiona demanded a meeting with the relevant Government Minister, and subsequently led this meeting (picture above), to which she invited local headteachers, council representatives and other local MPs. The Minister listened carefully to the points raised, and engaged in discussion on a number of issues. Fiona was pleased at the progress made in the meeting, to help Government understand local concerns, but remains determined to ensure that the Government changes its proposed Formula so that it is fairer on schools and families in the Congleton Constituency.
The Government's proposals to change the way money is allocated to schools is currently the subject of a public consultation which ends on 22nd March 2017. If implemented, these proposals would see schools in East Cheshire become the worst funded in the country. So Sixth Form students at some local schools have set up their own referendum and the response has been overwhelming.
Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton has been supportive of the views and feelings of headteachers and parents from across East Cheshire. The referendum battle boxes were handed over at the MPs Congleton constituency office by the members of the Sixth Form student leadership teams from Holmes Chapel and Sandbach Sixth Form Colleges.
Fiona Bruce MP said:
'As the first MP in the country to object to the Government's school funding proposals, as long ago as December 2016 in the House of Commons, I am impressed with the engagement of young people in our campaign, and hope that their voice, together with the increasing expressions of concern across the country about the unfairness of these plans, will cause the Government to go back to the drawing board and rethink them completely.'
Denis Oliver, Executive Headteacher at Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School and Sixth Form College explained:
'Our students wanted to get involved and came up with the referendum idea to show how they felt about these proposals. Ballot cards showing the impact of the proposals and how children in East Cheshire are disadvantaged in relation to all of our neighbouring authorities, were produced. On the reverse of the card we have examples of where the proposed formula doesn’t deliver against key promises. The ballot boxes have been widely available and are sealed. We set out to collect 5,000 signatures but looking at the number of ballot boxes we have filled it feels like we have collected at least twice that number.'
Behind the new formula is the thought that every child should attract the same level of funding for education regardless of where they live. This basic figure should then be added to taking into account issues which put children at disadvantage. In East Cheshire, there are examples of children who live in the same street but go to different schools and therefore attract different levels of funding. The government have set out to reduce public spending, and critics just see the new formula as a way of distributing the cuts. Head teachers are in a battle to persuade the politicians that schools need a minimum figure in order to provide a basic education. The impact of the new formula for some areas such as East Cheshire leave schools well below this minimum threshold.
Campaigners have been active both in lobbying politicians and by engaging the public with innovative social media campaigns. This included a twitter ‘thunder clap’ where schools bombarded social media with photos and videos of students demonstrating the difference between education now and after the cuts have taken effect. This included cuts in computers, empty libraries, bigger class sizes and even the concept of a four day school week!
Sarah Burns, Headteacher at Sandbach boys school school is delighted at the response the campaign has had from the public and local MPs:
'The past few weeks have been hectic. This consultation is only open for a short period of time and anyone who has tried to fill in the online questionnaire will know just how badly worded it is. So we have tried to make the facts clear and to give people as many ways as possible to take part. Make no mistake, we know that cuts in spending are going to happen but these proposals will decimate education in this area. We owe it to our children to stand up and be counted.'
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