On average schools across the UK are facing an 8% cut in per pupil funding by 2020 due to rising costs and growing pupil numbers. The National Association of Head Teachers predicts that an extra £2bn of funding will be needed in the next five years just to keep per pupil funding at existing levels, with many schools already at breaking point. Increases in the central government schools budget are simply not keeping pace with the growing strains on schools.
In a joint statement released today, signed by myself and Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidates from the neighbouring constituencies in Reading and Wokingham, we have spoken out against Tory funding failure and committed to fighting for a proper settlement that protects schools funding in line with both rising costs and growing pupil numbers.
A number of head teachers across the Bracknell constituency have already been writing to parents, asking them to consider donating to top up over-stretched school budgets. Lib Dem sources now tell us that several local schools are preparing to take the unprecedented step of asking parents to pay a specific per pupil contribution on either a monthly or termly basis. Such measures would represent the end of state funded education as we know it.
At a packed meeting hosted by community group the Wokingham Borough Schools Fairer Funding Campaign on Thursday emotional parents voiced their concerns. Many Bracknell families send their children to Wokingham Borough Schools. Finchampstead resident and mother Becky Eytle says, “We’re hearing rumours that the local schools are about to ask us to pay a specific top-up sum for each child. This is a tax on parents! We understand that schools are under pressure and fully support them, the problem is at the government level. Whoever wins the general election needs to fund schools properly.”
The general election on June 8th is a chance for voters to choose a different course. We have to listen to the desperate cries of heads, teachers and governors. Education funding must be protected on a per pupil basis and in line with rising costs.
You can read the full statement signed by myself and my fellow Liberal Democrat candidates here.