Newcastle North MP hits out at impact of local education cuts

Newcastle North MP and Education Select Committee member, Catherine McKinnell, has today hit out at the impact of education cuts on schools in Newcastle during a debate in Parliament.

Speaking during this morning’s Westminster Hall debate on school funding in the North East, Catherine highlighted the cuts already being made by local schools as a result of unfunded cost pressures and the impact this is having on pupils and their families across Newcastle North, commenting:

‘I recently visited a primary school in a deprived part of my constituency where the headteacher, who was clearly struggling to hold back tears, told me that budget pressures had forced her to cut the school’s family support counsellor and consider cancelling long-standing extracurricular activities for the children. It is clear that for a primary school that needs to provide all-round support for its children to lose such a counsellor through lack of resource not only has an impact on the school’s academic outcomes but makes it unable to help children and families who may face chaotic home lives or experiences that could lead to mental health issues, meaning that those issues will not be picked up in childhood and may escalate throughout adolescence and into adulthood. That is clearly a false economy, both in educational terms and more broadly. When children are suffering, they are not able to learn, which leads to lower educational attainment and compounds the social mobility challenge.

‘I have also spoken to headteachers who have decided to take early retirement to reduce budget pressures, knowing that the school would save some money if it got in a younger headteacher on a lower wage. It is baffling that the Government are creating a situation where talented, valuable headteachers see no option but to retire for the sake of their schools’ budgets.

‘Although the Government repeatedly inform us that they are protecting schools funding – the Minister has already attempted to do that today – they know fine well that they are failing to give a full account of real-terms cuts. The introduction of the Living Wage and rising inflation, which, according to the Government’s own measure, is currently at 2.3% – its highest for more than three years – mean that schools have to make their money go significantly further. The National Audit Office has said that, as a direct result, schools will need to find an extra £3 billion by 2020, which equates to an 8% real-terms cut in funding. For one secondary school in my constituency, that amounts to a reduction of £761 per pupil by 2019 and, worryingly, the potential loss of 30 teaching jobs.’

The Newcastle North MP went on to criticise the Government’s obsession with diverting education funding into new free schools and grammar schools, before challenging the Minister to explain what he would cut in the current funding climate:

‘Headteachers across the North East are expected to make exceptionally difficult decisions day to day, because of an inadequately funded system. If the Minister had to balance a school’s books, what would he cut – teachers, subject choices, support services or after-school clubs? Equally, he could increase class sizes; but let us remember that 900 pupils in primary schools in the North East are already in classes of 40 or more.

‘When the Prime Minister was shadow Education Secretary she railed against large class sizes, but they are increasing on her watch. The answer is clear: the Government should not cut school funding at all. It is often said in the North East that the Tories cannot be trusted with the NHS. I say they cannot be trusted with the education system either.’

You can read a full copy of Catherine’s speech here.