WEST Berkshire parents have been warned of a “funding crisis” in schools – and Green Party candidate and headteacher Paul Field has said it will cause “dreadful damage” to children.
In a letter sent to parents, 53 West Berkshire primary school headteachers said that changes in the way the Government funds schools “will not bring the benefits that we had hoped to see for West Berkshire children”.
The headteachers say they will raise their concerns with West Berkshire Council, local MPs and the Government.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) says more than half of school leaders in England and Wales feel their budget will be “untenable” by 2018/19.
Spending on education as a percentage of the country’s GDP has fallen every year since 2010.
The Green Party’s general election candidate for Newbury, Paul Field, is also the headteacher at Basildon Primary School and is one of the 53 local primary head signatories.
A former chairman of the Primary Heads Association and current president of the local NAHT branch, he attended the NAHT conference in Telford (pictured).
He said: “The current funding crisis will be familiar to many local voters.
“For a Government to deliberately mislead people with statements about funding being better than it has ever been is outrageous.
“They know that in real terms schools will lose £3bn by 2020 and their dishonesty is an insult to both the electorate and the professionals who serve our communities.
“The consequences of this current policy will be devastating and wide ranging.
“They will cause dreadful and permanent damage to our schools and the futures of our children.
“Education is at the heart of any civilised society and impacts every one of us.”
Conservative candidate Richard Benyon said he had held frequent conversations with headteachers and ministers about the issue.
“I know that while the majority of schools continue to have rising budgets, some of them don’t,” he said.
“In one sense ,it’s good news that there’s very low levels of deprivation in West Berkshire.
“In terms of school funding, high levels of deprivation have seen very large increases in some areas.
“In West Berkshire they have seen small decreases.”
Mr Benyon said he thought that schools could survive the funding arrangements, but the impact of increases to wages, national insurance and changes to pensions and the apprenticeship levy was causing concern.
He pledged to support local schools in parliament if he was re-elected as MP.
The Labour Party announced their education policy on Tuesday, promising to increase school funding by £4.8bn and introducing free, life-long education in colleges.
Labour candidate Alex Skirvin said concern over education was an issue with voters.
He said: “Education matters to me because it was my passport to a more secure, skilled and prosperous life.
“I’m proud to have attended a state school and been the first person in my family to attend university.”
He backed Labour’s education plan announced by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, which includes restoring the educational maintenance allowance scrapped in 2010.
The policy would be paid from £20bn by reversing cuts to corporation tax introduced by the Conservatives.
Mr Skirvin said: “The parents we’ve talked to say that we should be spending more on education rather than wasting it on pursuing an obsession with grammar schools.
“I’m a firm opponent of the Tory grammar schools agenda.
“Every child has a right to a quality education – not the right to sit a single, life-defining exam at the age of 11.”
Liberal Democrats broke their pledge to oppose an increase in fees when they entered a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.
The Lib Dems plan to invest £6.9bn into schools to protect pupil funding.
Candidate Judith Bunting said that West Berkshire schools would benefit from an additional £28m from her party’s policy.
Mrs Bunting, who has worked in education and as a science and medical journalist and broadcaster for more than 20 years, said: “Education is at the heart of everything we believe in and everything we do.
“When headteachers write to parents like this it’s time to be worried. We must protect the education of kids.”