Earlier this month, Michael Fabricant wrote to the Prime Minister at the request of Cllr John Brooks (Labour’s Education Leader on Staffordshire County Council) asking that he meet with parents who would make a plea for fair funding for Staffordshire’s school children together with representatives from 39 other lowly funded local education authorities.
While the national rise in education funding was 4.8% to cover teachers’ pay rises, though not for other improvements, the rise in Staffordshire was only 3.9% which does not meet existing commitments. Staffordshire is the second lowest funded Shire county in the country for education. In a letter
received this morning by Michael Fabricant, the Prime Minister has refused to meet with the ‘F40 Group’ – the group of 40 lowest funded local education authorities.
In the letter, the Prime Minister writes: "Dear Michael, … I am afraid that my diary is under heavy pressure at the moment, so I regret that I must decline a meeting to discuss education funding with the F40 Group. But I would like to stress that we are committed to ensuring that schools receive the necessary resources to enable a substantial boost in standards to take place for all children, wherever they live and whichever school they attend. I am very much aware of the situation of authorities like Staffordshire, which currently have comparatively low levels of SSA per pupil. The views of authorities such as Staffordshire will be considered very seriously in the process to reform the current finding system. …… If the Government introduces a new system ……we cannot do so before 2003-04 …… Yours ever, Tony"
"This letter has arrived coincidentally on the very morning that Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of England’s schools, has attacked the government’s education policies, saying they ‘have betrayed a generation of children’." says Michael Fabricant.
"While I do of course accept that Tony Blair is very busy, I am sure that I was not the only MP from 40 counties asking for this joint meeting. He will have snubbed local councillors and parents from 40 different authorities. This is most unusual. I suspect he may be embarrassed. Labour promised to rectify these education funding anomalies – which are so unfair to children’s education in Staffordshire – within the first year of a Labour Government coming to power in 1997. Now, he makes no commitment to do anything at all using the word "IF" and says nothing can be done for 3 years. This is very disappointing".
"Conservative policy of ‘Free Schools’ funded centrally, and not via local education authority grants, is a much fairer system from which Staffordshire would benefit greatly" adds Michael Fabricant. "I argued for this under John Major and I am glad it has now been adopted as official Conservative policy. Every school (apart from inner London) would receive virtually the same amount based on the number and age of its pupils plus any special needs.
"That would give Fair Funding for Staffordshire!"