Michael Fabricant has told Charles Clarke, Secretary of State for Education
and Skills, that his assertion that widespread teacher redundancies and
classroom closures are due to local education authorities not passing over
all the money provided by the Government is "just plain wrong". In the
House of Commons Chamber yesterday afternoon (Thursday 8th May), Michael
Fabricant told the Leader of the House, Dr John Reid, that schools in
Staffordshire – including Netherstowe High School in Lichfield – are
experiencing severe budgetary problems. Yet according to the Department of
Education’s own figures included in a letter from Charles Clarke to MPs in
England, Staffordshire pays MORE than the money provided by Central
Government for education. In fact Staffordshire pays 6.2% more than the
Government allocation and yet schools in Staffordshire and elsewhere are
financially crippled. Michael told the House that the Government has
clearly got its sums wrong. "What it has given with one hand, it has taken
back with the other through National Insurance and other burdens."
Michael says "With 90% of school costs being staffing, the 1% increase in
employers’ contributions has wrecked budgets. On top of that, schools like
Netherstowe are in serious trouble for additional reasons. The headteacher,
Jo Ward, tells me "We are in great difficulty this year and we will need to
reduce staff for the next academic year. I have not known it to be this
tight for many years. We are not helped by the national workload agreement,
which has raised expectations, and which we have little means to fund, or by
the under-funding of the post threshold pay awards. We are hit by this
because of our large number of experienced teachers."
Michael Fabricant says "And this is repeated across the Midlands. Contrary
to Charles Clarke’s attempt to blame education authorities for holding
education money back, Birmingham pays 5.3% more than the Government
allowance, Sandwell pays 8.9% more, Warwickshire pays 6.7% more, Solihull
pays a whopping 14.6% more and this is repeated across the region. Yet
schools across the Midlands are experiencing funding problems.
"Instead of blaming local education authorities for holding money back,
Charles Clarke should admit he has got his sums wrong and either reduce the
burdens on schools or fund schools adequately."