Liberal Democrat candidate for Cheltenham Max Wilkinson is calling on Conservatives to reverse damaging cuts to budgets after a local head teacher said schools could no longer afford to run.
Max is also asking the town’s Conservative MP, Alex Chalk, to account for misleading campaigns relating to the new National Funding Formula, which he claimed would solve local schools’ funding problems.
The call for action follows a damning letter by Balcarras head, Dominic Burke, to Conservative County Council leader, Mark Hawthorne, tackling the issue of cuts to SEND funding for the most vulnerable pupils.
Mr Burke states:
- Failing to prioritise support for the most vulnerable pupils will be ‘politically toxic’ for the Conservatives at the next election and will be ‘rightly portrayed as a national disgrace’.
- Gloucestershire can no longer afford to run its education system on the funding allocated.
- The £4,800 per pupil funding announcement was a ‘fairly weak rescue mission’. This was the level of funding advocated by Cheltenham Conservative MP Alex Chalk.
The letter follows a decision by the County Council to pursue a reduction in SEND funding, by increasing the threshold at which schools can request additional high needs funding, following an overspend in Gloucestershire’s County Council budget.
The County Schools Forum rejected further proposals to transfer general funding for schools, known as the Schools Block. But Mr Burke has accused the Conservative-run County Council of attempting to overrule this by lobbying the Government.
If the County Council is successful, this will result in Balcarras receiving just £4,526 per pupil – leaving an operating deficit of up to £250,000 for next year.
Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham Max Wilkinson said: “Properly funding schools is the most important thing we can do and making sure the most vulnerable pupils are given the help they need is vital.
“We have been saying for some time that the claims being made by Alex Chalk about local education funding were too good to be true.
“First the Schools Cuts website blew the lid by revealing that 85 per cent of Cheltenham schools would be worse off and now we hear that local schools will be getting less than the £4,800 per pupil funding he says is sufficient.
“Perhaps even more dismaying is that we now know that at least one local head teacher thinks the £4,800 per pupil funding aim is ‘weak’ anyway.
“Local people demand better than these misleading campaigns on such important issues.”