Tories portraying the unacceptable as somehow in our interests

Date: Tuesday 31st October 2017

Sir, It is a shame that Rory Stewart is using his time and skill in order mislead people (Herald, 21st October). Funding for schools is an issue that concerns all of us, and Mr. Stewart using it as a party political broadcast by providing partial information is unhelpful.

The Conservative Party’s plans for changes to the education funding system are changes to how the funding cake is divided up among schools.

These changes are being made on the back of a position of a freeze on per pupil funding under David Cameron — a freeze that has meant each year schools have had a real terms cut to their budgets on average, as costs have gone up but their budgets haven’t.

Mr. Stewart presents this as somehow the fault of teachers because of their below-inflation pay increases and pension contribution costs. His Government made the decision to not fund inflationary costs; it is its fault.

People speaking up about their concerns about education funding has made a difference. At the general election this year the Conservative Party was shamed into trying to protect schools from funding losses.

This it has done by guaranteeing no immediate losses to schools losing out in the new funding formula, which I’m sure is a great relief to those involved, but of course these losses will happen over time.

However, the Government is not putting new extra funding into education. His £1.3 billion was already accounted for. It is again just dividing up the cake differently, so money is being taken out of other pots to bolster the immediate costs issue.

To use a different analogy, they are taking money from the gas bill pot to pay the grocery bill because groceries need to be paid sooner.

The new school funding system seems actually of benefit to Cumbrian schools on the whole, as Mr. Stewart’s selective table showed. Cumbrian schools getting a better slice of a cake is undoubtedly locally good news.

But to not recognise that the overall cake has been getting smaller and is set to resume getting smaller is to misunderstand what is happening, which Mr. Stewart would rather remained invisible.

The Institute for Financial Studies estimates that despite positive changes to policy since the election, in the years between 2015 and 2020 school budgets will have declined in real terms by 4.6 per cent. That is 4.6 per cent. fewer teachers and assistants; 4.6 per cent. less resources; 4.6 per cent. less upkeep.

The Conservative Party tries to portray the unacceptable as somehow in our interests. It makes changes only when called out by people loudly and strongly. We need to keep doing this. Yours etc,

MIKE DOAK

Clifford Road,

Penrith.