Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 6th September 2017

As kids head back to school, perhaps now is a good time to review the general state of local education.

Over recent years, education has played an increasingly important role in public debate in Crawley. There’s a good reason for this, education remains the best way to improve children’s quality of life, it’s how we have the skills we need to provide high quality public services and deliver the well-qualified workforce the UK requires to succeed in the global economy.

In Crawley, we have some great schools and fantastic teachers, but there have been far too many examples of where those schools have been let down by a Government more interested in ideological experimentation than education.

Having been lauded by our MP, Crawley’s first free school was also the first in the UK to be shut down due to poor performance and at great cost to the local education authority, while the future of our second free school remains uncertain as fundamental planning concerns over pupil safety remain unanswered.

While the Government has bent over backwards to fund free schools, our local schools have been starved of funding, resulting in an unprecedented visit by headteachers to Downing Street to protest at the lack of funding.

Since the election, it has been claimed that this could all be resolved through changes to the National Funding Formula, something our MP has certainly claimed. The trouble is that while shifting money around between schools may well mean that there are some winners, although only because there are some losers under the changes, the schools won’t in reality be any better off.

The reason for this is that while the maximum amount a school can gain under the formula is 5.5%, the National Audit Office’s prediction is that over the next two years rising school costs will be at 8%. Sorry, but rearranging the deckchairs wouldn’t have stopped the Titanic from going down.

Labour’s costed manifesto showed this isn’t inevitable, we can finance our local schools and do so without making cuts to other schools, all that’s needed is the will to do it.

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