Schools funding ‘election bribe’ won’t solve problems, MP claims

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Picture: PA

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Education funding cuts have 'crippled' schools and forced teachers to divert energies from educating children to managing their precarious finances, a Norfolk MP has claimed.

Sir Henry Bellingham, MP for North West Norfolk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Sir Henry Bellingham, MP for North West Norfolk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

In a debate on school funding in East Anglia, Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said that since 2015 nine out of 10 schools had lost money and that overall they had seen an 8pc cut in real-terms funding, leaving some hundreds of thousands of pounds worse off.

Mr Lewis said the workforce at schools in his constituency had been "cut systematically" and the quality of service for children and parents had suffered as a result.

His comments at the debate in Westminster, attended by many of the region's MPs, came just days after the government announced an extra £14bn for schools in England between 2020 and 2023.

Earlier this week a Panorama documentary explored the impact of school funding cuts at North Denes Primary School in Great Yarmouth, which is facing cuts to jobs, services and resources.

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Mr Lewis said the government's schools funding promise was a "one-off election bribe" which would not fully resolve the issues.

"Schools across my constituency and the whole of East Anglia have had to go cap in hand to parents and carers, begging for help to cover basic supplies, when they should be focusing their energies on providing the best possible education," he said.

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At the debate on Tuesday, shadow education minister Mike Kane said that between 2015 and 2019 Norfolk schools had lost an average of £279 per pupil from their budgets, amounting to £66.6m across the county.

Sir Henry Bellingham, North West Norfolk MP, conceded that changes to the schools funding formula had discriminated against small schools.

Sir Henry, who has worked with Mr Lewis on education funding issues, said it was "incredibly important to get the money flowing quickly" to give schools a real-terms funding rise in 2020.

"This is new, real money, now. It is incredibly important that we recognise that point," he said.

"If properly spent - and if the framework around it... is got right - can make a fundamental difference."

On Tuesday education secretary Gavin Williamson said the government was aiming for schools' funding to rise in line with inflation with faster growth in "historically underfunded" areas.

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