Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has warned that 30 years of under-funding has widened the achievement gap between Cambridgeshire schools and others across the country.
And he told Education Minister, Elizabeth Truss, during a schools’ funding debate in Westminster Hall today (Tuesday, April 29), that even with the £20.5 million promised by the government for the county’s schools, they will still receive less per pupil than Oxfordshire gets now.
“We are seeing real problems as a result of this continued underfunding,” he said. “We are seeing the achievement gap widening because there are simply not the resources in schools to be able do the work that is necessary to close that gap.
“There is some fantastic work being done by dedicated teachers, excellent staff doing their very best; but with such scarce resources right at that very bottom end, it is always going to be a challenge.
“The last government did not do anything to fix this. It did not help the people of Cambridgeshire, did not make sure we got the amount that we deserve.”
Julian welcomed the £20.5 million for the county’s schools but warned that the amount promised is less than half the funding gap that exists between Cambridgeshire schools and the English average.
But he added: “This money will go some way to starting the change that is needed. It is the first step towards a proper, fairer funding formula that makes sense, but it is nothing like the end of the road.”
He warned that schools like Cambridgeshire which had been “paired to the bone for 30 years” need the money in this financial year and just having to wait another year for the money would cause real problems.
“We have had decades of chronic underfunding which we have to try to cope with and that has hit the infrastructure in those schools and makes it harder to adapt,” he said. “We need some sort of immediate relief but most importantly we need to get this money in full and we need a real and sustainable funding formula to last beyond 2016.
“There is more to be done with capital money to build the schools that we need. We are a very fast growing county. We need to be able to have not only money to pay the teachers but to build the schools.”
And he raised the issue of the lack of funding for the county’s sixth form centres.
Education Minister, Ms Truss thanked Julian for raising the issue of capital underfunding and acknowledged that funding was not being fairly distributed at the moment.
“One of our main priorities as a government is closing that gap,” she said. “It has a profound effect on social mobility and our economy.”
Yesterday (Monday, April 28) Julian presented a petition carrying around 2,000 signatures to Liberal Democrat Schools Minister, David Laws.
It was the latest step in a campaign for fairer funding for schools which Julian first became involved in while at school when he supported a push by the now Baroness Sal Brinton, a former Cambridgeshire County Councillor and leader of the Lib Dem group.