The fact that Shropshire is bottom of the national funding table for education is a point of great concern to me and many of my constituents. Out of 149 Local Educational Authorities, Shropshire is ranked 145th. The average amount of funding for Shropshire children comes to a paltry £3,550.86. This compares with an average across the country of £3,888.20 and the maximum figure of £7,089.98 for the City of London, almost twice the amount received by Shropshire.
Up until now these have been figures which I have been studying with great alarm, but at a theoretical level. However, this week I had the opportunity of seeing at first hand the impact such a gross distortion is having on our Shrewsbury schools. The headteacher of Coleham Primary School, Mrs Lynne Rathmell, invited me to visit the school to meet with some of the children and to see the problems that she is facing as a direct consequence of the lack of funding for the school from the Labour government.
Mrs Rathmell had done her own research for the meeting and had studied
a government-sponsored website to check out the statistics involved.
She typed in all the details of her school criteria by criteria, so
that she got a true like-for-like comparison with other similar schools
around the country. The category for total number of children was
filled in, as were details of numbers of children with special
educational needs. The website showed that Coleham Primary School is at
the very bottom of the funding table in comparison with other English
schools. The school receives a mere £2,409 per pupil as compared to
£3,120 for an average primary school of this type across the country,
which equates to a staggering difference of £711 per pupil. Taking
into account the number of children in the school, there is a shortfall
of nearly £300,000 per year.
I asked Mrs Rathmell what impact the funding shortage was having on the
children and she gave me a list of facts which I shall be taking up in
Parliament. This included the fact that the shortage of funds is making
it impossible to buy essential books required by the children and also
that they cannot give the necessary individual care to children with
particular needs and problems.
I find it an absolute outrage that in a country as rich as ours – we do
have the fourth largest economy in the world – that Coleham Primary
School should get so little funding. This Labour Government has poured
billions into inner city schools and the areas which they consider to
be deprived, such as in the North East of England – all of them
traditional Labour areas. Schools in Scotland and Wales get far more
than Shropshire, as do some areas close to us, such as Telford and
Wrekin, which again the Government claims to be deprived.
This Government is basically sucking money out of Shrewsbury and
redistributing it to areas they consider to be deprived, areas with
lots of Labour voters. I am so angry about this as it is depriving our
children of a fair share of funding. Of course, as a country there
needs to be a fair distribution of wealth, with additional help where
it is needed, but such a staggering difference cannot be tolerated and
I am calling for a debate in Parliament on this matter.
I have asked the children from Coleham to come to Parliament once I
have arranged a debate on funding for Shropshire education and for
their school. Securing a fair settlement for our Shrewsbury schools is
rapidly becoming a major priority for me and I will not rest until we
achieve a satisfactory resolution. In addition to scrutinising the
Government on this matter I shall be taking it up with Michael Gove, to
ask him what the policy will be under the next Conservative Government.