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This week saw one of Lambeth’s best attended public meetings of recent years, focused on one of the biggest threats facing the borough: huge planned government cuts to local school budgets.

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Organised by the parent-led Fair Funding For All Schools in Lambeth campaign, the gathering at Sunnyhill Primary School on Wednesday drew over 250 people. This grassroots group, part of a national network, has grown rapidly in just a few weeks in response to planned government changes to the funding formula that decides how much money each school in England receives. This may sound initially like a very technical and very dull process, but it has enormous consequences as the formula ultimately decides how many staff each school has, what support it can offer to disadvantaged children and the number of pupils in each classroom.

This is why the government changes are so alarming. As Cllr Claire Holland wrote last week, the tinkering with this formula could rob Lambeth of up to £24 million and inflict steep cuts on all our local schools.  In my ward in Vassall near Brixton, an area with high levels of poverty and deprivation, these cuts will see three local schools – Reay, Christchurch and St John Divine – lose a projected £300,000 from their combined budgets which equates to the cost of employing 11 teachers.  Whichever way you look at this, it’s devastating as it means almost certainly fewer staff, bigger class sizes, less upkeep of the buildings and fewer resources in the schools. And what is especially galling is that this comes after two decades of steady improvement over the past decade under Labour councils which has taken us from being one of the worst educational authorities in the country to one of the best.

At the meeting on Wednesday, the concern of parents and teachers was clear in the passion of the speakers. Many feared that arts courses would be cut back to nothing, others pointed out that recent tightening of spending had already put pressure on budgets – we heard from teachers that some schools were already asking parents to get their children to bring paper to school. How can that be something that a leading Western economy can be happy with?

There is a clear solution to this problem. The government has the money to reverse the impact of these cuts as they have announced plans to spend over £300 million on expanding grammar schools (which all the evidence shows provide worst outcomes for poorer students). This money could be transferred to existing schools to even out funding across the country: it wouldn’t require taxes to rise or other services to suffer, Ministers could just drop their unnecessary obsession with grammar schools and put all children first.  Instead, they are punishing our schools for being successful.

There is sadly little sign that the Tories are listening. None of their Lambeth councillors bothered to attend the meeting and local Tories have actually supported these cuts. In contrast, dozens of Labour councillors were at the meeting, which also heard from Lambeth Labour leader Lib Peck and local MP Helen Hayes, as well as receiving a message of support from Streatham MP Chuka Umunna. As all the Labour representatives at the meeting said, we are fighting these cuts: we are putting pressure on ministers, we are raising awareness through leaflets and door knocking, and we have a petition that has already ratcheted up more than 850 signatures (please sigh here!).

I strongly believe that this government can be persuaded to change its mind. Last year a campaign by councils like Lambeth forced the scrapping of plans for the forced academisation of schools. Given the passion I saw in Sunnyhill this week, I have no doubt that if parents, teachers and councillors work together we can end this serious threat that is putting the future of local children at risk.

 

Paul Gadsby

Councillor for Vassall ward

Schools cuts: Government must start listening to Lambeth’s parents and teachers

This week saw one of Lambeth’s best attended public meetings of recent years, focused on one of the biggest threats facing the borough: huge planned government cuts to local school...

Councillor Claire Holland, Lambeth Deputy Cabinet Member for Schools, blogs on proposed Tory cuts to schools and the upcoming public meeting against them.

Two years ago David Cameron visited Kingsfield School in Enfield to talk about the Conservative election manifesto and its commitments on education. He said: “I can tell you with a Conservative government, the amount of money following your child into school will not be cut.”

That cast iron promise, repeated throughout the election, has turned out to be one of the many pledges that the Tories have abandoned with breathtaking arrogance. Their proposed new funding formula will see a very real and dramatic cut to schools, with a particularly devastating impact here in Lambeth. Under the formula, 70% of London schools will receive less funding. And Lambeth is set to be the biggest loser alongside 4 other inner London authorities. The National Audit Office estimates that due to these proposals and increased costs, schools will face an effective cut of £3 billion. The National Union of Teachers estimates that Lambeth schools will see a real terms cut of 16%. This equates to an average loss of over £550 per pupil – a staggeringly high figure. Some schools will suffer more: if your child attends Lilian Baylis for example, the estimate is a loss of £1024.00 per pupil.

This will deal a devastating blow to local schools, made all the more galling given the progress we have made in the education system since 1997. Over the past 20 years, London has gone from one of the worst places in which to go to school, to the top performing area in the country. And prior to 2006, Lambeth was one of the poorest performing education authorities in the country. That has now transformed thanks to the hard work of teachers, pupils, parents and the local council: we are now in the top 10%. In fact, the most recent figures tell us that 96% of our schools are good or better and 40% are outstanding. That ranks us in the top 15 of 152 local authorities. We know that we continue to face challenges in inequality of outcomes for our poorer students, and for children of Black Caribbean and Portuguese heritage outcomes are more inconsistent than those of their peers, which is why Education and Learning is one of the four themes of the Lambeth Equality Commission chaired by the Leader of the council.

But whilst challenges remain, we should be proud of how far we have come. Successive Labour governments from 1997 to 2010 invested in education, education, education, to support teaching, to raise standards across the board and to target children and communities that needed it the most. Labour created and funded a variety of innovative programmes from Education Action Zones to Children’s Centres and the London Challenge. We invested in bricks and mortar with Building Schools for the Future funding.

Most importantly, we invested in our most valuable resource: our teachers and school staff. In Lambeth, Labour embraced these reforms, whilst also ensuring we ran our services competently. For example, there is now a place at school for every child who wants one, for the fifth year running. This is in stark contrast to the 500 children who found themselves without an offer of a school place when a Tory-Lib Dem coalition last ran Lambeth. We have consolidated partnerships between our schools, within clusters, working across schools, supporting each other and sharing good practice. Our schools have worked tirelessly and have succeeded in raising attainment, for all our children, at all levels, giving our children a bright future and teaching them to love learning. A lifelong lesson for our children of which our teachers can be rightly proud.

But this imminent threat to our schools’ funding places Lambeth’s hard-fought success in jeopardy. The new formula punishes Lambeth schools for being successful. Schools are already facing increased pressures after seven years of Tory-led government (5 years propped up in coalition by the Lib Dems): ask any head teacher or chair of governors, and they will tell you their budgets are already squeezed. And now with this unnecessary and unfair cut in schools’ funding, the future is bleak. Schools are worried about redundancies, less equipment and fewer learning resources, class sizes and the funding of additional assistance for vulnerable children. Please be in no doubt: significantly less money will be following your child into school under this government.

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Lambeth Labour utterly opposes these cuts. Last April, when the initial proposals were introduced, we launched our education campaign. Since then we have delivered thousands of leaflets, gained over 800 signatures for our petition (which can be found here) and highlighted the issue repeatedly at council meetings, as well as directly to the government. Parents and teachers have joined us in highlighting the real threat to our schools. Parents have set up a campaign group called Fair Funding for all Schools Lambeth. You can join their Facebook group and follow them on twitter @FairFundLambeth. We are joining them at a public forum bringing together parents, teachers, head teachers, governors, local politicians and residents to oppose these cuts: Wednesday 15 March at 7pm at Sunnyhhill Primary School, Sunnyhill Road, SW16 2UW. Cllr Lib Peck, Chuka Umanna MP, Helen Hayes MP and the general secretary of the NUT will be speaking alongside parents, teachers and governors. Please do come and raise your voice with ours.

Two weeks ago, Ashmole Primary School in my ward (and where I am proud to have previously served as a governor) won a London Evening Standard School Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Challenging Circumstances". This was fully deserved for their excellent work with children from a diversity of backgrounds and disadvantage, and demonstrates that our schools are first class. The award was given in person by Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Education. Yet she wants to cut Ashmole’s budget by an estimated £600 per pupil, putting at risk precisely the work for which they were being given credit.

Children in Lambeth deserve better than these broken promises - they deserve the best possible future we can give them. It is time for the government to listen to the concerns being raised from across Lambeth as well as other parts of the country: we cannot allow our children’s future to be put at risk by these ill thought out and unfair funding cuts.

Let's unite to stop government cuts to our schools

Councillor Claire Holland, Lambeth Deputy Cabinet Member for Schools, blogs on proposed Tory cuts to schools and the upcoming public meeting against them.

Thank you Madam Mayor

Let me begin by saying I am Happy to be speaking in support of our budget this evening. 

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The situation with social care is beyond a crisis. Social care is facing a cliff edge.

Since 2010 billions has been cut from the social care budget nationally.

In spite of this government’s ideological austerity policy, we have worked hard to protect our most vulnerable residents, including the elderly, disabled and those living with a long term health condition.

Whilst we are doing all we can to ensure we protect the vulnerable.

This government has chosen to ignore them.

Make no mistake, the Tories have chosen not to adequately fund social care services here in Lambeth.

There are around 4000 people receiving some form of social care support.

Disabled people representing a third of them.

You cannot discuss social care without referring to disability which this government has failed to do. A reminder of how, some of the most vulnerable can be easily forgotten.

To those who need support, social care is essentially a lifeline.   

A care worker helps someone shower in the morning or cook a hot meal.

What is happening in the social care system is representative of a wider assault on disabled people’s right to live independently.

£28bn has been cut from social security for disabled people since 2013 including cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).  

The axing of the independent living fund which helped thousands of severely disabled people live in their own homes.  

In Lambeth we are protecting our most severely disabled.

The ideological cuts have plunged thousands of disabled people deeper into poverty.

The Tories alternative budget has accepted the need to raise council tax by 3% for social care. But the extra income from council tax will not bring in anywhere near enough money to alleviate the growing pressure on social care both now and in the future.

In Lambeth, social care services are struggling because the Tory government isn’t giving us enough money  

Their budget proposes:  “Extra spending on adult social care”

However, £270,000 additional spending is a drop in the ocean compared to the pressures on adult social care, given the Conservative government has cut billions from social care, piling on pressure on the NHS, but is refusing to listen to experts and act to prevent the social care crisis.

Like central government the Tory alternative budget does not address the funding gap.

The government must provide money for social care. Their failure to act could lead to some of our most vulnerable residents facing an uncertain future. It is time for this government to act now.

Cllr Marsha de Cordova, Labour Councillor for Larkhall Ward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Social care is beyond crisis': Cllr de Cordova's full council speech

Thank you Madam Mayor Let me begin by saying I am Happy to be speaking in support of our budget this evening. 

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