Voters in Lambeth had the opportunity this week to question candidates standing for election on 8th June about their views on education, thanks to the work of local parents. The Fair Funding for Lambeth Schools campaign organised a Fair Funding Picnic on Streatham Common as part of the school funding campaign day of action, giving people the chance to speak to parliamentary candidates about their views on education.
This is particularly important as more details have emerged in the last few days of the choice on offer on education in this election. The highly-respected Institute for Fiscal Studies has analysed all the main parties’ manifestoes and made clear that only Labour will invest in education and our children’s future. In particular, they highlight that the Conservative plans “could spell further cuts to already struggling schools after the General Election”.
It comes as no surprise, considering the Conservatives’ record of cutting school funding and obsessing about school structures rather than driving up standards in our schools. In particular, their plans to cut up to £24 million from education in Lambeth has rightly caused outrage among parents, teachers and local residents. Since April 2016, we have been campaigning against these plans to cut funding for local schools. We have been clear that this would put at risk the huge progress made by Lambeth schools in the last decade, concerns shared by hundreds of parents, teachers and local residents. One of the largest public meetings in the country about this issue was held in Streatham in March (pictured) and over 1,000 people have signed Lambeth Labour’s petition against the government’s changes.
Last week, they finally caved in to pressure and offered some money for schools in the manifesto. But, as the IFS makes clear, this is far short of the money needed to ensure per pupil funding is protected, and it comes alongside cuts to free school lunches for working families. We also know what Conservative manifesto pledges on this issue really mean: David Cameron promised to protect the money following each child into school just two years ago, only to introduce huge cuts to the funding for schools after he’d won the election.
The government has repeatedly defended its policy, arguing that taking and spreading funding around the country is a fairer way to fund education. Yet we firmly believe that funding should be levelled up, not levelled down, and that we should be investing in our children’s education.
This view isn’t shared by the local Conservatives, who have continuously supported these deep cuts and who declined to turn up to the recent public meeting to answer for that support. Indeed, the Conservative leader in Lambeth criticised the parent-led campaign for highlighting this issue, despite repeatedly getting his own figures on the cuts wrong.
The pattern is now being repeated with Conservative candidates refusing to attend hustings events, showing their contempt for local voters - they want our votes but refuse to answer questions about how they would vote on this issue in Parliament if they were elected.
Only Labour has consistently opposed these cuts, campaigning throughout the last year in our local communities, working with schools and parents, gathering signatures from local people and raising awareness of the impact they will have on Lambeth children. In contrast, the Greens and Liberal Democrats have been silent about this crucial issue. A Labour government in Westminster will fully fund education and our parliamentary candidates in Lambeth have consistently campaigned in Parliament to protect our local schools.
Please do make sure you take the opportunity to speak to local candidates about this issue and make clear to them how important this issue is to our children’s future. And on 8th June, I urge you to vote for a party that will invest in their education and protect our local schools.
Councillor Claire Holland
Deputy Cabinet Member for Schools