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New Tory Leader Denies Crisis in School Funding

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At Full Council last night the new Tory Council Leader, Cllr Paul Hodgins, refused to support Labour Councillor Jennifer Churchill’s motion acknowledging a funding crisis in Richmond’s schools.

Councillor Churchill’s motion, backed by the Lib Dems, stated “This Council acknowledges a funding crisis in its education services, and calls on the Cabinet to hold emergency talks with its Conservative colleagues in Government to commit to the funding necessary: to meet its statutory obligations in SEND education, school improvement, and Early Years provision; and to avoid desperate measures across all our schools including shortening the school day and losing essential members of staff. “

The Tories put an amendment which removed the word crisis, or any mention of Early Years or School Improvement.

Cllr Churchill said: “Initially schools were protected from austerity, but this ended in 2015. A decision was made to freeze Per Pupil Funding until 2019, which was, according to the Financial Times at the time, equivalent to a 7% real terms cut. Richmond borough’s schools are set to lose the equivalent of 249 teachers – £432 per pupil per year. Other parents like me will have received letters from their school asking them for financial contributions – it is a regression back to the 19th century. This was a key issue in the General Election, and the issue has not been resolved.

“The crisis spreads wide. The news is bad for those with special educational needs. A recent Achieving for Children (AfC) survey found that less than one in three headteachers across Richmond and Kingston feel that they are fully delivering support specified in EHCPs and statements. The problem, according to those heads, is a lack of funding.

“The Borough is also nowhere close to being able to meet the new requirement from this September to ensure all 3 and 4 year olds receive 30 hours of free Early Years Education. There has been no capital investment to expand the space in school-attached nurseries, and no revenue support offered to private providers.

“This week, the Education Secretary wavered in her resolve, indicating that she wanted the Government to tear up its manifesto, still barely weeks old – and commit the funds necessary to avoid any further cuts to per pupil funding.  I was hoping the Council would do everything thing in its power to support her in this desire, and support our schools. Sadly I was disappointed. “  

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