Hitchin MP Bim Afolami hails £1.3bn frontline school spending – but Stevenage Borough Council leader slams funding as ‘magic money tree’ cash

Hitchin and Harpenden conservative candidate Bim Afolami speaks to The Comet's Layth Yousif. Picture

Hitchin and Harpenden conservative candidate Bim Afolami speaks to The Comet's Layth Yousif. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

Hitchin MP Bim Afolami has welcomed Monday’s announcement from education secretary Justine Greening that the core budget will be increased for schools across the UK.

The additional £1.3 billion funding proposed by the government will mean an increase in the basic amount that schools will get for every pupil and protect funding for those with specific needs.

The government says every local authority will be in a position to give schools a cash increase through the new formula.

But it has faced criticism because the cash will come from other areas of education spending including from a once flagship free school programme and from funds previously set aside to set up new grammar schools.

Mr Afolami, said: “I personally lobbied the Treasury and Education Secretary for this change, as a direct result of meeting, speaking to, and listening to primary and secondary school heads in Hitchin and Harpenden over the last few weeks since being elected.

“I am delighted that the Government has listened to me and several other Conservative MPs, who have worked hard for this increased funding, which will make sure that budgets will increase, per pupil, in real terms.”

He added: “I want to take the opportunity to thank our teachers for all the work they do.

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They are stars, and they deserve our praise and support,” but he did concede the additional funds come largely from efficiency savings from other areas of educational spending so do not represent an increase in real terms.

Some say the cash will deliver the biggest improvement to the school funding system for more than a decade.

However Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor who ran as a Labour candidate for Stevenage in the recent general election, said her party had long been calling for increased funding.

She said: “It’s nice to see Justine Greening find £1.3bn down the back of her magic money sofa – even if it’s unclear whether this is a one-off or whether it’s money given on an annual basis.

“We have been busy urging Tory county councillors on the urgency of the schools’ funding crisis.

“At the Stevenage hustings meeting during the General Election campaign – which our MP Conservative Steven McPartland shamefully declined to attend – there were three main issues raised about the growing schools funding crisis.

“The first was that a pupil asked: When will I have a science teacher again?

“The teacher had left the industry after becoming disillusioned with the cuts. It brought home the point that what we need is inspiring teachers – but this money will not help attract new talent to the industry with the current pay cap in place.

“Secondly, I’ve met a special education needs co-ordinator who’s been in tears because she doesn’t have enough money to do her job properly – again, this money will not help people like her.

“Thirdly, I know of schools who have to put buckets in corridors when it rains because there is no money for the upkeep of facilities – this money won’t address dilapidated schools.

“Quite simply it is the political choice of the government to underfund education by deciding they do not require extra funding.

“Labour wants to support head teachers in North Herts because school’s need proper consultation of urgent funding.”

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