Wolverhampton MP criticises education funding cuts

MP for Wolverhampton North East, Emma Reynolds, in her office.

By Charlotte Bentley

A Wolverhampton MP has criticised the government for making cuts to education services and insists she will continue to apply pressure to protect current funding levels.

Emma Reynolds, MP for Wolverhampton North East, said the cuts ‘don’t make sense’ and it is important to invest in young people across the country in colleges, schools or nurseries.

She said: “It doesn’t make any sense to me at all that the government had cut the education budget.

“They claim they haven’t cut it by much but per pupil funding has been cut by 4%, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

“Further Education is the biggest loser of all the education cuts and funding has effectively been frozen for at least the last five years.

“I feel particularly passionate about that because I think it’s wrong to say we value kids who stay on at school more than we value kids go who on to college.”

Speaking from her Wolverhampton office, Mrs Reynolds said what is on offer at college’s can be more expensive than that at schools – so cutting the FE budget contradicts the government’s claim of valuing vocational education as much as academic education.

“If you think of the Wellington Road site of City of Wolverhampton College, you can go and learn how to do plumbing there,” she added.

“But setting up plumbing teaching facilities is much more expensive than teaching English Literature – yet they are still being given less per pupil than schools are.

“We live in an incredibly competitive world. We’ve got China, India, Brazil, all these up and coming economies and what we need to be doing now is investing in our young people because unless we have the skills and the education, we won’t be able to attract the investment.”

Mrs Reynolds claimed the government cuts are so severe, it is not just colleges that are under pressure, schools are struggling as well.

She said schools are taking on more and more pupils and also having to take on social security costs – sorting out national security, pensions, and also part of the teacher’s salary increase.

She added that some primary schools in her constituency have had to lay off teachers and teaching assistants because of the squeeze on their budgets.

The mother of one – who’s second baby is due in June  – is also concerned about the future of maintained nursery schools which are under a government review.

She said: “They are different to private nurseries because they are set up as schools, so they have a head teacher, deputy head and a special educational needs teacher as well.

“They are treated by the Ofsted system as a school but treated by the funding system as a nursery. So, they are this weird anomaly in terms of funding.

“However, 100% of them are rated either outstanding or good schools and I’ve got three of them in my constituency.

“They are able to provide care and education in those early years in a way that other settings are not. Particularly, for those kids who may have a disability or autism or who fall into the special education needs category so I’m really passionate about protecting their funding.”

Mrs Reynolds is demanding greater clarity about what is going to happen to funding for these nurseries as the current rate is only protected until the summer of 2020.

“The government says they are reviewing the value for money of these schools because they do cost more than normal nurseries as they’ve got this school type system in place,” she added.

“But a lot of them took over Sure Start children centre buildings which were closed because of funding.

“So actually, a lot them are doing the role that a Sure Start children’s centre was originally set up to do – they are adding value in areas where they are needed so I’m hoping that we can keep up the pressure on the government because there is still a big question mark on whether they will get funding past July 2020.”

Mrs Reynolds addressed these issues in a speech to parliament at the end of February this year, as she lobbied for increased funding for all education services.

She said: “You’ve got to ensure money is going to the right places – especially at a time when actually, as an economy, we need to be spending as much as we possibly can on education.”