I had a brilliant time on Sunday as a judge at The Great Glossop Bake-off – a very professional baking contest organised by Dinting School PTA at the Rugby Club – with even a finalist from the Great British Bake-off as fellow judge. We had around 100 cakes to judge and Andrew’s excellent advice was to eat only 1cm of each. But it was very difficult as they were so delicious!
I could tell an enormous amount of work went into the day and I hope they raised lots of money for the school. All our schools now rely on support from their parents (and staff) for fundraising – mostly for added extras for our children, but also, increasingly, to help prop up school budgets.
That support will be needed more than ever now the government has refused to honour the pledge in the Conservative manifesto that no school would see its funding cut and the 4-year freeze on school budgets goes ahead – effectively a cut of around 10%, taking account of increasing costs.
When I met secondary headteachers from across High Peak recently, they told me they were “almost at breaking point” and begged me to fight for more school funding as they faced further rounds of staff redundancies, rising class sizes and narrowing the subjects they could offer.
At Glossopdale, capital funding allocated under a Labour County Council has meant we have a brand new school on one site and it’s great to see them moving in. I pressed for more places to be found when many children were refused a place due to the popularity of the new school and am pleased that an extra 20 places were created.
The increased numbers will mean Glossopdale can create some economies of scale and keep on more staff, but it doesn’t help that their funding is set to reduce by £217 per pupil by 2020.
However much harder our teachers and school staff work, eventually cuts affect the education of our children. I am particularly concerned at the lack of support for children with Special Educational Needs – some of whom have been highlighted in this paper, but of whom there are many, especially in Glossopdale which lacks any specialist support facilities.
I know that every school is struggling to give children with special needs the attention they require, but that it can end up being at the expense of education for the rest of the class. Schools tell me that even though they only apply for extra support for the most difficult children, the vast majority of those applications are refused by the County Council.
With no support available, schools are faced with impossible decisions on whether to keep children with special needs in a class whilst the teacher struggles and other children’s education suffers, or to very reluctantly have to exclude the children they cannot assist.
In other areas of High Peak, Enhanced Resource Centres allow children with special needs to receive some individual support, but also to mix with their peers for the parts of the curriculum they can manage, so they get to make friends, have fun as part of a large class, and all children can benefit from the education they need.
I believe that there is a need for this type of facility in Glossopdale and I will be working with local schools to make the case. Being an MP is not all about eating cake – nice as it was!