Peterborough’s ‘fantastic’ schools suffering from £22m funding cut, says shadow education secretary Angela Rayner

Peterborough’s “fantastic” schools are suffering from £22 million of funding cuts, according to the shadow education secretary.

Tuesday, 21st May 2019, 4:06 pm

Labour’s Angela Rayner visited Gladstone Primary Academy in Bourges Boulevard yesterday afternoon (Monday) alongside parliamentary candidate Lisa Forbes ahead of the by-election in Peterborough on June 6.

The pair were given a tour of the academy building by Year 6 representatives from the Combined Cadet Force, before joining a Year 4 maths lesson.

Ms Rayner was full of praise for the academy, insisting: “The school is an absolute credit to Peterborough. There was an environment and culture of learning and respecting each other.”

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Simon Martin, Angela Rayner and Lisa Forbes with academy pupils
Simon Martin, Angela Rayner and Lisa Forbes with academy pupils

However, she said the “fantastic” work going on at schools across Peterborough is at risk from a loss of £22 million in funding since 2015, with headteachers telling her they are also spending more of their budget on non-teaching requirements.

She said: “It’s becoming more difficult as budgets are being cut.

“Teacher recruitment and retention is difficult in Peterborough and other areas. We want a real term increase in spending for teachers to direct them into those areas.

“Parents want kids to go to the best schools.

Lisa and Angela speaking to pupils

“Schools should be sharing best practice, but under the Conservatives they have become more insular.”

Ms Rayner said she wanted to see more qualified teachers, and for them to be given more time for personal development with less admin to carry out.

Peterborough has come second bottom in the Year 6 SATs results for the past three years, with a review into the city’s education two years ago stating there was a “unique set of challenges” due to high levels of migration.

Asked whether being one of the most multi-cultural cities made it harder for Peterborough’s schools to rise up the league tables, Mr Rayner said: “It comes with advantages as well as some challenges. Where you have a particularly challenging area we should be able to identify the challenge and put in more resources.

“If English as an additional language is a big barrier you need more support staff to help them catch up, but under the Tories we’ve lost 1,100 Sure Start programmes.

“We should not have to wait until pupils suffer with their results.

“Peterborough does benefit from having a multi-cultural society but it can be frustrating if the support is not there.

“We’re letting the children down and the whole community - it could be that person will come up with the cure for cancer or their mind has the technology which will support problems around climate change, but we couldn’t bring the best out of them.”

Ms Forbes said: “Education is a silver bullet and children in Peterborough are being badly let down.

“This Conservative Government is failing our children and our teachers. In some of the areas of our city with the highest levels of child poverty, resources for our schools have been cut to the bone.

“Parents I speak to at the school gates and around the city are angry – understandably so. We have to reverse this decline. If I’m elected I will never stop fighting for the children of Peterborough and fair funding for our schools.”

The two Labour politicians met with the academy’s teachers and leaders to discuss best practice from across the school and issues facing the education sector in Peterborough, including teacher recruitment and mobility.

Simon Martin, director of primaries at the Thomas Deacon Education Trust and headteacher at Gladstone Primary Academy, said: “We were thrilled to have the opportunity to show Angela and Lisa all the fantastic and innovative teaching and learning that goes on at Gladstone Primary Academy and within our multi-academy trust, Thomas Deacon Education Trust.

“The round table conversation with staff was an excellent opportunity for us to share our successes and the solutions we’ve put in place to combat barriers facing many schools in Peterborough. I was pleased that there was a genuine interest in what we all had to say and I would like to thank Angela and Lisa for taking the time to visit us.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Since 2017, we have given every local authority more money for every pupil in every school, while allocating the biggest increases to the most underfunded.

“Under the national funding formula, funding for schools in Peterborough has increased by 2.3 per cent per pupil this year, compared to 2017/18, which amounts to an extra £12.5 million when rising pupil numbers are taken into account.

“Standards in our schools are rising: the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers has narrowed since 2011; the proportion of pupils in good or outstanding schools has increased since 2010; and our primary school children have achieved their highest ever score on international reading tests.

“The Secretary of State has made clear that as we approach the next spending review, he will back head teachers to have the resources they need to deliver a world class education in the years ahead.”

All of the candidates in the by-election can be found here.