Schools campaigners and politicians were of one mind when they met at County Hall to share the message ‘save our schools’.
Supporters of the Save Our Schools West Sussex campaign hoisted placards as they appealed for their councillors to “start listening now” to the call for better, fairer funding for the county’s schools.
West Sussex is one of the lowest-funded local authorities in the country – a fact that will not change with the introduction of the National Funding Formula (NFF) in April 2018 – and lack of money has already forced headteachers to cut staff and resources.
They have even warned they may have to reduce the school week to four days in an attempt to save money.
Campaign organiser Vicki Wells said: “Schools now have to reduce numbers of teaching assistants, lab technicians, supporting staff who make our schools amazing.
“What happens to working parents if schools can’t afford to stay open for five days a week? What happens in the winter if the school boiler breaks down?
“Class sizes are increasing, teaching assistants are being reduced through redundancies, and schools are not able to fill vacancies. Losing support staff, particularly counselling and pastoral care who help pupils struggling with mental health issues, is unforgivable when the government talks about improving mental health treatment for our young people.
“It’s time for parents to step up and say ‘enough’. We all now have a fight on our hands to make sure that every child gets the best education possible.”
Louise Goldsmith, leader of the county council has long supported the call for fairer school funding. In September she wrote to Justine Greening, secretary of state for education, warning a ‘perfect storm’ of funding pressures and government policy changes would have a damaging effect on the county’s schools and children’s learning.
After chatting with campaigners on Tuesday (May 16), Mrs Goldsmith said fair funding was “absolutely right for our children”.
She added: “We know we are right the way down in the league for that, so of course we want to give children the best start in life – that’s all our children – and education is very much a part of that, as well as love and support from families.
“Of course, we will keep campaigning to ensure that we really want to get this money in for our children in West Sussex.”
Worthing mum Jane Nash said: “I’m really alarmed by the lack of money going into schools across the country but West Sussex in particular.
“I feel like, as a parent, it’s my duty to stand up and say something and make sure that on a national level and local level people know it’s a priority and keep it at the forefront of their minds.”
Mum-of-two Gwen Bennett added: “I can’t see how they can make any more savings. I’m the chair of the Bosham School Association, so I do all the fundraising for the school and it’s really hard, it’s really tough. A lot of the parents put in already – they support the school – but they’re talking about four-day weeks to make savings or making parents pay for books and pens and things like that. It’s really quite a crazy situation and something needs to be done.”
Members of Save Our Schools West Sussex plan to attend a general election education hustings at St Paul’s Art’s Centre, in Worthing, at 7.30pm on Wednesday; and another at the Shoreham Centre at 8pm on Thursday May 25.
In addition, a National Class Assembly Day will be held in Worthing on Friday May 26 . At the end of the school day, parents plan pick up their banners and placards, collect their children and meet on the beach between the pier and the lido. Ms Wells said: “Bring a picnic and rug, whatever you like. Hundreds of similar events will be taking place across the country so let’s join forces and make some noise!” To find out more, log on to Facebook and search for ‘Save Our Schools West Sussex’.
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