‘Scandalous’: Parents and politicians speak out on £31.4m funding cuts to Redbridge schools

The panel of speakers at Redbridge Town Hall, speaking on school cuts and academisation. Picture: Im

The panel of speakers at Redbridge Town Hall, speaking on school cuts and academisation. Picture: Imogen Braddick - Credit: Archant

The shadow education secretary, MP Angela Rayner, has branded £31.4million of funding cuts to schools in Redbridge “scandalous” and voiced her support for parents and teachers in the borough in the fight against forced academisation.

Parents, teachers and community members came out to hear what leaders had to say on cuts to schools

Parents, teachers and community members came out to hear what leaders had to say on cuts to schools in Redbridge. Picture: Imogen Braddick - Credit: Archant

The shadow education secretary was among a number of speakers at a public meeting at Redbridge Town Hall on Wednesday, July 10.

Union representatives, parents and the leader of council gave speeches to an audience of parents, teachers and community members.

Ms Rayner said: "The government promised that they would give our children and schools better opportunities.

"They have stolen that away from you. They have hoodwinked you.

"They stole from our most vulnerable and left our children with special education needs without the support they need."

Redbridge schools lost £31.4m in funding, an average of £220 per pupil, between 2015 and 2019. Loxford School alone has lost out on £3.7m - £541 per pupil.

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Ms Rayner said: "Our young people have never been so damaged by the system that we're in. Mental health issues up, communities upset, young people feeling not good enough, and that's not good enough.

"It's scandalous - the most vulnerable children not getting the support that they deserve. And it's not by accident."

Commenting on the problems with academisation, Ms Rayner said: "Lots of money that we need desperately has gone to chief executives at the top and has been taken away from our children - it's scandalous and it has to stop.

"And this is at a time when teachers are having to give children food because they are rummaging through bins to get food.

"You can change it. You already have, you have made such a difference. The message to parents is that you have my support."

Vicky Taylor, former teacher and parent of a child at Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School in Wanstead which is facing academisation, said: "This is massive because it's not just a school, it's a community.

"People are scared to stand up because they might not get their children into the school. It's disgraceful. It's in our culture to stick together, but sticking together is not what's happening. Parents have not been told anything. We keep being met with silence. We have had to take legal action, just to get the meaningful consultation."

Sam Tarry, a former governor in Chadwell Heath and president of Centre for Labour and Social Studies, has been on the losing side of academisation.

He said: "Education should not be a commodity, but a system that ensures communities have local democratic control, and promotes the values of justice, hope and solidarity in our future generations."

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, spoke about how teachers are coping with increasing numbers of children in poverty.

"We now have a situation, in the fifth richest country in the world, where the number of children entering poverty is growing," she said.

"When you have poorer children, they need better support services and they need schools to do more for them. So we now see schools with washing machines, breakfast clubs, taking home packed dinners.

"As austerity bites the children, schools need more resources, not less."

Commenting on academisation, she said: "If a school joins a multi-academy trust, it loses its independent existence, loses its right to have its own staffing, budget, and as parents you have no say in what happens to your child if they are illegally expelled, or if special needs aren't met."

Leader of Redbridge Council, Jas Athwal, told the audience: "We are a model of how a local authority puts cooperation and collaboration in front of competition, supporting our schools as part of the local authority family. Ninety-three per cent of schools here are outstanding or good.

"We provide a space for schools to come together, work together and learn from each other, and when schools run into problems, we shoot out there straight away to support them, because our children matter to us.

"We are all in this together."

Academies minister, Lord Theodore Agnew, told the Recorder: "It is nonsense to suggest that the academies programme is, according to Angela Rayner, not fit for purpose.

"We are improving education for all children regardless of background - the latest figures show that 85per cent of children are in good or outstanding schools, compared to just 66pc in 2010. This is in part down to our reforms, including more than half a million pupils in sponsored academies that typically replaced underperforming schools.

"The reforms of the last nine years show that autonomy and freedom in the hands of excellent leaders and outstanding teachers can deliver an excellent education. Opponents to academisation place the interests and future of children at the bottom of their list of grievances.

"The education secretary has also been very 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."