Burnley MP Julie Cooper column: Funding cuts to education leaving teachers under immense pressure
Many of you will know that as a former teacher, school governor, parent and grandparent I strongly believe that every child and young person has the right to a decent education and training; beginning in the early years and continuing through the primary and secondary years and into Further and Higher Education.
With this in mind I was really pleased that after a very long campaign, this week that the Government announced vital extra funding for Maintained Nursery Schools.
Burnley and Padiham has eight of these and, whilst the additional funding is nowhere near enough and does not represent long term sustainable funding, it does at least mean that the threat of imminent closure has for the time being been removed.
On a separate but connected subject I was really saddened to get confirmation of the closure of the Little Acorns Nursery at the Chai Centre.
This independent nursery has provided excellent child care services since 2004 and will be sorely missed by local people.
Staff and trustees have done everything in their power and every efficiency saving that could be made has been made but sadly the Government’s unwillingness to fully fund the so called 30 hours of ‘free’ childcare has left them with no choice but to move to closure.
This is a situation that is occurring right across the constituency and is a backward step to say the least.
The Government regularly boasts about introducing 30 hours of free childcare but the fact is it the funding provided for this is woefully inadequate.
We also hear constantly that our schools are getting increased funding but figures released this week show that 94% of all our schools in Burnley and Padiham have had their funding reduced and overall funding has been reduced from £5,745 per pupil in 2015 to £5,392 in 2018.
This is placing teachers and governors under incredible pressure and is leading to big classes and a reduced curriculum. It is really clear that our children are paying the price of the Conservative’s refusal to adequately fund state education.
Back in constituency I have had a busy and interesting weekend. On Friday evening I attended the annual General meeting of the Pennine Community Credit Union.
We are really lucky in Burnley to have such a very strong credit union. Each year the number of members increase and local people enjoy the benefits of ethical savings and affordable loans.
The credit union really does bridge the gap between people and finance and keeps money within the community. If you aren’t already a member, I recommend that you consider joining.
Don’t take my word for it call in at the brand new office on St James Street where the friendly and efficient staff will be happy to advise you on the range of services available.
On Saturday I held a very busy constituency advice surgery followed by an important meeting with care support workers employed by the private company AFG.
The whole issue of social care is one of the scandals of our time. In England there over a million people with unmet care needs.
We spend less on social care than any comparable nation and we have a dire shortage of care workers.
This shortage of staff is really not surprising considering the dreadful way these workers are treated.
In spite of the fact that they fulfil a vital role caring the chronically ill, the disabled and the elderly they are amongst the lowest paid workers in the country.
They work for minimum pay, get no pay for travelling between visits and shockingly where they are needed for a so called ‘sleep in’ shift they are paid even less.
Quite scandalously no account is taken of their expertise, their compassion and their extraordinary dedication. The workers I met had taken the very difficult decision to take strike action in protest at their company’s decision to cut their pay for ‘sleep in’ shifts.
Government action to address these really important issues is urgently needed. If they continue to withhold funding more people will go without care, it will be harder than ever to recruit and retain care workers and inevitably the demand on an overstretched health service will increase significantly.
People are suffering, staff are treated abysmally and the whole social care service is in crisis. The question is how bad does it have to get before the Government acts? The long awaited green paper has already been delayed for two years and still we don’t know when it will be published.
On Sunday morning I was pleased to attend St Leonard’s church in Padiham for a special service to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the ‘new’ church.
The service was led by the. Rev. Mark Jones and special guest, Bishop Julian Henderson delivered an interesting sermon to a packed congregation.
This fine church has a personal significance for me: seventy years ago my late grandfather worked at the church fulfilling various duties which included grave digging and assisting with Sunday services – not a glamorous role but good honest hard work.
Putting modern life into a historical perspective, it is clear that so many of the important things in life don’t change: people still strive economically to make ends meet, community life provides a strong foundation for family life and religious faith gives hope to many in difficult times.
Later on Sunday I was pleased to accept an invitation visit the Masjid Ibrahim mosque in Clegg Street as part of a national initiative to promote cross faith understanding and community harmony.
The event provided a useful exhibition and presentation about the faith of Islam and visitors had the opportunity to observe prayers. This mosque has long played a leading role in the excellent Building Bridges Programme aimed at promoting community cohesion.
My next MP’s surgery will be on Saturday from 10am - noon in Sainsbury’s cafe, Burnley.
No appointments are necessary and people attending will be seen on a first come first served basis.
Alternatively email me at [email protected] or call 01282 425744.
The constituency office opens Mon-Fri from 10am - 4pm (half day Tuesday) where my staff will do their best to assist you and keep me informed of the issues you raise.