Our children and grandchildren deserve the best start in life and it is our responsibility to provide the skills they need to be successful.
A new year is a good time to reflect on our achievements, and look forward to the challenges ahead. I am pleased at the end of last year I was successful in helping to persuade the Government to reform the current unfair school funding formula.
We are lucky in our part of Suffolk to have many high quality headteachers and schools, however when it comes to funding, schools in Suffolk have historically received low funding compared to other local authorities.
The best funded areas in England on average received grants of £6,297 per pupil last year, compared with an average of just £4,208 per pupil in the most poorly funded areas.
In Suffolk, we have received only £4,362 per pupil, and this needs to change.
Different levels of funding for individual schools with similar pupil needs is arbitrary, unfair and based on a historical calculation open to political manipulation.
Currently, schools that are similar but in different parts of the country can receive different levels of financial support, despite educating children with the same needs.
I have had many meetings with headteachers and governors who have acknowledged the funding formula is unfair to rural counties like Suffolk.
I believe that the funding of schools should be fairer and more transparent, enabling schools to meet the needs of their pupils, and at a time of spending restraint it is more important than ever that funding is allocated based on pupil need.
Extra resources should clearly follow those pupils who need extra support, such as pupils from poorer backgrounds. The distribution of funding is not fair, and that’s why I am pleased to have played a role in its change.
For some time now I have been pushing the Government to deliver a fairer school funding formula as a member of the f40 group, which represents a group of the lowest funded education authorities in England where government-set cash allocations for primary and secondary pupils are the lowest in the country.
For Suffolk, reform means an additional £178.06 for every pupil in Suffolk.
I was delighted the Chancellor George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement the government accepted our fairer funding formula proposal.
I then presented the petition on behalf of schools and pupils in Central Suffolk and North Ipswich to Parliament.
I am delighted 362 people signed the petition in Central Suffolk and North Ipswich and I am enormously grateful to everybody who has taken the time to get involved. This underlines how much people want a fairer deal for our children and grandchildren.
I attended many local Christmas events during the festive season and I was delighted to join everyone in Mendham for the Festival of Wreaths and Angels held at All Saints’ Church. The event raised over £1,000 and I am pleased to be displaying the lovely wreath I bought at the Festival on my front door at Christmas.
I would like to wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2016.