The education of the children of Sunderland is critical to the future of our city – yet Government policies have left schools at crisis point.
Teachers are leaving the profession in droves; in the North East more than 500 have left in the past year, including around 80 in Sunderland.
Many cite excess workload or stress, others fall victim to budget cuts.
Heads have faced real-term cuts of eight per cent in per-pupil funding since 2010, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. Fundraising by parents is now crucial to survival in many schools.
Indeed, every single one of the senior schools in my constituency faces losing tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of pounds from their budgets over the next few years.
These cuts make a mockery of the “little extra” that chancellor Philip Hammond promised for schools in his recent budget. Genuine investment is needed, not just a one-off hand out.
In real terms, teachers are also thousands of pounds worse off than they were in 2010 – despite, according to international research, having one of the highest workloads in the world.
This is quite clearly unfair – which is why I questioned the Education Minister in Parliament last week about why he is still imposing a real-terms pay cut on most teachers.
Sadly, he did not promise any help. Instead, he insisted school funding had been protected and that plans by the Government to investigate ‘excessive work-loads’ should help retain teachers.
This is just not enough. Our schools are facing a multitude of cuts. They need proper funding, and proper support, not just a bit of cash for ‘little extras.’ That offer was an insult.
A stark north/south divide in educational attainment at 16 – particularly for disadvantaged pupils – has already been highlighted by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership this year.
These results are creating a skills shortage for employers and, as co-chair of the Northern Powerhouse All Party Parliamentary Group, I would like to see more support for our region.
Our children deserve a top-class education. It is time that the Government prioritised the children of the Sunderland – and their futures. Education is a crisis point and action is urgently needed.