Your recent report ‘Education funding talk leaves MPs encouraged’ is welcome news.
I served as a school governor at the local state schools attended by our two sons for 14 years and was actively involved in the PTAs of all those schools. I served as chairman of the West Sussex Federation of Parent and Parent Teacher Associations (WSFPPTA) for ten years.
A look into the WSCT archives will show reports and letters relating to education and of regular meetings WSFPPTA had with the county council Education Committee and director. The low comparative level of per capita education funding was always on the agenda. We regularly asked why even amongst Shire Counties, West Sussex was always at the bottom of the spending league when counties like Cheshire were near the top?
I was both delighted and amused to see that the latest large delegation of local Conservative MPs was led by Sir Nicholas Soames MP – Mid Sussex, formerly MP for Crawley. His quote that ‘It is obviously unfair that a school in one part of the country can receive over 50 per cent more funding than an identical school in another area’ struck a chord with me.
I recall an incident in London having written a fairly robust letter to the WSCT as chairman of WSFPPTA on the continued underfunding of education in West Sussex by both the Conservative-run county and Government at that time.
I was walking down Victoria Street towards Parliament in the mid-1980s when I was British Caledonian’s Government Affairs Manager. Suddenly a resonant voice boomed out along the street ‘Laurence, you were a bit unkind to the Government in your letter on education funding in the WSCT’.
I replied ‘Hello Nicholas, how are you, good to see you, but please tell me why I am wrong?’. I did not get a reply!
It is interesting that it has only taken 30 years for Sir Nicholas to catch up and finally recognise that successive administrations, almost consistently Tory in West Sussex, have failed to address the issue of the low comparative level of West Sussex education spending.
Maybe the recent reports on West Sussex schools performing comparatively badly in tests has been a wake-up call that something at last needs to be done and that funding is an issue.
The superb efforts of our teachers can only stretch so far but the consequence has been that probably four generations of pupils in West Sussex have potentially had their education compromised.
Not a record that Sir Nicholas or his colleagues should be proud of.
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