As a former schools Governor and as a mother, I have always taken a close interest in schools and education policy, at a local and national level. I know as an employer, it is vital we make sure our children are prepared for their future working life. That is why my aim is to ensure all schools, colleges, students, teachers and parents feel I have their best interests at heart.
Within my first year, I have visited almost half of all schools- nursery, primary, secondary, colleges and specialist- within my constituency. This is essential in order to understand the successes, challenges and opportunities for schools within my constituency. I want to see more opportunities for our young people to access high level, high quality education and apprenticeships. I am and will continue to work hard to bring businesses closer to both the young people and the institutions so that a better flow of what is wanted from industry and business is understood by all.
At the start of 2016 when the Government was in consultation upon plans to transition every school into an academy school by 2020, I was hugely concerned this programme would be more detrimental than helpful. Throughout the period, I met repeatedly with Nicky Morgan, the then Secretary of State for Education to raise my concerns as well as meeting with Tim Coulson, Regional Schools Commissioner to discuss the impact of the proposals on schools within Suffolk and my Bury St Edmunds constituency.
My concerns were around the potential for the plans to be overly prescriptive in one model of schooling, disregarding the variet of student talent whether in the vocational or academic sphere. Furthermore, rural schools would have been unfairly disadvantaged with plans to create Multi Academy Trusts (MATs), in comparison to urban schools which tend to have a higher intake, be closer toghether and find funding from sponsors more easily.
I applaud the focus in delivering educational excellence, however, I seriously doubted the efficacy of the programme. Many schools, whether an academy or not, already deliver an excellent education and offer choice within teh system. Plans to impose the measure on all schools, in my mind, were not the right thing to do.
That is why I am delighted this government has listened over the academy schools programme and put the interests of rural schools into their decision making. I will continue to defend the interest of rural schools which, comparatively, tend to struggle to deliver provisions.
Fairer funding for Suffolk schools
I have been active in fighting for fairer funding in schools, which impacts schools in my Bury St Edmunds constituency. In November 2015, I was among a handful of MPs who presented petitions signed by schools in my constituency, calling for this unfairness to be addressed.
There has been widespread recognition that the way schools are currently funded is unfair and out of date. the belief is that inconsistencies in the funding lead to a system where schools with similar characteristics can have funding disparities of up to 100%. Suffolk is currently in the lowest 25% of schools in receipt of fair funding and on average, each pupil receives £260 less than the national average for funding. Research shows that across the ten best funded areas, there is an average grant received on £6,300 per pupil per year, compared with an average of just £4,200 per pupil in the most poorly funded areas. Our schools in Suffolk currently receive just £4,260, falling well short of the regional and national average.
Myself and around 39 other colleagues with schools affected by this disparity, have been instrumental in driving forward an awareness and commitment from the Government. The delivery of a fairer funded system is under review and in June 2016, the Fairer Funding campaign won alterations to the provisional local government funding settlement, alleviating the disproportionate impact of spending reductions on our local areas for the next two years.