Kerry McCarthyMP Main Page: Kerry McCarthy (Labour - Bristol East)
Department Debates - View all Kerry McCarthy's debates with the Department for Education
(11 months, 4 weeks ago)Westminster Hall
No, if she does not mind, because Members on the hon. Lady’s side are waiting to speak. We need those experienced teachers and we must ensure that teachers are not overwhelmed so quickly that they fancy quitting the profession.
I am also worried that we will end up cutting the curriculum to the bone. Gone are the times when there would be the luxury of a peripatetic music teacher coming to schools. There simply is no latitude in schools to pay for anything other than the bare necessities. The statutory obligations on a school have to be paid for first. It also worries me that sometimes there is a reluctance to statement pupils; if a pupil is statemented, that pupil is rightly required to have additional assistance. However, a school might drag its feet in that scenario because it does not wish to be obliged to provide the extra funding.
I went to a public meeting in my constituency. It is not easy to have rocks thrown at us, but sometimes we need a rock to wake us up. It is hard to admit that schools are struggling. Schools have always been struggling; anyone who has worked in a school will say that the roof has always leaked and the windows are always awful. But there comes a point when things have to be tackled—they cannot be put off any longer. As many Members have said, robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the answer. Taking away from one set of schools to give to another set of schools that are very deserving is not the answer.
An hon. Member earlier talked earlier about the results meaning that we must be doing something right. My schools have excellent results, but that does not mean they do not need the resources. At some point, those results will start to crumble. The curriculum has shrunk down to the core topics, so perhaps those results are already sliding. When I was at school, I was passionate about art. Many young people are not academic but value those topics as much as anything; they inspire young people to go into school, and those teachers may inspire them and know how to deal with the complex needs of some youngsters who have been turned off by education.
We cannot just look at results. Value adding to a pupil means that pupil may have benefited far more from being taught in a good school than another pupil who is academically high achieving. I simply cannot accept that by looking at a set of results we can judge how well our schools are doing. We must ensure that every pupil is making the best of whatever they have to offer.
I accept that more money has gone into the system. We can all talk about how much extra there is, but Sian Kilpatrick of Bernards Heath Primary School told me that she had to write to parents to explain why she had to ask them for money: because a lot of things that used to be paid for are no longer paid for. This is the banquet I am referring to: outdoor visit risk assessments, legal and human resources advice, general maintenance costs and staff insurance. When parents send their children to school to get educated they do not expect that a teacher will have to divert money from teaching their pupils to pruning back overgrown trees in the playground that a risk assessment has identified as a problem to the pupils.
It is high time we had the six-hour debate. I do not think that views in here will change, but looking at what has been expected to be done with the money that schools have had is the only way to see whether there is enough money. If there is not, we may have to find some more.
My hon. Friend raises the point I forgot when I intervened on the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main). I remember how much respect I had for the teachers who mentored me when I first entered the profession, and how I was able to develop my teaching practice as a result. I agree with both my hon. Friend and the hon. Lady that that is now going, which is a tragedy.
The word crisis is overused in this place, for certain, but it feels very much as though the situation with school resources is a crisis. However, it is a crisis largely in disguise, for two reasons. First, headteachers and the profession as a whole are loth to get involved in what they consider to be politics, or in any way to use the children they serve and teach as pawns in a political debate. Secondly, headteachers do not want to speak about the situation quite so much, simply because, understandably, they fear competitive disadvantage.