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Parent Power Versus Post-Truth Politics At The Department For Education

30/01/2017 17:10 GMT | Updated 30/01/2017 17:10 GMT

Post-truth politics are in full effect at the Department for Education. In response to the growing clamour surrounding the biggest cuts to school funding in a generation, Ministers keep trotting out the same line; that they are spending more on education than ever before.

In response to the growing backlash against the proposed new funding formula, they continuously repeat that there must be winners and losers if historical unfairness in funding is to be remedied.

This is a way of manipulating the debate over school funding that fits in with the government's wider post-truth narrative that we don't have any money left and that in these financially difficult times, they are the moral arbiters of fairness. They seek to frame the debate by appealing to the financial insecurity being felt amongst the wider population and by constantly restating facts which are irrelevant to the argument.

Perhaps their most blatant alternative truth is their denial that there is any problem with school funding at all. Don't they know that us parents are using the schools and can see what is happening with our own eyes? Don't they know that we leave our children in the care of head teachers each day because we trust them and so, when they speak, we listen?

The quality of the government's reasoning in the school funding debate is so poor that I would expect my 10 year old daughter to fail her forthcoming SATs exams should she display such an inability to engage with the arguments before her. Of course they are spending more than ever before, the costs are the highest they've ever been, as are the pupil numbers. But the relevant fact is per pupil funding, which is in decline - a point that even Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary at the DFE conceded when grilled by the Public Accounts Committee last week.

It also isn't a necessary truth that there must be winners and losers in the funding of our schools. That is what the government would like us to believe, but it is a situation being created by an administration that simply has no desire to invest in our children's education.

All schools can and should be funded adequately for their particular circumstances and those who lobbied for a new formula (which we support) did so not on the basis that other schools were overfunded, but that theirs were underfunded. They sought to increase their funding, not decrease the funding of others.

At a time when there is chronic underfunding across the board, it serves this administration very well to set school communities against each other over the scraps. The new funding formula will solve nothing, when schools across England are facing cuts amounting to £3bn pounds by 2020.

The Fair Funding For All Schools campaign was co-founded by a coalition of parents from West Sussex, Wokingham and London. We are bringing together parents from the best funded areas and the worst funded areas to defeat the government's alternative truths on education spending.

Almost 300 parents attended our launch event in our local primary school hall last month and there was an upbeat feeling in the room as we realised the power we had as an organised and collective group of parents who refuse to take this lying down and are getting mobilised to do something about it.

We have been inundated with messages of support from parents, teachers and governors from across the country. All of whom had something to say about how cuts were hampering their schools and all of them voiced enthusiasm at the prospect of a parent-led campaign fighting back. Our campaign intention is simple: to defeat, delay or disrupt the cuts to our schools.

At a minimum we want to see the government ensure that no school in the country loses funding as a direct result of the new National Funding Formula. London Councils say it would cost £335m a year to achieve. That is less than 1 per cent of the annual schools budget. It is also less than the amount of money that has just been handed back to the Treasury following the Academisation u-turn.

But we also want to see investment in our schools. We want per-pupil funding to be protected in real-terms over the life of this parliament. We want funding that allows schools to deal with the additional costs placed on them, without losing staff, without increasing class sizes, without cutting subjects and activities, without reducing support services and without calling on parents to fund core budgets. We are one of the richest countries in the world, we can and must invest in a decent education for all our children and invest in our future.

All parents want the same thing; fair funding for their schools. That will not be achieved simply by reallocating money from a pot that simply isn't big enough. As any parent knows, if the pie on your table isn't big enough to feed your family, you'll still go hungry whichever way you slice it up.

So join our campaign, sign our petition, set up your own parent groups, spread the word - don't believe the lies, organise.