Rossendale Free Press
Funding for our school pupils is not on the level
WHAT does Levelling Up actually mean? It was a phrase which first came into circulation in the run up to the 2019 general election, when Boris Johnson was seeking to prove there was more than just Brexit to his mission.
It built on a well-worn theme, which one of our local MPs, Jake Berry, had played a major role in.
Soon after the Tories first returned to power in 2010, then chancellor George Osborne launched the Northern Powerhouse, a string of initiatives designed to improve life in the North by making the economy up here grow faster.
Levelling Up was supposed to be about more than the Northern economy, however. It was meant to reach into areas like Rossendale, Hyndburn and places some say have been ‘left behind’ and really make a difference. But what does it mean in practice? And what should it mean?
Mr Berry sought to answer the first question in his recent column, when he celebrated the turn around in fortunes at the Valley Leadership Academy – previously known as Fearns – and the planning redevelopment funding the government has given to Whitworth High School and All Saints to update their facilities. He said: “Seeing these developments in our schools fills me with optimism that levelling up is starting to touch the lives of our next generation.”
Is it? I’d rather argue that funding decent school buildings and helping pull a school, Fearns, out of regular poor Ofsted inspections (some of which were heavily disputed by parents) is less an example of Levelling Up, more an example of what governments should be doing anyway.
Levelling Up should surely be about giving young people in our borough an equal start to people elsewhere. That needs to start with the basics, like school funding. And, even after a decade of Levelling Up/Northern Powerhouse, our youngsters are being short changed.
The government’s own data says the average high school pupil has £5,874 spent on them, up 1% yearon-year, so below inflation, so effectively a real-term cut in what gets spent on education year-on-year.
Haslingden High School pupils get £5,454 – so £400 less than the national average. At Alder Grange it is £5,674 – £200 less. Whitworth gets £5,714 – £100 less. Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School gets £5,303, over £500 less than the national average. The Valley Leadership Academy gets more – £6,383 (about £500 per pupil more), and All Saints gets £5,925 – around £50 more than the national average.
For some reason, high school pupils in Darwen get up to £2,000 each more spent on them than pupils here in Rossendale – with one school getting £7,535
per pupil, another £7,138. Who’d have thought the first Levelling Up job in Rossendale and Darwen would be to level up spending in Bacup with spending in Darwen?
It’s a similar story at primary schools too, where the average is £4,582 per pupil. But at Haslingden Primary it is £4,295. At
Helmshore Primary School is is £4,142. Crawshawbooth Primary £4,168. Rawtenstall St Paul’s £4,185. Britannia Primary £4,163. Waterfoot Primary £4,259 - the list goes on. There are some schools above the national average, but why only some? And why, again, do primary schools in Darwen
seem generally better funded than ones here in Rossendale?
If Levelling Up is about giving young people the best chance in life, surely the first act is to ensure every child in Rossendale has as much spent on them as the national average? It would seem we’re a long way from that.