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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

Focus will be on saving our schools

I MUST say, whatever you may read in the press about falling standards in our schools, whenever I attend an event at one of the schools in this area I am so impressed by the results that are achieved and the hard work put in by both pupils and staff.

Tim Farron
Tim Farron

I particularly admire the staff for their dedication to their work in the face of what must seem like continual interference and criticism from politicians and the media.

The latest kick dished out to teachers has been the announcement by Cumbria County Council that some schools could see their budgets cut by over 30 per cent over the coming two to three years.

As you may have read in the Evening Mail the government is trying to simplify the way that it funds schools by reducing the number of factors that local authorities can take into consideration when deciding how to divide up the money they can give out from 37 to 11.

The aim in doing this is to make the decision making more transparent, which is probably a good thing. However, yet again they are not being helped by Cumbria County Council.

The council announced their proposed response to the changes this week and started a consultation that will only last four weeks. Other councils started to think about the issues months ago.

The key problem is that under the fairness criteria it is smaller rural schools who suffer most. The county council claims that up to 32 schools may close under their proposals. We have many excellent small local schools that are at the hearts of their communities and the risk of them closing will be yet another blow to the populations they serve. Taking us further down the road to a situation where the only people who can practically live in rural areas are the very wealthy and the retired. If you go to the Evening Mail website at www.nwemail.co.uk and follow the links you can see which schools will be most adversely affected by the proposals.

It seems to me that this is yet another example of central government in London failing to understand that the costs attached to running schools or hospitals in cities cannot be assumed to be the same as those for running them in rural areas, in this they have not been helped by our County Council.

I have contacted Nick Clegg and asked for a meeting with the Department of Education, they in turn have asked for the council to provide the figures so they can understand what the issues are before they act.

This will be my major focus over the next few months we simply cannot afford for good local schools to close.

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