Demand better for education

The Education Select Committee report, published today, calls on the Government to commit to a 10-year, multi-billion cash injection for schools and colleges. Sitting on the Education and Culture committee, I have been horrified over the past few years by the way that the Conservative government has cut funding for schools and colleges to the bone. Funding levels have failed to keep up with spiralling costs and increased pupil numbers. 

Representing the South East of England in the European Union, I wholeheartedly support the cross party call for the Government to commit to a 10-year, multi-billion cash injection for schools and colleges.

Teachers have been forced to buy resources out of their own pockets, teaching assistants have been let go, and many schools have been forced to shut their doors early. Schools report not having enough funding to pay for textbooks, stationery and science equipment. 

Today’s report shows that MPs across all parties are not prepared to see our schools and colleges face years of continued uncertainty. Yet this is exactly what the Conservative Government has created. They have seemingly scrapped an announcement on school funding planned for this week, and have not yet told teachers how much they will be paid next year. 

As Liberal Democrats, we demand better for our children and teachers. That is why we are campaigning for an emergency cash injection into our schools and colleges, so that they have the resources teachers need to teach and pupils need to learn.

“Newbury Talks” with your MEP

Rounding off her time as co-organiser of Newbury talks, MEP Judith Bunting reflects; “I have really enjoyed meeting so many people through Newbury Talks, both the audience and speakers. The sessions have been engaging and eclectic, covering a wide variety of subjects.” Since being elected as an MEP for the South East of England, Judith’s time is now taken up with focussing on her role in the European Parliament, which officially started on Tuesday.

Sunday’s talk featured Alom Shaha
discussing ‘How to be your child’s first
science teacher’. Teacher & author
of Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder, Alom spoke about how to introduce science to children, and how parents can help their children learn using their natural curiosity about the world and taking the step from “wow!” to “how?”.

 


Attending her last session, Judith comments; “I am pleased to say that I will be sitting on the education and culture commission, and as Alom said at ‘Newbury Talks’ – science is one of our greatest cultural achievements, humans make science.”

 

Organised with Trevor Mathers, and supported by his family, Newbury Talks was established in 2016. Trevor says; “Newbury Talks has been organising free talks to educate and entertain since March 2016. In that time, we have covered an eclectic range of subjects from genetics, telling the future using crowd sourcing, making music from data, all the way through to political corruption in the UK!”


Speaking of what the future holds for Newbury Talks, Trevor explains “We are currently putting together the next programme of talks, there are some exciting things in the pipeline, watch this space.”


To keep updated with upcoming ‘Newbury Talks’ events, you can contact the team here: info@newburytalks.org.uk

 

School cuts – West Berkshire Council proposes charging schools who need help

Judith Bunting at Park House School, Newbury, during
the recent election campaign.
With Ian Millar, Head of Physics.

This week West Berkshire Council announced plans for financial “task forces” to be sent into the district’s struggling schools to help heads manage their budgets. They are also threatening to charge any school that requires ‘the task force intervention’.
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Judith Bunting, Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in Newbury, said: “This is another shockingly negative move from the Conservatives on West Berkshire Council. They present this issue as if our schools are failing, In reality, the actions of West Berkshire Council and the Conservative Government mean that many local schools have not only suffered significant cuts to their funding, but at the same time are being expected to provide more services around children’s mental health and other matters.”
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Judith continued, “West Berkshire Council should be glad to help schools doing their best to keep up standards of education under such onslaught, not chastise them and then charge them for the privilege.”
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This week, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Layla Moran told national press about the hypocrisy surrounding Justine Greening’s announcement £1.3bn of additional funding for schools. In reality, she said, this ‘additional funding’ will come from “efficiencies” from within the education budget:
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“This is a desperate attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Instead of providing the £4bn of extra funding promised in their manifesto, the Conservatives are recycling cash from the education budget. It is robbing Peter to pay Paul. Schools are still facing cuts to their budgets once inflation and increasing class sizes are taken into account.
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“Children only get one go at education. We need to invest more in our schools to ensure that no child is left behind.”
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Follow Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats on Twitter, here: @wberkslibdems

Follow Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats on Facebook, here: www.facebook.com/WestBerksLibDems

News and views from Judith Bunting can be found, here: www.judithbunting.co.uk or @JudithBuntingLD or www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury

Free school breakfasts scheme an uncosted blow to schools, families and children

The Lib Dems have warned that Tory plans to scrap free school lunches, in favour of free breakfasts, is an uncosted scheme that will put pressure on barely managing families and schools, as well as contributing to the issue of childhood obesity.

The Conservative manifesto pledges to scrap universal free school lunches for primary school pupils under seven, one of the policies the Lib Dems authored during their time in the coalition, and replace it with a scheme to provide free school breakfasts for all primary school children. Universal Free School Meals cost an estimated £600 million a year. The Tory manifesto has pledged just £60 million a year for their breakfast scheme, saying the difference will help fund school budgets.

However, the Conservatives have set aside just 6.8p per pupil for its manifesto pledge to give all primary school pupils free breakfasts, in what food experts have labelled a “black hole” in the government’s manifesto calculations.

Aisling Kirwan, the founding director of the Grub Club, a school-based social enterprise that provides cooking lessons for pupils in poorer areas, said that a nutritious meal costs 25p  per pupil on average. Even then, this is only a bowl of porridge with milk. A more filling breakfast, which would include bacon, two sausages, one egg and bread, would cost 85p per portion.

“Clearly there’s a huge disparity between the realistic costing and that put forward by the Tories,” she said.

Dr Rebecca Allen, director of think tank Education Datalab, said in SchoolsWeek, that schools were looking at a bill in the region of £400 million once costs of paying a teaching assistant to oversee the breakfast club were included.

Scrapping free school lunches in favour of free breakfasts could also have a significant nutritional cost, Nick Clegg has warned, saying Theresa May should take “her inspiration from Jamie Oliver not Oliver Twist”.

Clegg said scrapping the lunches, which will be replaced by free breakfasts, could mean thousands of pupils no longer receive a single portion of fruit or vegetables on a daily basis.

No nutritional guidelines exist for school breakfasts, though schools are expected to provide two to three of the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day in school lunches.

Judith Bunting said this week that:

“This scheme is an uncosted disaster that will hit children, families and schools hard. At a time of unprecedented school cuts, schools will be expected to fund staff to cover free breakfast clubs. Families who are barely managing with stagnated incomes and rising costs will struggle to fund the extra £440 a year per child for lunches – or send them to school with a less nutritious packed lunch.

Half of low-income pupils go hungry at breakfast, and a further fifth eat breakfasts with little or no nutritional value. Providing them with a bowl of sugary cereal is not going to help this. When we know we have issues in this country with both childhood obesity and food poverty, this scheme is ridiculous.”

Judith Bunting announces Lib Dem plans for funding boost to give children in West Berkshire a brighter future

Judith reading to preschool children
Judith reading to preschool children

This week, at Park House School, Newbury, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate Judith Bunting launched the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto policies for young people and children.

Under the plans, 3-4 year-olds in Newbury and West Berkshire would benefit from Liberal Democrat plans to triple funding for the early years pupil premium, which gives extra cash to nurseries, pre-schools and school receptions when they take on children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The cash would triple the funding to £1,000 per pupil per year – up from £302 in 2015-16.  This will increase the allocation for West Berkshire Council from around £75,000 (£74,591) to £223,773, and will pay for every disadvantaged child who benefits to receive 570 hours of state-funded early education. This forms part of a series of policies the Liberal Democrats are announcing with a focus on giving children and young people a brighter future.

Judith Bunting said: “I was delighted to be able to tell the 6th formers today about key Liberal Democrat policies that will significantly improve the lives of young people.”

These include:

  • Helping people buy their first home for the same cost as renting, with a new model of ‘Rent to Own’ homes
  • Restoring housing benefit for young people
  • Creating a discounted bus pass for 16-21 year olds, giving a 66% discount
  • Introducing votes at 16 for elections and referendums across the UK

As well as:

  • Investing almost £7bn in our schools and colleges
  • Doubling the number of businesses that take apprenticeships
  • Tripling the early years pupil premium
  • Extending free school meals to all primary school students

Judith Bunting added: “We will give children in Newbury and West Berkshire a brighter future, by investing in those from more deprived backgrounds to give them the best possible chance in life.

“This forms part of a package to build a fairer Britain and ensure no child or young person is left behind. Education is at the heart of everything I stand for, as a Liberal Democrat.

“I want the opportunity to help the Liberal Democrats provide a strong opposition to this Conservative government and to give the people of Newbury and West Berkshire a voice in standing up against the cuts to our local schools, hospitals and regional funding.

“A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for a brighter future for people across Newbury and the surrounding area.”  

“Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has let us all down by voting with Theresa May and UKIP on Brexit. “The Liberal Democrats will stand up to Theresa May and give the people the final say on Brexit, with the choice to remain in Europe if they don’t like the deal on offer.”

Lib Dem candidate Judith Bunting challenges Council to work with Newbury Community Football Group

Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Newbury constituency has challenged Hilary Cole, Acting Deputy Leader of West Berkshire Council to provide assurances that they will work with Newbury Community Football Group on to protect and enhance the town’s Football Ground on Faraday Road.

JB football2

Speaking last Thursday to West Berkshire Council’s Executive on Football and children’s health and wellbeing, Judith Bunting said: “As the Council’s adopted Core Strategy requires the protection and enhancement of green infrastructure and cultural facilities in West Berkshire, … what investment is planned to safeguard and enhance the protected community green infrastructure and cultural facility at Newbury Football Ground in Faraday Road?

She went on to ask: “Are Councillors willing to work with the Newbury Community Football Group on a progressive strategy to protect and enhance the Football Ground with a view to encouraging a positive attitude to exercise, health and wellbeing which are at the centre of the Council’s Health & Wellbeing Strategy?”

Judith Bunting was a prominent supporter of Newbury Town Football Club in its fight against eviction by West Berkshire Council last year.

Speaking this week, she said: “In excess of 500 people including more than 350 children play club-based football in Newbury each week. Physical education is important for our children. In football, they learn good habits of cooperation, discipline and motivation, as well as getting fit and having fun.”

“Richard Benyon’s Conservatives on West Berkshire Council have removed school bus routes, they have cut back drastically on children’s mental health support, and have tried to close our libraries. Now they want to destroy the football club too.

“If the Conservative party, here, do not have some particular axe to grind against the health of our children, I ask them to please think again and try working with Newbury Football Club to encourage the work it does rather than to destroy such a great and useful organisation.”

You can read more about Judith Bunting’s campaign to support Newbury Town Football Club here: Open Letter about Newbury Football Club

Newbury Community Football Group is a new organisation that brings together Ladies, Men’s, Boys and Girls’ and Youth Football groups in Newbury. For more information please go to: NCFG.uk

“I think it is almost lemming like …”

lemming-cartoon

What could be done to minimise the potential impact of Brexit on your business?

Here is a selection of comments from the local business people who completed the Liberal Democrats’ West Berkshire Business Brexit Survey. Businesses are not named, as many prefer to to keep their worries anonymous:

(Thanks to Arranology for use of the cartoon, above.)

What could be done to minimise the potential impact of Brexit on your business?

  • Stay in the EU.  Brexit will destroy our business.
  • Don’t do it! Seriously I think a raft of guarantees have to be forthcoming IMMEDIATELY from the government.
  • Not leave the EU.
  • Clarity is needed on the long term support for farming and conservation in the UK. Investment in farm infrastructure is costly and needs the ability to plan for the long term. Uncertainty and the lack of planning is a real risk to our charity and to many local farm businesses.
  • Remaining in the EU, keeping single market and freedom of movement.
  • Stay in single market and allow free movement of people across Europe.
  • Stay in the EU! Full membership of Single Market and Customs Union essential if this is not possible.
  • Remain within the free market and avoid putting limits on EU workers.
  • Gov’t to stop imposing austerity measures and new initiatives that mask the impact of change – personally I think it is almost lemming like and we look set to leaping off the White Cliffs of Dover before the dangers are realised – which will be an extreme disappointment!
  • Get on and pull us out as soon as possible.
  • Leave eu as soon as possible.
  • Less project fear from remoaners.
  • Nothing, lets just look forward to a brighter and independent future trading with the world.
  • Negotiate in good faith and show goodwill.
  • Sourcing UK products. We can do little else. We are reliant on consumers having enough weekly spend to continue to purchase our products and use our services.
  • No Visas, no clamping down on immigration, a lot of people I employ and work with are from the EU and it would be difficult to replace them. People looking down on Britain for the decision and our standing in the world.
  • Beyond the effect of the falling pound.  We have products to EU trading standards – our producers will not want to get involved in UK standards as well and we have not got the resource for expensive lab testing.
  • Staying in customs union is critical to us. Also, v important to keep access to EU science & engineering funding/research programmes such as Horizon 2020.
  • Change as little as possible from status quo – stability is key. EU Workers a key source of Workers, there is already a shortage of labour with the right skills from this country and even the EU.
  • Tax reduction.
  • Not go ahead with it! Brexit is a business nightmare and to push ahead when only a quarter of the population choose it, (and a mainly elderly quarter at that, whose working lives are over) is utter folly. Not quite sure where they think their pensions are going to be coming from, or how we will fund the NHS to keep looking after them when the get ill and face end of life. Business is this country’s lifeblood and Brexit threatens to chop it off at the roots.
  • Stay in the single market.

Lib Dems will cut youth unemployment

judith bunting  thatcham 099

Above: With Courtney from Thatcham, an apprentice at the Thatcham Automotive Academy, which trains youngsters from across the UK for the motor repair and insurance industries.

The Liberal Democrats aim to see an extra 100,000 young adults into work through on the job training such as an apprenticeship or full-time education. This week, Nick Clegg outlined a plan which focuses on cutting youth unemployment cut to its lowest levels since records began.

This announcement is critical for Newbury and West Berkshire. Our high achievers here do well, and we are rightly proud of what they achieve. The increasing number of NEETS in our area is worrying, however (Youngsters Not in Education, Employment or Training).

If I am elected to Westminster, I am determined to see the number of unemployed youngsters in our area drop.

Liberal Democrats believe in spreading opportunity to everyone, no matter what your background. The opportunity to work and have a fulfilling and rewarding career is crucial to this.

In a future government, Nick will launch a Youth Unemployment Action Plan. He will also set up a new Youth Unemployment Task-force within the first 100 days of government to fast-track getting young adults back into work.

In Government we created two million new jobs and two million more apprenticeships. We have reduced youth unemployment, but it’s still too high and there is much more to do.

I remember hearing Vince Cable talking about the importance of apprenticeships long before we were in government. Now we want to double the number of businesses taking on apprentices, open up work experience opportunities, transform careers advice and, across the UK, invest millions into mental health services.

Youth unemployment was rising long before the financial crash. It increased by a third under Labour. The Conservatives risk making things much harder for young people by stripping them of jobseeker’s allowance and housing benefit. 

Only the Liberal Democrats have a comprehensive plan to tackle the scourge of youth unemployment.

Equality Matters

A number of people have been asking about my views on inequality, so I thought I would share this post again, written after I took part in a debate at Fitzwilliam College about the extreme levels of inequality we’re seeing in the UK. It was partly my frustration with rising inequality after the financial crash of 2008 that drove me into politics: