JULIAN KNIGHT MP has responded to concerns raised by headteachers at 15 hard-pressed Solihull schools on their funding ‘crisis’.
He has also dismissed claims his ‘tosh’ jibe about a school funding campaign’s misleading statistics shows he is not committed to improving the situation for schools in his constituency – which he says he has long campaigned for.
As we reported on our front page, headteachers implored the Solihull Conservative MP to attend a schools funding debate and speak up for them in the House of Commons last Monday (March 4).
But he did not attend because he was ‘pursuing his responsibilities’ as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Treasury, he says.
Governor and member of the Fair Funding for Solihull Schools campaign, Jeni Mills, says it is the first time she has seen borough schools band together to issue an appeal – showing how desperate things are in classrooms.
Mr Knight said: “I have been a staunch campaigner on the issue of school funding and helped to deliver several important improvements for local schools.
“Unfortunately during the debate in question, which was in response to an online petition, I was pursuing my responsibilities as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Treasury.
“I have campaigned for a better deal for Solihull schools ever since I was first elected in 2015, strongly supporting the F40 campaign for equal per-pupil funding and holding face-to-face meetings with Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, and successive secretaries of state.
“I have also held a well-attended, special surgery for local head teachers, and am holding another very soon.”
“My tweet directly linked to a media article which made clear that I was not talking about the main school funding campaign, which I strongly support, but misleading claims put out by left-wing trades union activists which had been strongly criticised by the head of the UK Statistics Authority. I make no apology for making sure this debate sticks to the facts.
“Solihull is very lucky to have so many excellent schools, and I will always strive to be their champion in Parliament.
“I have worked very hard to help deliver a fairer funding settlement and prevent them being exploited by Birmingham, and will continue to do so for as long as I represent our town in the Commons.”
The F40 campaign group was launched more than 20 years ago with the central aim of influencing significant change in the way government allocates funding to local authorities and schools.
Solihull is one of 42 local authorities which are among the lowest funded for education in England, it says.
Meriden MP Dame Caroline Spelman, in response to our questions, has promised to issue a fresh call to Chancellor Phillip Hammond to further increase funding for schools.
A member of Mr Knight’s team had told us they ‘will provide responses to specific media requests within 72 hours’ and therefore would not comment in our previous story.
The policy drew criticism on social media.
In response to Tory MP James Cleverly who shared an article criticising the Schools Cuts Coalition’s campaign, Mr Knight had tweeted: “I faced this tosh at the last election and the campaign had an impact in marginal seats no doubt but it was based as ‘UK statistics’ says on misleading figures.”