Belper schoolgirl confronts MPs in Parliament - calling on them to end school cuts

Belper School pupil Edie Bellamy spoke to MPs in Parliament about the cuts faced by schools in Derbyshire. Photo: Ben Bellamy.
Belper School pupil Edie Bellamy spoke to MPs in Parliament about the cuts faced by schools in Derbyshire. Photo: Ben Bellamy.

A 12-year-old girl from Belper has confronted MPs in Westminster to call for an end to school cuts.

Edie Bellamy, who attends Belper School, was given special permission from her headteacher to take a trip down to London on Wednesday to speak with around 40 MPs in Parliament along with other schoolchildren.

She said that Government representatives ‘just don’t care enough about us’.

The schoolchildren had gathered to explain how school cuts had been impacting their education.

A report by ITV stated that politicians had been reduced to tears by these accounts.

But the Government insisted every local authority is being given more money for every pupil.

The campaign website School Cuts claims that schools in Derbyshire will lose £12.6m in cuts overall in the five years from 2015 to 2020. The union-based organisation gets its information from school and Government budget figures.

In September, spokesperson for the Save Our Schools campaign, Diane Fletcher, said that 320 Derbyshire schools continue to face cuts - with an average loss of £133 per pupil.

Edie told MPs in the House of Commons: “My school is brilliant – I love it – but my head says that he no longer has the funds to put on all the GCSE subjects that he used to.

“For instance, although my town is famous for the birth of the textile industry –  if my head gets a dozen kids who want to do textiles – he can’t put the course on as he simply does not have the money.

“It has got so bad that in one in ten schools across the country you can’t do either art, music or drama.

“Imagine that your dream is to be an actor, but your school doesn’t do drama? Or you want to be an artist or a sculptor but you can’t do art? So much talent wasted and dreams broken.

“I’ve heard of a child who wanted to be an engineer, but then the design and technology GCSE was suddenly scrapped because not enough children had wanted to take it.

“And that’s not just one child. Hundreds of schools across the country have axed design and technology, and so thousands of kids have had their ambitions completely destroyed.

“Our library isn’t open much before school starts and closes not long after school finishes, because it costs to have staff there – we barely use it.

“It seems to me, that the people in charge in Parliament just don’t care enough about us – if they did then they would give our schools enough money.”

In July, a leaked Derbyshire County Council document showed that 17 schools across the county were making staffing cuts – totalling 51 teachers and support staff.

Of these schools, 14 cited ‘annual budget deficit’ as the reason for the redundancies.

Meanwhile, in August county councillors had a fierce debate over the impact of school cuts in Derbyshire and whether to further lobby the Prime Minister directly to raise concerns.

Cabinet member for young people, Councillor Alex Dale, said that he had sympathy for schools facing financial pressures and said that the issue was compounded by ‘historic under-funding of Derbyshire schools’.

At the Westminster meeting, Labour’s Ron Mihaly, read out a statement from the headteacher of Chesterfield’s Brampton Primary School, Wayne Parkinson.

It stated that the primary lost £130,000 in funding from the previous year and had special education funding cut in half. This has reduced support for these pupils by 140 hours a week.

A Department for Education spokesperson tressed that both schools and local authorities are receiving more money funding for education with ‘every local authority is being given more money for every pupil in every school in 2018 to 2019 and 2019 to 2020’.

She said: “We want ‎every child to have a high quality education and since 2010 the proportion of pupils in good or outstanding schools has risen.

“We are investing in our schools; our new National Funding Formula is allocating more money for each school to every local authority; the independent IFS confirmed that funding for 5-16-year-olds has been maintained across this year and next.

“The most recent volume of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Education at a Glance report said in 2015 among G7 nations, the UK government spent the highest percentage of GDP on institutions delivering primary and secondary education.

“We recognise that there is more pressure on schools to do more, which is why we have taken a number of steps to help them get the best value for every pound.

“Our buying hubs and best value deals are helping schools save millions on things like utility bills and other non-staff spend.”