Herald column February 16th 2017

The battle to secure fairer funding for pupils in West Sussex goes on and the County’s MPs arranged a meeting in Parliament between Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, and nine heads from local schools. There was a ‘full and frank’ exchange of views, as they say. The unfairness of the average pupil in West Sussex receiving around £4,200 funding per head each year against nearer £7,000 in equivalent schools in some London boroughs for example is incontrovertible.

The heads made a strong case with the full support of the County’s MPs and will have further discussions with Department for Education officials about the details of alternative proposals. I have been meeting governors and heads at schools across the constituency and I share their frustration that their hard work and dedication is being thwarted by West Sussex schools losing out in this way.

It is good that the Government has pledged to bring in a new fairer funding formula for the long term but it is essential that we get it right. The Department for Education consultation is live until March 22nd and it really is essential that as many parents make their views known by then and please copy me in. You can find details here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/schools-national-funding-formula-stage-2

Last Sunday. I was lucky enough to be invited to the BAFTA awards ceremony (at no cost to the taxpayer.) British film is one of our great creative industries and there was much on show to be proud of. Ken Loach is a great British film maker and whilst I do not agree with his hard-line left wing views he has every right to express them. But in a country where we pride ourselves on free speech I also have a right to challenge them particularly when he uses a BAFTA platform to claim their endorsement for an intemperate rant at the ‘callous’ government just yards away from BAFTA President Prince William.

I didn’t mention his award winning film at all, which I have not seen in any case and which he barely mentioned in his rush to attack the government, the establishment and corporations (ironically which fund his industry and the awards ceremony!) I just think he is wrong and his thinly veiled call for people to rise up and support direct action is dangerous and ignores the fact that the people have been rising up at the ballot box quite effectively recently and exclusively rejecting the causes he espouses.

But apparently tweeting a mild criticism of ‘Saint Ken’ is tantamount to drowning fluffy kittens. For 24 hours the Left went mad on social media and I learnt a whole new lexicon of terms of abuse. For some apparently freedom of speech doesn’t work both ways and that is the real lesson.