North Kingston MP Sarah Olney has called on the Government to scrap plans to build free schools and instead pump money into the borough’s cash-strapped education system.
The Liberal Democrat politician called for changes in school funding, with many schools across London complaining of losing thousands in cash under current proposals.
She made the comments at a meeting at New Malden's Burlington Junior School on Monday evening, which was organised by parents and teachers to protest Government cuts to education funding.
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Mrs Olney said funding would be better spent on existing schools in Kingston and Richmond than plans to build more grammar and free schools.
She said: “There is funding available, it's just that the government has made the choice to spend it on selective education.
“This is my message to Theresa May and I will be stressing this as much as I can.
“We don't need to spend that money on grammar schools - we need to spend it on our existing schools."
Richard Challoner headteacher Sean Maher has led the charge against Government cuts
The comments come amid a school places crisis in the borough, with statistics released in March last year showing Kingston to be the most oversubscribed in London.
In January, the Government submitted plans to build a 420-place primary school in the heart of Kingston in response to the borough’s desperate need to build schools.
After the meeting Mrs Olney clarified her comments saying that she accepted that there was an “urgent need” to build schools in Kingston and Richmond.
She said: “[There’s] not no need for more schools. What I was saying was why the free schools in particular?
“We do have an urgent need in both Richmond and Kingston.”
Richard Challoner headteacher Sean Maher, joined the north Kingston MP in her criticism of the Government’s education cuts.
He led a delegation of the borough’s headteachers in writing a letter to Downing Street in protest at “stealth cuts” earlier this year.
On Monday, he told a packed audience that his school faces the loss of about £400,000 in funding within the next five years – the equivalent of about eight teacher salaries.
This year, Mr Maher came close to not replacing a departing drama teacher from the school given the scale of the crisis.
He said: “We've got to stop plans for grammar schools and free school because this is just an absolute illusion.
“This debate is about my children and your children and ensuring that we all do all that we can to provide them with the very best opportunities.
“If you want a world class education system then you have to pay for a world class education system.”
Kingston MP and Conservative politician James Berry sat in the front row as headteachers and parents lambasted the Government’s education cuts.
He called on the audience to come up with solutions to the crisis and acknowledged the “desperate need” for more funding.
Mr Berry said: “In Kingston we are fortunate to have the best schools in the country and I'm determined to make sure we stay that way, as well as making sure we have the new school places needed to meet demand.”
Philipa Harvey, of the National Union of Teachers, said: “I think the funding cuts that we are facing requires a response of this magnitude.
“They thought that we would be prepared to sit back and accept these funds.”
- This story has been ammended. Mrs Olney called for changes in school funding not the national funding formula. She called for the Government to scrap plans to build free and grammar schools in Kingston, not all schools.