Since I was first elected in 2015, I have campaigned with parents and teachers for increased and fairer school funding for our area. Every child deserves to receive the best education possible and I know how hard the schools in our area work to provide high quality education. I have raised the issue of school funding with successive Prime Ministers and have arranged for headteachers and local education officials to meet with Department for Education Ministers on several occasions. I also led a petition on fairer funding. These actions have resulted in a new funding formula that has delivered millions of pounds of extra funding to schools across South East Cambridgeshire.
With local stakeholders, I have also successfully campaigned for East Cambridgeshire to become one of only 12 "Opportunity Areas". This has enabled the schools in the East Cambridgeshire to access a special £72 million fund and is in its fourth year. It is a programme which will help children get the best start in early years and ensure that they can continue to access high quality education at every stage of their school. It also focuses on creating opportunities outside school to 'raise sights and broaden horizons'. The scheme itself has also been expanded to include additional support to ensure that children do not fall behind due to Coronavirus.
In 2021, the government announced further school funding for our area – with an extension of the Fenland and East Cambridgeshire Opportunity Area. The additional £1,158,500 of funding is on top of the additional COVID funding which is being provided across the country.
Moreover, funding over the last 5 years has helped, amongst other things, to fund mental health training for 1200 school staff, with over 90% of participants reporting increased confidence in their ability to identify the early signs of mental ill health and offer support to those that need it. 45 mental health leads have been established, with 1,300 parents and carers accessing support.
A key educational focus of mine is SEND funding. Due to historic issues with how SEND funding is allocated, I know that Cambridgeshire experiences issues with its allocation in comparison to its need. Since my re-election in 2019, I have brought the Director of Education for Cambridgeshire to Westminster to raise our local issues on SEND funding with the Minister of State for School Standards.
I am pleased that the Government has responded to this with a recent commitment of £49 million for Cambridgeshire's SEND Transformation Programme, and £11.3 million capital funding for expanding SEND provision in our local mainstream schools. Together, this finance means we will see almost 600 new school places created in Cambridgeshire in the next three years, including 463 special school places.
However, I know more can be done, and so I will not relent in my efforts to improve SEND resources.