27 January 2012

Three pieces on education in Cornwall.

Individual school funding
First, the 2010/11 funding of individual schools in England has been published by the Guardian here. (I cannot see this yet on the DfE website; on the Guardian site click on Get the data then School spending). I looked at the 2009/10 figures for schools in Cornwall in this post; they showed a vast range across schools as do the latest figures. I explored this topic fully in that post. I hope that Cornish nationalists do not repeat the nonsense of last year about these figures.

Deprived pupils
Second, the education department has published the GCSE results for secondary schools in England. They are here for each school (click on the school name) though not on a comparison spreadsheet for all schools. The tables also show how well and poorly pupils from deprived homes do. There is a press release summarising the dismal findings for too many deprived pupils.

Cornwall EMA
Thirdly, good news from Cornwall Council. A year ago Cornwall MPs voted in support of their Tory Libdem government’s abolition of the educational maintenance allowance (EMA) in England which in December 2010 was helping 7294 young students in Cornwall. This England EMA has been replaced by a bursary scheme for much reduced numbers of students. Students in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland can still get the EMA as it has not been abolished there.

The Tory Independent majority on Cornwall Council wishes to introduce what in effect is a local Cornwall EMA, a supplementary scheme to the England bursary scheme. The details are here. The council’s funding realities mean that it isn’t intended to replace the England EMA, nor to help seven thousand students in Cornwall as the EMA did; its scope is much narrower, the numbers to be helped smaller, and its financing after 2013/14 is unsure. It is called the Cornwall bursary scheme.

Nevertheless, I think it is welcome news that the unitary council is introducing a local supplementary provision. All in all, a very commendable and progressive policy from the Tory Independent council, trying to mitigate the reactionary abolition rather than improvement of the England EMA by the Tory Libdem government.

However, it suggests, does it not, that the Tories in Cornwall have little faith in the adequacy of the replacement England bursary scheme of their own government. They are right about that. At least the local Tories recognise by their actions the failure and inappropriateness of the Tory Libdem abolition of the England EMA and the need to redress that as far as they responsibly can with the funds available to them.

On one point the Libdems and others are right. Around five hundred students resident in east Cornwall but doing a Devonwall and crossing the river Tamar for their college studies are excluded from the scheme. I understand the administrative difficulty but the exclusion is unacceptable and they should be included.

Let me say it plain on the Cornwall bursary. The Tories here have got it right. The Libdems here have got it right. I’m going to lie down now.