THERE are few things more important than the education of our children, writes Redcar MP Anna Turley.

How our kids do in school has a huge impact on how well they do in later life and the kinds of careers and opportunities that are open to them. For areas like ours where some communities are among the most deprived in the country, education has the power to overcome some of those barriers and allow every child to reach their full potential.

This is why cuts to school budgets make me so angry, why I continue to challenge them in Parliament, and why the campaign the Echo is running to draw attention to the pressures teachers are under is so important. The message I’m hearing from parents, teachers and governors is that funding cuts are putting huge pressure on our schools, causing distress for teachers trying to do the best for the their pupils, and preventing them from focusing on the thing that really matters, teaching.

I commend all of our teaching and support staff across Redcar and Cleveland and the Tees Valley for the amazing job they do. Our primary schools in particular are among the very best in the country, including St Bede’s in Marske who have been named by The Times as the best state primary school in the country. But all schools are under pressure to deliver the same standard of education against a backdrop of cuts. According to forecasts by the School Cuts campaign, schools in Redcar and Cleveland have lost out on £13.4 million in real terms between 2015 and 2019. That’s a per pupil loss of £289. Across the Tees Valley, schools have lost out on £76.4 million in that same time period!

Staff are going above and beyond to absorb the cuts and make sure the education of our children is not affected. In one of the schools in my area, staff have proposed that their pay be regraded for one day a week —graded down from their actual worth, value and achievement—to make savings in staffing costs. Other staff members have foregone pay increases because they did not want to put more pressure on the budget. Support staff have had their hours cut by an average of five hours per week, which can be equivalent to losing a third of a week’s pay. One headteacher is even paying a cleaner from his own wages!

Specialist provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities is especially vulnerable. Parents have been coming to my surgeries unable to get the specialist support they need for their children. A local headteacher has told me: ‘SEND funding is in crisis. We cater for pupils’ needs as much as we can but they are not getting the care they deserve.’ The reality is the government are balancing the books on the backs of the children who need the most help and support to flourish.

Politics is about priorities and I am calling on the government to put education at the top of their list. We only have once chance at giving our children the best start in life and that means investing in schools and our young people now. If you would like to support my campaign, please sign my petition on my website at Together we can send a clear message that enough is enough, the cuts must stop.