When I was told by a Batley headteacher that budget cuts have led to teachers paying for vital GCSE resources, uniforms for vulnerable children and breakfast clubs from their own pockets, I was ashamed.
Ashamed that the Conservative Government refuse to provide schools with the basic tools they need to give our children a good start in life.
What I was told was shocking, but not surprising.
Figures for the extent of real terms cuts to education – a number that will reach £4.4m across Batley & Spen’s state-funded schools by 2020 – are readily available and make for grim reading.
However, it’s the coal-face stories from those who dedicate their lives to education that really lay bare the extent of the damage.
Upper Batley High School headteacher Samantha Vickers, whose school will be almost £400,000 worse off in 2020 than in 2015, honestly and candidly explained to me what this means for children.
Admitting that it is “practically impossible” to offer the levels of quality that they have provided in the past, she paints a very troubling picture of teachers and support staff working harder than ever to ensure standards are met.
Upper Batley is lucky to have such an inspirational leader and a team of dedicated staff who have managed to retain high standards against the budgetary onslaught.
Not all schools are so fortunate. If we are to build an equal society where every child has the same chance in life, we cannot continue to underfund our schools and ignore the warnings.
The Government owe it to parents and children alike to stop burying its head in the sand and act now – before it’s too late.
Our bright, passionate and intelligent young people deserve a top-quality education.
Talking of local young people, one of my highlights of the recent International Women’s Day Festival in Batley was hearing Hana Yaqoob, Hawa Patel and Emily Warrillow’s articulate and impassioned talks on youth and politics.
The three inspirational young women, along with all the fantastic inspirational speakers, guests, stallholders and volunteers, demonstrated how much there is to celebrate.
But there is a long way to go, and we must fight to make sure the world of work is a fair place for them in the future.
Every day, as more and more companies reveal their gender pay gaps, the extent of income disparity between women and men becomes clearer.
This is why I am backing the #PayMeToo campaign launched by Stella Creasy MP to demand change and encourage all women to hold their employers to account.
I realise that asking the questions can be tough, and that some women may feel their jobs could be put at risk in doing so.
But it needn’t be the case. Go to paymetoo.com to find out more about your rights as an employee or feel free to contact me for advice at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01924 900036.
Finally, I’d like to mention the glorious Butterfly House at Wilton Park which I had the pleasure of officially reopening last week.
The Friends of Wilton Park, Craig Munns and all the volunteers involved have done a tremendous job of building something that I hope will be enjoyed by you and your families for many years to come.