Dear Mr Gibb

An open letter to the MP for Bognor Regis & Littlehampton


Dear Mr Gibb 

Why are we Worth Less? Why are school students in Bognor Regis and Littlehampton – and the rest of West Sussex – worth less than school students nearly everywhere else in England? 

You know that our schools get £400 per child per year less than the average for England outside London. In other words, West Sussex schools get £20 million a year less than average.  

Our head teachers are doing a fantastic job. They have become experts at saving money at the same time as delivering a really good education. Teachers and students have got used to bigger classes, leaking roofs and broken computers that won’t be replaced - and somehow we still learn. But now it is getting really, really desperate. 

Our head teachers have tried to warn you about the increasing risks to our education into the future. Now it is our turn as school students to support their “WorthLess?” campaign. We don't want to start a different campaign. We just need our head teachers to be taken seriously.

At the moment our schools are deciding on their budgets for next year. Every school we have talked to in Bognor Regis and Littlehampton has plans that are terrifying to us as school students. For example, there are plans to

  • Drop essential subjects from the curriculum
  • Not replace teachers
  • Remove support staff who enable students with special needs and disabilities to thrive at school
  • Reduce counselling and pastoral support
  • Increase class sizes
  • Send some classes home at lunch time because there will not be enough teachers 

We know that the new funding formula could make things fairer eventually – but it will be years before funding for West Sussex schools matches other parts of the country. Many of us will have left school by then! If you recognise there is a really serious problem, why not fill the funding gap now? 

Even with the new funding formula, our schools will probably have no more money to spend anyway, because of the new rules making them pay extra costs towards National Insurance, pensions and some other costs.  And West Sussex will stay as one of the worst funded areas - 148th out of 151. 

So please can you explain to us why we continue to be Worth Less? 

Your constituency office has told us that you are in the constituency on Friday 24th March, so please can we – and other students from Bognor Regis and Littlehampton schools – meet you at 3pm that day? Please will you look us straight in the eye and explain why we are Worth Less? 

We anticipate that there will be a lot of us – with families and other supporters too – so we hope you will agree to meet in a large public space so everyone can see and hear. 

So you can see how real this is, some of us will bring our own examples of how the unfair funding is affecting us as school students. 

We look forward to meeting you. 

Yours sincerely   

Peter, Ed, Harry, Jasmine, Jess, Joe, Kieran, Liberty, Theveenah  

School students in Bognor Regis & Littlehampton constituency 




MR GIBB'S REPLY, 2ND MARCH

Good news!    "Mr Gibb would be happy to meet with you and your peers ...  Please let me know how you would like to proceed."   



OUR REPLY, 2ND MARCH  

We requested  the meeting for 3pm on Friday 24th March in Bognor Regis.



MR GIBB'S REPLY, 3RD MARCH

Not good news!  "He is happy to meet with you, some of your fellow students and a teacher at your school on 24 March.  His understanding then was that this was an opportunity for students only and this remains the requirement for the meeting going ahead.  If parents or others would like to meet with Mr Gibb, they are welcome to ask for individual appointments at one of his surgeries.  Alternatively, they could consider organising a mass lobby at the House of Commons, subject to Parliamentary lobby procedures."



OUR REPLY, 6TH MARCH  

"We were pleased to get your first, positive response (and to see this in your comment to the local newspaper).   

However, we are disappointed that you are now only willing to meet us in a school environment, with a teacher present and to discuss the new funding formula.  This is not why we wanted to meet. It is not a school project – our approach to you was started and is led by school students from schools across your constituency, not just one school, and is independent of the schools and teachers.   

We asked to meet you to discuss the funding shortfall in our schools for 2017-18 and its implications for us as students in your constituency. We want to highlight some of the impacts that this is likely to have on us in 2017-18 and then ask you to answer a simple question - why, as West Sussex school students, do we continue to be worth so much less than school students nearly everywhere else?   

Our parents, grandparents and many other supporters of schools in your constituency want to hear and understand your answer too, so that’s why we asked for them to be present.   

We are arranging a large and accessible location in Bognor Regis so that anyone interested can join us at 3pm on Friday 24th March. We really hope you will be able to be there.   

Thank you very much for reconsidering this."


REPLY FROM MR GIBB, LETTER DATED 6TH MARCH, RECEIVED 9TH MARCH

"... You are clearly looking to hold a much larger, public event and I do not believe this would be an effective forum for a constructive discussion.

My original invitation to you stands."


OUR REPLY SENT ON 13TH MARCH

Dear Mr Gibb 

Thank you for your letter dated 6 March, about our request as school students to meet you to discuss fair funding for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton schools. We understand your decision not to spend time at a public event if you feel it would not be constructive. 

Thank you too for keeping your original invitation open to us as school students. 

Please can we make a suggestion that builds on your own proposal…  

  • You to meet school students from Bognor Regis and Littlehampton schools 
  • On a Friday during term time – ideally before the end of the Easter term 
  • Any time between 9.30am and 3pm to fit your schedule (but avoiding lunchtime if possible) 
  • For around 40 minutes 
  • We have asked for permission to use a venue at Felpham Community College, and we are pleased that this has been agreed by the head teacher 
  • School staff to be present but not parents / families / other local people (For participants from primary schools, teachers would wish to sit with them) 
  • Participants will come from a number of secondary and primary schools from across the constituency – it will only be students who have shown a genuine interest in the issue of school funding. However, there is likely to be a significant number of school students wanting to take part 
  • The meeting is to be jointly chaired by two senior students (from Felpham Community College and Littlehampton Academy) 
  • The meeting is to be organised so that significant questions are known by the chairs in advance and will be asked by students in a logical sequence 
  • The meeting will include a chance for students from a range of schools to tell you how the shortage of funds is likely to affect their schools in 2017/18 - this will be based on real information that schools are telling their school councils, not on rumours 
  • A few photos to be taken to record that the meeting took place - for use in, for example, school newsletters to families 
  • Student reporters will be there to write article(s) about the meeting so that those who could not be there can know what was said 

We think this plan will make things constructive and helpful so that everyone leaves with a better understanding of the current situation and views.


MR GIBB'S REPLY, 20TH MARCH  

"[Mr Gibb] is happy with all the suggestions you have included in your email. ... may I suggest Friday 28 April at 9.30am?"


THE MEETING HAPPENED! 28TH APRIL

Our meeting happened. Report to be posted shortly.