Snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan has waded into a row over school funding after Nick Gibb was asked if he was being ‘completely deluded’ by a BBC presenter.
Last week thousands of headteachers sent a letter to parents describing their ‘dismay’ that the Government is refusing to face the effects of the cuts and that West Sussex, along with schools in the rest of the country, are still not receiving enough cash.
Bognor and Littlehampton MP Nick Gibb, who is also school standards minister, claimed the Government had maintained core school funding in real terms since 2010, but could offer help schools who are struggling to balance their budget.
But BBC Breakfast’s Charlie Stayt told Mr Gibb that some teachers were having to buy pencils, while parents were having to bring in toilet roll for their children.
He said: “You seem to be lost in a world of statistics when these headteachers who wrote this letter to the parents yesterday are dealing with the reality.
“You can quote as many numbers as you like about what you say are the statistics and the proportions and whether it’s changed since 2010.
“In the meantime there are teachers who are buying pencils, there are parents who are having to buy toilet rolls for their schools, and you seem to think the way to answer all those issues is to tell them that the good news is it is better when they know it is not. It’s like you are being completely deluded over the reality of what is happening in the classroom.”
Mr Gibb said they had to make difficult decisions since coming into office in 2010 to tackle the budget deficit, but added: “I have acknowledged there are costs pressures that schools are having to absorb as we deal with the deficit. We will help those schools, those examples you give, manage their budgets more effectively by giving them that advice.”
A video clip of Mr Stayt challenging Mr Gibb has been widely shared on social media, with TV presenter Jake Humphrey posting it on Twitter.
This was then shared by Ronnie O’Sullivan who said: “These are the people running our country #aintgotaclue.”
Later in the BBC interview, Mr Gibb said: “The reality is schools have a cumulative surpluses of about £4billion and a cumulative deficit of about £300m. So there is money in the system and the stats I have quoted are the reality of the situation.
“But as I’ve said we do acknowledge that there are cost pressures and we are helping schools to deal with those cost pressures. If you look at the school figures internationally and compare spending on primary and secondary state schools in this country we are amongst the highest spenders in the OECD.”
In the letter, the headteachers say: “Increasingly, schools are being asked to support with children’s emotional health and wellbeing. Frequently, we do not have adequate resource to meet a growing need.
“Often, the most vulnerable students in our schools – those with special educational needs and disabilities – are bearing the brunt of cuts and schools are struggling to provide the levels of support that they are entitled to.
“These issues are not simply affecting a few schools - though West Sussex is severely affected. They are common features across our education system up and down the country. Levels of concern are so widespread amongst headteachers that we are all working together with a united voice.”
The ‘Worth Less?’ campaign group - spearheaded by Jules White, headteacher of Tanbridge House School in Horsham - now comprises 64 local authorities and boroughs, covering thousands of schools and millions of families.