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Paddington stars back Gospel Oak school funding campaign

Parents at Gospel Oak behind the making of Paddington 2 film call for more school funding

15 August, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Claire Keelan, Simon Farnaby and John Hayes join parents, including Daniel Benoliel, teachers and children in delivering the letter to the DfE

An actor-writer couple from the hit film Paddington 2 have swung behind a campaign to halt school cuts, warning the system has reached “total crisis point”.

Claire Keelan, who played a police officer in the film, and her husband Simon Farnaby, who was nominated for a Bafta for co-writing it, are parents at Gospel Oak Primary School.

They joined a protest outside the Department for Education and are organising a fundraising film screening and Q&A for the cash-strapped school after the summer holidays.

“This idea where all kids can have access to education isn’t on the table anymore – it seems under threat,” said Ms Keelan, who was also in the BBC series Line of Duty.

“The headteacher has tried and tried to deal with the cuts, which is hard enough already. But this has got to total crisis point. They can’t afford books, they can’t afford staff and they can’t afford to maintain buildings.”

Ms Keelan said she became aware of the funding squeeze “crisis” after attending a meeting with Gospel Oak’s headteacher John Hayes.

She said: “I went along to see if there was anything we could do. The headteacher had been ask- ing for money from the PTA (parent teacher association). I was listening to it all and I was quite shocked. The PTA can’t afford to pay the staff.”

Ms Keelan joined a protest of teachers, parents and children outside the DfE last month.

A letter addressed to the Education Secretary called on the government to meet Camden headteachers and listen to concerns.

The DfE insists it is pumping more money into schools than ever, with Camden receiving £6,251 per pupil, above the national average of £4,689. But headteachers say costs are higher and they cannot afford to replace staff members who leave, and are struggling to keep up the school standards parents expect.

A DfE statement said: “The Secretary of State has made clear that as we approach the next spending review, he will back headteachers to have the resources they need to deliver a world-class education in the years ahead.”

A support staff teacher at Gospel Oak has left after 16 years at the school and will not be replaced because of funding cuts.

Kevin McCabe said: “What we do is massively important.

We deal with mental health issues, issues with family, social and emotional issues.

“We have lived in the past few years not knowing when we come back after summer whether our jobs are lost. That is a genuine fear as a member of support staff.”

Daniel Benoliel, a parent at Gospel Oak, said: “We have lost wonderful staff members recently. It [school funding] is all too easy to be swept under the rug but if parents are joining teachers in coming forward, the government has got to take note.”

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