Anger and disbelief as parent campaign against school funding cuts gathers force

school funding cutsYesterday I went to the Fair Funding for All Schools meeting at Larkmead School in Abingdon, and came away shocked by the cuts to funding per pupil that are on the way over the next four years. It’s a double whammy caused by the new funding formula and cuts to real term funding per pupil (which breaks a manifesto promise). There is a lot at stake: funding cuts are likely to affect numbers of teachers and teaching assistants, and the range of subjects offered, particularly music, visual and performing arts, design and technology and languages. Support for vulnerable students is also at risk and small schools in rural areas are likely to be hit particularly hard. It’s a cross-party issue – the meeting was chaired by the Conservative leader of Oxfordshire County Council, Ian Hudspeth. (Funding per pupil is set at a national level.)
However, there is plenty we can do about this. The Fair Funding For All Schools website http://www.fairfundingforallschools.org/ has lots of info plus a template letter you can send to your MP http://www.fairfundingforallschools.org/…/letter-to-mps2.do…. There’s a change.org petition https://www.change.org/p/stop-school-funding-cuts-all-our-c… Also, we have county council elections coming up in May, so it’s a good issue to mention on the doorstep if anyone comes round canvassing for support. Here’s the website with details about how much individual schools across the country are set to lose http://www.schoolcuts.org.uk/#/ and the Fair Funding For All Schools FB page https://www.facebook.com/fairfundingforallschools – there’s also an Oxfordshire FB page https://www.facebook.com/fairfundingforallschoolsoxfordshire/
Yesterday night was the first meeting of the Oxfordshire Fair Funding for All Schools campaign  – the first meeting was in Haringey and the second in Wokingham, where I grew up. The Oxford Mail reported on how Nicola Blackwood MP has joined calls for a review of the funding formula, while the chairman of governors of Larkmead School has left the Conservative Party over the school funding issue.

Book group questions for After I Left You

about to set off for the launch party

about to set off for the launch party

After I Left You is out there! The launch was held last week, on a beautiful moonlit evening in the garden at Mostly Books in Abingdon (you can read about it on the Mostly Books blog and the Abingdon blog). Now it’s on the shelves at independent bookshops, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, and is also available from Amazon. In a couple of weeks’ time I’m due to do my very first book group talk about the book, with the book group at work.

I’ve had a think about questions that might be helpful for book groups who want to discuss the novel, and here they are. I don’t think there are any spoilers here, but you might want to wait until you’ve read it before you look through them – they will definitely make more sense then!

If you have read the book, I’d really welcome your thoughts. Do let me know if there are any other questions that you think would be useful, and if there are any you would particularly like to discuss with other readers – and also, of course, I would be very interested to know your responses!

If you’re in the Oxford area and your book group is going to be discussing AILY and you’d like me to come along and talk about the book, post a comment to let me know and let’s see if we can sort something out. Also, plans are shaping up for an event in north London next month – details to follow.

After I Left You on the Book Buzz shelf in Mostly Books

After I Left You on the Book Buzz shelf in Mostly Books

Discussion questions for After I Left You

What was your reaction to what happened to Anna on the night of the ball?

What are the fairytale elements of Anna’s story? What, or who, makes the fairytale go wrong?

Do you think it is possible to stay with your first love? What would happen if you bumped into your first love in a bookshop one day?

How are the different friendships in the story represented?

One of the key friendships in the novel is Anna’s friendship with Keith. How would you describe this friendship?

What other novels spring to mind that include a portrayal of a friendship between a man and a woman?

Who leaves who in the book? Which characters make peace with each other, and what does it take for this to happen?

By the end of the novel, what change has Anna experienced? How is she different to the beginning of the novel?

lucky nail varnish ready for the launch - wore it for  my Thames swim too!

lucky nail varnish ready for the launch – wore it for my Thames swim too!