Will Topps, former Devon captain and 200-game Barnstaple Rugby Club First XV stalwart, is standing for Bickington Ward on North Devon Council as one of three Liberal Democrat candidates.
With daily experience of the devastating effects of funding cuts on his own classroom by Conservative-controlled Devon County Council, Will Topps, an English teacher at Pilton Community College, decided to make a stand against unfair Tory education funding.
“I haven’t been a teacher for long – just three years,” said Will, 31, “But even in that short period of time I’ve seen the damaging effects of Tory cuts on North Devon children’s education.”
Will was working at Pilton Community two years ago when Conservative Education Minister Nick Gibb came to meet several North Devon head teachers. “He promised to try to give rural schools like those in North Devon a better deal, but that simply hasn’t happened,” said Will.
At the time of Mr Gibb’s visit, the Department for Education was devising a new Fairer Funding Policy that it said would give schools in areas such as North Devon the same amount of money as better-funded schools in other areas.
But when the new policy was put into practice the Fairer Funding Formula meant North Devon schools actually lost even more money compared to schools in other parts of the country.
According to schoolcuts.org.uk, which monitors education funding, Pilton Community College is losing more than £230,000 in 2015–2020. Nearby Park Community School has lost more than £300,000 and every primary school in Barnstaple and the surrounding area has also lost out.
“Fair funding for schools in North Devon, including the school I went to as a pupil and where I now teach, is being ignored by this Conservative Government,” said Will.
“I became a teacher because I believe it’s really important for young people to get a good education and the Tory government is making that more difficult. By standing for election as a Liberal Democrat, I hope I can be another voice calling for fair funding for North Devon schools.”
Mr Topps also hopes to make a difference in his local Bickington community.
“When I was a journalist I spent several years sitting in on council meetings and I often found myself thinking that the decisions made by the Conservatives on North Devon Council didn’t seem fair or sensible,” he said. “I always thought I’d like do something to change that and now I am proud to be standing for the Liberal Democrats.