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School Funding

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 29 March 2007

As a result of the public spending plans announced in the Budget for the Department for Education and Skills, per pupil funding in England will rise from an average of more than £5,500 this year to more than £6,600 in 2010. Local authority allocations will be announced in due course.

All schools in my constituency are pleased to see education at the forefront of Labour’s 11th successful Budget. May I put down a marker for my hon. Friend and any of his Treasury colleagues who might be moving on to new jobs in the future? An important review of the school funding formula is taking place, so will the very generous holders of the purse strings listen carefully to the arguments of Staffordshire and the F40 group of local authorities to make sure that the huge increase in education spending is shared evenly and fairly across the country?

The settlement in the Budget continues the top priority that this Government give to investment in education and skills. My hon. Friend is right that we are currently consulting, which will continue until May, on reforming the school funding system. I urge him, his local authority in Staffordshire and the F40 group of local authorities to contribute. He is right that this is a very good settlement for education. He will be aware that an inflexible and ideological third fiscal rule would mean less funding for schools and services in Staffordshire.

In what form will schools in Newcastle-under-Lyme be told that the rate of growth in education spending will be halved over the next three years and will now flatline as a percentage of GDP?

The figures are very clear in the Budget. There will be a 20 per cent. rise in per pupil funding across the country, and Staffordshire, like the rest of the country, will share in that. The education settlement was part of confirming a total increase in public spending plans to £674 billion by 2010. The hon. Gentleman’s party cannot and will not match that, because of the third fiscal rule. They will have to cut spending. The question for the shadow Chancellor is—

Does my hon. Friend agree that in Newcastle-under-Lyme, as elsewhere in the education system, people will be celebrating, because this Budget has reasserted the priority of education for this Government, which is a good news story? Does he agree that we need to nail down the fact that the money will be there for the wonderful building schools for the future programme over the next 15 years?

As the distinguished Chairman of the Education and Skills Committee, my hon. Friend will recognise that the Department for Education and Skills is taking a greater share of the increased cash in this spending review than it did in the last one. He is right that there is a powerful and deep commitment on this side of the House to seeing pupils in the state system get the same opportunities as those in the private system, and the investment in capital and the increase in revenue spending per pupil will help us do that. The building schools for the future programme will play an important part in many local authority areas in bringing our schools up to the 21st-century level in which children deserve to learn and teachers deserve to teach.