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Secondary School Expenditure

Volume 491: debated on Monday 27 April 2009

Separate figures are not available for secondary schools, as funding is not allocated by phase. Revenue and capital combined funding per pupil aged three to 19 in England for 2009-10 is £6,400. The average guaranteed per pupil unit of funding in the dedicated schools grant, which is the core element of school revenue funding, for 2009-10 is £4,218.

I thank the Minister for that reply, and may I say what a vast improvement that is on the situation before 1997? In the context of the financial crisis, does he detect any lessening of the Government’s enthusiasm for seeking convergence in the funding of the 93 per cent. of children in state schools and the 7 per cent. of children in private schools?

There is no lessening of enthusiasm at all; our commitment remains to safeguarding schools budgets. We are committed to the increases that we set out the year before last for this comprehensive spending review period—unlike others, who can make no commitment for the last year of that spending review period—and on the basis of those increases, we are narrowing the gap all the time.

The Minister always seeks to deal with questions in a helpful and sensitive way. Am I right to believe the information that is coming to me from a number of my local secondary schools that there is a problem in the funding of sixth-form education? This deeply worries me, because I believe that, at the sixth-form level, we really do dictate how people will succeed in their subsequent career and life. Is there a problem? If so, what are the Government going to do about it? As he knows, I come from what was Cheshire—now it is Cheshire East.

I shall try to put this as helpfully and sensitively as possible. As we set out in response to earlier questions, in the Budget we announced more than £200 million for this year and more than £400 million for next year so that we can fully fund post-16 places and, indeed, an additional 55,000 extra learners. We are not just saying to schools and colleges, “Plan on the basis of what you had already predicted at the turn of year for post-16 places.”; we are also saying, “If you can stimulate more into learning, we have the resources to listen to what you are saying and to see whether we can do even better than you were expecting.”

We all welcome the increase in the baseline funding for secondary schools, but will the Minister assure us that, once again, he will re-examine the area cost adjustment, in order to take account of children who live in small pockets of deprivation and underachieve, yet are paid less than those in accommodating areas, where schools overachieve above the average and there is no deprivation, simply because they are not in metropolitan areas?

Certainly I can tell my hon. Friend that we are looking at a new formula for the dedicated schools grant for the next spending review period. We have been working and consulting on that for some time, and we expect to be able to make some announcements towards the end of next year on the outcome of that work. During this spending review period, we acknowledge, for the first time, that there are pockets of deprivation in some of our wealthier authorities; we have begun a process of acknowledging exactly the point that he raises.

In the middle of March, Lutterworth college—the biggest school in Leicestershire—which is in my constituency, was told that it would get a certain sum for post-16 education, but at the end of March, the Learning and Skills Council told it that the sum would be less. Now, after the Budget, the Government are saying that they are going to find the money after all. May I say sensitively to the sensitive Minister that the situation is chaotic—to say the least? Can he now guarantee that Lutterworth college will be able to fund every place that it expected to fund this coming September?

I welcome the investment to which my right hon. Friend has referred in earlier answers. Do figures exist to show the funding that is being put into the STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and mathematics? Is he confident that it is sufficient to ensure that every student who wants to study one of those subjects can do so?

I do not have the figures at my fingertips for the extra resources that we are putting into the STEM subjects, which my hon. Friend champions so passionately, but it is crucial that we sustain the momentum that we have developed in science, technology, engineering and maths for our economy and to enable individuals to prosper in life. Those skills and competencies are hugely important, and we will continue that commitment as we carry out the review of schools funding that I mentioned earlier.