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Schools 2010-13

Volume 507: debated on Monday 15 March 2010

Over the past 12 years, our education system has been rebuilt on foundations of inspirational teaching, great school leadership and sustained record investment.

We have now almost 3,500 Sure Start children’s centres compared to none in 1997, nearly 4,000 schools have been rebuilt or refurbished, per pupil funding has more than doubled and over 42,000 more teachers and 212,000 more support staff have been recruited.

As a result, outcomes for children and young people have improved dramatically, we have many more outstanding schools and many fewer underperforming schools and our education system has gone from below average in the world to well above average. But our ambition is to have a world-class schools system in which there is excellence not just for some but for all, and where every pupil gets the support they need to overcome the additional barriers they face.

We set out the next stage of our reforms to achieve this ambition in our White Paper “Your child, your schools, our future: building a 21st century schools system”. But we also know that we will have to do so in tougher times.

In the pre-Budget report, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he will protect front-line spending on the police, the health service and in our schools.

In the case of schools, we also know that we will have to make tough choices and identify savings across the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) budget.

Today I am setting out details of the savings that I have identified so far; providing more information about the real-terms rises in school funding to help schools and local authorities plan for the next three years in advance of further details in the autumn; and launching a further consultation following our review of the dedicated schools grant.

The pre-Budget report confirmed that from 2011-13 funding for Sure Start will continue to rise in line with inflation; funding for 16-19 learning will rise by 0.9 per cent. year on year with an extra £202 million this year to meet our September guarantee; and funding for schools will increase by 0.7 per cent. in real terms, which at current inflation levels will mean a cash increase of 2.7 per cent. This comes on top of real-terms increases of 2.4 per cent., or cash increases per pupil of 4.3 per cent., in 2010-11.

This means that 75 per cent. of the DCSF Budget has been protected and we can:

Deliver our pupil and parent guarantees including one-to-one tuition for all children in primary school and year 7 who fall behind;

Ensure there is strong discipline and good behaviour in every school;

Meet our September guarantee to all school leavers of a place in college or training;

Maintain our additional teachers and support staff;

And in addition, take forward our Building Schools for the Future pledge to rebuild or refurbish all secondary schools. We have announced a further tranche of BSF projects: £418.3 million will be invested across Buckinghamshire, Cornwall, Gateshead, Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire and Sutton.

By 2013, the Chancellor said also that I will need to find £500 million in savings from my non-protected spending, which, leaving aside the teachers’ pension scheme, accounts for 8 per cent. of the DCSF’s £63 billion resource budget.

This is equivalent to a 7 per cent. cut and requires tough choices. I have so far identified savings of over £300 million, including: £135 million from our NDPBs with significant reductions in funding for BECTA and the TDA; £100 million by ending start-up funding for extended services now that 95 per cent. of schools already offer access to them; £50 million by scaling back bursaries for initial teacher training now that we have a steady flow of new teachers; and £5 million in savings from communications budgets including by moving Teachers’ TV online. At the same time the Department will save a further £8 million per year from the costs of its back office functions, by sharing services with other Government Departments.

We still have further work to identify savings without cutting into programmes such as short breaks for disabled children, music, sport or support for looked-after children because I am determined to do whatever it takes to protect the front line.

Real-terms increases in schools funding of 0.7 per cent., or 2.7 per cent. cash at current levels of inflation, mean we can resource increasing pupil numbers—a projected further 80,000 pupils—and still increase per pupil funding by 2.1 per cent. in cash. This means we can resource our priorities:

Ensure one-to-one tuition can be maintained in KS2 and year 7 and expanded to KS1, delivering our “3Rs” guarantee;

Maintain the subsidy for extended services, supporting a richer and broader school experience for all pupils but particularly those from more deprived backgrounds;

Resource new or improved areas of provision, such as ensuring parents are able to secure a school place from the September following their child’s 4th birthday, as recommended by Sir Jim Rose; and

Ensure continued protection of core front-line provision for children in schools and thus delivery of our pupil and parent guarantees.

For the same period, we expect average cost pressures of 1.6 per cent. cash per pupil. This means that schools on average will be able to meet their cost pressures from within their overall increase.

The actual level of increase in funding for each individual school will vary. It will depend on each school’s own particular needs; local decisions about how best to meet needs; and the conclusion of the consultation I am beginning today on the distribution of the dedicated schools grant.

However, as in the past, we will protect schools by setting a minimum funding guarantee (MFG): a guaranteed per pupil increase in their like-for-like budget. We will, as usual, set the exact level of the MFG in the autumn, but it will certainly guarantee all schools increasing per pupil budgets in cash terms. Of course, the majority of schools will receive higher funding increases than the MFG—as is the case with three quarters of schools this year.

Every school faces different challenges and some schools face greater challenges than others.

We know that results have been rising fastest of all in schools in the areas with the greatest deprivation and the gap has been narrowing. But we have much more to do and we are determined to tighten the link between deprivation and school budgets so that schools with the greatest proportion of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds get the additional resources they need.

We have been reviewing the dedicated schools grant to ensure that funding is distributed fairly, transparently and responds to the needs of children and young people, and today have published the “Consultation on the future distribution of school funding”.

Currently, around £3 billion is allocated to local authorities as additional deprivation funding through the dedicated schools grant, rising to nearly £4 billion including other grants.

In the past, local authorities have not always passed on all of this funding to schools on the basis of deprivation and we have already made it clear to local authorities that we expect them to do so in the future.

But to ensure that all schools who take on pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds get the additional resources they need and still have the flexibility to decide how they use deprivation funding, it is also our intention to require local authorities to use a local pupil premium to distribute deprivation funding, based on their own local decisions of how best to measure deprivation and to increase it gradually before 100 per cent. of deprivation funding is passed on appropriately by 2014-15.

During our review, we received some representations that a nationally-set pupil premium should be implemented.

However, a nationally-set pupil premium would not take account of local need, would prescribe a single amount of funding to overcome deprivation across the whole country and would, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, require severe and immediate cuts to school budgets or other public services to pay for it. So it is also our intention that the definition and therefore the level of the pupil premium is agreed locally, so that it can properly reflect local need, circumstances and challenges.

It is however vital that all schools make savings to enable schools collectively to meet all cost pressures, ensure investment in our key priority areas, allow progress to be made on delivering a fairer funding system without creating damaging instability for schools funded at the MFG, and use their resources to best effect to maximise investment in improving outcomes for their pupils. So alongside a real-terms rise in school funding of 0.7 per cent., (a cash increase of 2.7 per cent.), we have also set schools challenging but achievable efficiency targets of 0.9 per cent. or £650 million across the school system as a whole which will enable them to meet cost pressures and continue to deliver improved outcomes for pupils.

It should be possible for schools, across the piece, to save in excess of this. We believe schools could go further and potentially make efficiency savings of up to £950 million, providing up to £300 million extra savings which could be recycled by schools to spend themselves on their priorities to support every child.

We published a discussion document on efficiencies—“Securing our future: using our resources well”— in November last year setting out the areas where we believed schools would most be able to achieve efficiency savings.

I know that school leaders around the country have recognised the progress that needs to be made and are responding vigorously to the challenge of identifying efficiency savings in order to switch resources to the front line. Around 1,800 schools have already taken up the offer of free financial consultancy support that we have made available to all maintained schools and we expect many more schools to attend one of the conferences that we have arranged with the National College, the LGA and other organisations.

We also announced last week that we will fund 1,000 more primary school bursars.

There is no doubt that this is a tougher settlement than in the past and tough choices have to be made by schools, by local authorities and by Government. I have chosen to protect front-line budgets, pass on real-terms increases to schools, make tough choices to find savings in the DCSF unprotected budget and support schools to make efficiencies. I have also chosen not to create excess places that would deprive existing schools of funds they need and not to introduce a national pupil premium that would require severe and immediate cuts to school budgets. I believe those are the right choices for our schools and for the future of our country.

I have placed copies of both “Investing for the future: school funding 2010-13” and “Consultation on the future distribution of school funding” in the House Libraries.