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School Funding (Northumberland)

Volume 546: debated on Monday 18 June 2012

3. What his policy is on funding by his Department of schools in Northumberland; and if he will make a statement. (111834)

We plan to introduce a new national funding formula in the next spending period. It is, however, important that we introduce reform at a pace that schools can manage. As a first step towards a new formula, we are simplifying local funding arrangements from 2013-14, ensuring that more funding is passed to schools.

The decision on 24 May to grant Prudhoe community high school a rebuild was wonderful news and formed a great birthday present for its head teacher, Dr Iain Shaw. It was also a huge boost to a community that had been long neglected in terms of funding. May I invite the Secretary of State to visit this fantastic school when the rebuild is complete to see for himself the positive difference that it makes, both to the school and to the wider community?

It is always a pleasure to visit Northumberland. I hope that I will have a chance, even before the school is rebuilt, to visit Prudhoe to congratulate it on the fantastic teaching that goes on there, and perhaps I shall take in Alnwick while I am there.

I should explain for the benefit of the House that as the Secretary of State has given what might be called a national answer, slightly opening up Question 3, for which I do not in any way excoriate him, the field is now open.

I thank you, Mr Speaker, and through you the Secretary of State for his generosity. Areas such as Northumberland have sometimes lost out, as the Secretary of State has pointed out, through funding formulae that do not recognise deprivation that is more dispersed. I urge him to ensure that the review takes full account of that, so that areas such as Northumberland get their fair share of national funding and to ensure that the pupil premium continues its progress in tackling deprivation across the country.

Since the days of the Venerable Bede, where Northumberland has led, the rest of the country has followed. My hon. Friend makes a very good point. Northumberland and Cornwall have similar challenges that will be taken into account in our review of funding.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for clearing the matter up. Is it the intention of the Secretary of State through the school funding reform proposals to threaten the future of 19 primary schools in my constituency that have fewer than 100 pupils on their rolls? If, as I hope, it is not, I would appreciate his proposals to avoid that disastrous consequence.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising a concern that many Members have, which is that the funding reforms will call into question the position of smaller primary schools. It is not our intention to do that. We hope to ensure that there is a floor to provide a guaranteed sum for every school, which will ensure that good, local, small primary schools can continue to flourish.

What about funding in the secondary schools sector? The Secretary of State has said a lot about free schools and competition in places where there are failing schools. What will happen to schools with good Ofsted reports in areas where there is no demand for a new school if a free school emerges that goes right through to secondary level?

Under the funding reforms that we will introduce, more money will go directly to schools, including fantastic schools such as Woodside high school in the London borough of Haringey, which the right hon. Gentleman knows well and which is doing a fantastic job under its brilliant governors.