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Primary School Places

Volume 565: debated on Monday 24 June 2013

6. What funding his Department is providing to local authorities to address shortfalls in primary school places. (160854)

By the end of this Parliament, we will have made well over £5 billion available to local authorities to support the provision of additional pupil places, which is more than double what was provided by the previous Government over a comparable period.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree with me that when we are dealing with a shortage of school places, the last thing we need is an assault on valuable teachers in the independent sector, who face being mummified with red tape to appease the vested interests of the Labour party?

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that the last thing we need is more bureaucracy and regulation in the school system.

The National Audit Office projects that there is a 240,000 shortfall of primary school places across England, and in fact there are now bulges in classes across Tameside and Stockport, the two local authorities covering my constituency. Given that, will the Minister explain what proportion of capital spend has gone to address this problem in the areas of need?

I certainly can. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that under this Government, the amount of money that has gone into funding basic need places has doubled in comparison with the amount available under the last Government. I can also say that the reason why there might be pressures at the current time is that the hon. Gentleman’s party removed over 200,000 primary places between 2003 and 2010—in spite of the warnings about higher pupil numbers from the Office for National Statistics.

The borough of Kettering has the sixth fastest household growth rate in the whole country, and the pressure on primary school places is getting more acute year by year. Will the Minister ensure that in his new funding formula, there is appropriate funding for areas of the country that are experiencing rapid population growth?

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point because the Government are not only allocating much greater capital for basic need, but have changed the funding formula for distributing this money so that where there are pockets of basic need in areas that were previously not recognised, we are reflecting that fully in the distributions.

The Secretary of State was reticent last week when Sir Michael Wilshaw launched Ofsted’s report on closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged children attracting the pupil premium. Was that because Sir Michael Wilshaw advocated Labour’s proven policy of greater collaboration between schools to raise standards rather than the Secretary of State’s desire for privatised schools for profit of the kind that have been such a failure in Sweden?

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is talking about. This Government are encouraging schools to collaborate; this Government are encouraging partnership; this Government are promoting national leaders of education; this Government are going to introduce something that their predecessors did not—tables of similar schools so that schools can learn from each other.