The current school funding system is unfair, and is based on an out-of-date assessment of need. We have already introduced reforms to make the system simpler and more transparent, which will assist preparation for the introduction of a national funding formula in the next spending review period.
I welcome that answer and that recognition. The current formula has arbitrary consequences in constituencies such as mine. Because a rising birth rate and other factors are not taken into account, parents living in areas like Claygate and Thames Ditton are struggling to secure local places. When will the review start, and what efforts will the Minister make to consult Members directly on the key issues and criteria that are at stake?
I can tell my hon. Friend that the Secretary of State and I are committed to introducing a fairer national funding formula in the next spending review period, but we are currently waiting for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to announce our final settlement in his spending review statement this Wednesday. I assure my hon. Friend that we will engage in full consultation with all Members, including those who have particular interests in this area, as he has.
We cannot make any comments until the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced the spending review settlement later this week, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State and I are working hard to secure a good settlement for all parts of the education system, not just for schools.
I welcome the Minister’s comments about the unfairness of the current national formula. Having met members of the Worcestershire Association of School Business Management last week, I can tell him that that unfairness is very keenly felt at present. May I urge him to do all that he can to ensure that we move towards a fairer national formula both before and after 2015?
I assure my hon. Friend that we are taking these matters particularly seriously. We have had a very unfair national funding formula for many years, and, sadly, the last Government did nothing to address it. At a time when there are difficult decisions to be made in all areas of funding, it is especially important for underfunded areas to have a better settlement, because otherwise they will be the areas that feel the budget pressures most acutely.