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Schools: London

Volume 617: debated on Monday 14 November 2016

We will introduce a national funding formula from April 2018, so that schools in all parts of the country are funded fairly and consistently. This significant reform will mean children with the same needs are funded at the same rate wherever they live. We will put forward our detailed proposals for consultation later this year, and make final decisions in the new year.

Does the Minister accept, in looking at appropriate funding, that there is a great deal of complexity within London, that needs and demands vary within the capital and that, for funding, we currently deal with an artificial distinction between inner and outer London boroughs? That distinction goes back to the disappearance of the London County Council in 1966, and it is no longer relevant to the modern demographic and social pressures that our schools face.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, which I will take as a response to our consultation document. The proposals in the document for an area cost adjustment are about using either a general labour market methodology or a hybrid methodology with two elements: the four regional pay bands and a general labour market methodology for non-teaching staff costs. We will respond to the consultation shortly.

I was not around in 1966, when that decision was taken. The reality of the Government’s policies in London is that schools are having to rationalise the range of choice in modern languages and are cutting back on subjects such as drama and music. The funding settlement for London does not currently meet the real needs of pupils in London today. Instead of mucking about with ideologically driven projects like grammar school expansion—there is no evidence that that will improve social mobility—why are Ministers not focusing on the bread and butter issues of the right funding, the right teaching and proper opportunities for all pupils across all parts of London?

We are protecting core school funding in real terms. We can do that because we have a strong economy. The hon. Gentleman may not have been here when the last Labour Government were in power, but he should be aware that the number of students taking modern foreign languages plummeted as a direct consequence of a decision taken by Labour in 2004 to stop languages being compulsory up to GCSE.

Notwithstanding the generally higher funding for London schools, will my hon. Friend update the House on the progress towards a fairer funding formula for the rest of the country?

Yes. We are considering the consultation document we published in March. The consultation finished in April, and we are looking at the responses. We will respond to the consultation shortly.

Far from core school funding being protected, as the Secretary of State said a few minutes ago, we know that schools are set to lose £2.5 billion by 2020. Headteachers in the Minister’s county are threatening a four-day week because of the funding formula. In that context, how will he secure fairer funding for schools, especially in London, which has had the additional benefit of the London challenge formula?

The Secretary of State was right: we are protecting core schools funding in real terms. We are consulting on a range of factors such as deprivation, English as an additional language and sparsity, for which there is a flat figure per school. All those factors are part of the consultation document because we are addressing an historic unfairness in the funding system that Labour presided over for 13 years. This Government are taking action to address that. I would have hoped that the hon. Gentleman supported the consultation, rather than criticise it.