I inform the House that the Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. Before I call the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) to move the motion, I must point out that 36 Members wish to speak in the debate. I ask those on the Front Benches to be as concise as possible, and if Members wishing to speak in the debate make interventions on Front Benchers I am afraid that they will find that their names have mysteriously slipped down the speaking list. I am sorry to say that we are going to start with a limit of three minutes on Back-Bench speeches. If people keep their interventions to an absolute minimum, everyone might get in. Otherwise, the people at the bottom of the list will not be able to speak. With that, let’s get going!
I beg to move,
That this House regrets the impact of school funding cuts on the ability of children to reach their full potential; and calls on the Government to ensure that all schools have the funding that they need to provide an excellent education for every child.
I will try to keep interventions to a minimum, Madam Deputy Speaker; I warn hon. Members of that as I start my contribution.
We have heard much this week about respecting the mandate that the British people have given us, so today I am giving Conservative Members the chance to do that, by implementing the pledge that they gave to the country in their election manifesto. It stated:
“Under a future Conservative government, the amount of money following your child into school will be protected. There will be a real terms increase in the schools budget in the next Parliament.”
That pledge was repeated by the last Prime Minister—the one who actually fought an election—and he was very clear about what it meant. He said:
“I can tell you, with a Conservative Government the amount of money following your child into school will not be cut.”
There is one question that the Secretary of State has to answer today: will she keep her party’s promise to the British people?
The National Audit Office has revealed that, under the current spending settlement, there will be
“an 8 per cent cut in pupil funding”
between 2015 and 2020. That same conclusion was reached by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. That means that schools in every region, every city, every town and, yes, every constituency will lose money because of the failure of this Government to protect funding for our schools.
I want to make some progress.
Let us consider the context.
“Britain has a deep social mobility problem, and for this generation in particular, it is getting worse not better”—
as a result of—
“an unfair education system, a two-tier labour market, an imbalanced economy, and an unaffordable housing market.”
That was the conclusion of the Government’s own Social Mobility Commission. And what about our education system?
“We still have too many underperforming schools and low overall levels of numeracy and literacy. England remains the only OECD country where 16 to 24-year-olds are no more literate or numerate than 55 to 64-year-olds.”
Again, that is not my conclusion, but that of the Government’s own industrial strategy Green Paper, which quite rightly makes it clear just how central education is to our economy, especially following Brexit.
My hon. Friend is talking about the broken pledge on increasing funding for schools. Is she aware that 74 out of 77 schools—that is 96% of them—face real-terms cuts of more than £200,000 by 2019? How is that defensible? How is it evidence of a Government who care about education?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend—there is no justification for these cuts.
The Secretary of State has, of course, unveiled the proposed solution, her so-called national fair funding formula, which she presented to her Back Benchers as a kind of reverse distribution. On the Government’s own figures, they are quite literally robbing Peterborough to pay for Poole, but it will not take long for Members on both sides of the House to discover that not only is there nothing fair about the proposed funding formula but that it will not make up for overall real-terms cuts. Concerns about what that means for our constituents are shared on both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) has said that his message to the Minister for School Standards is:
“I don’t get this and I don’t think it’s particularly fair.”
I hope that we will see the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle in the Chamber this afternoon and that he will put his concerns forward. I hope he will speak.
The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Mr Brady) has said:
“Every secondary school in Trafford will lose funding, even though it is one of the places famously underfunded for education.”
Perhaps we will hear from him, too. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), who of course co-chairs the f40 group of historically underfunded local education authorities, said just this morning:
“The bottom line is that it’s created some distorted outcomes which we think require some significant remodelling.”
No wonder he is concerned, because nearly half of the f40 group face further cuts, rather than increases, under the Minister’s national funding fiddle.
Of course there is one Government Member who seems quite happy to accept the cuts in her own constituency: the Secretary of State herself. Schools in her own constituency are set to lose some 15% of their funding per pupil. Perhaps she will be lobbying herself.
The hon. Lady is listing Members who are unhappy. I, like her, am unhappy. All the schools in Southend are receiving a cut under this funding formula, and I think it is the only local authority area outside central London where that is the case.
The figures I have are from the House of Commons Library. I apologise if I have misread them, but that is my reading. Is not the point that this is a consultation? If this were a fait accompli, I would not support the Secretary of State, but this is a consultation.
I hope that the hon. Members I mentioned will make contributions today, because the motion before the House makes it clear that our schools are facing a cocktail of cuts that will see 98% of schools lose out in the funding formula. I hope that the Government think again about their proposals.
My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. In my constituency we are looking at cuts of £437 per pupil between 2015 and 2019. With the Government saying that they believe in and want to support social mobility, and with a third of our children across the country not achieving even five good GCSEs, does she agree that this is absolutely the wrong time to be cutting school funding for the pupils who most need it and that it is an own goal when it comes to thinking about our future shared prosperity?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and I would go so far as to say that the meritocracy that the Prime Minister talks about is already in tatters.
The National Audit Office has said that the Secretary of State expects schools to make £1.7 billion of savings by “using staff more efficiently.” Can she guarantee today that those so-called efficiencies do not mean fewer staff? A £1.7 billion cut could mean up to 10,000 redundancies for teaching staff in our schools. She has resolutely failed to give us figures on the impact of the planned cut, but her own analysis of the research conducted by the education unions shows that, for example, the cuts in my region—the north-west—would amount to well over £400 million, requiring the loss of more than 2,000 teachers. Given that the Government have failed to meet their own teacher recruitment targets for the past five years in a row, I urge her to think again before she tries to solve school budget crises on the back of hard-working staff.
Make no mistake, this is a crisis. Indeed, schools are already resorting to staff cuts in order to cope. A Unison staff survey conducted last year showed that, even then, more than one in 10 respondents were reporting redundancies in the past year and in the coming year. More than one in five said that their school had left vacant posts unfilled over the past year or had cut maintenance. Nearly a quarter had seen increased class sizes, and over a quarter had experienced cuts to budgets for books and resources over the past year.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I am sorry that she does not agree with fair funding. How can she possibly justify a child in the constituencies of the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Home Secretary receiving, on average, £6,229 a year and £6,680 a year respectively while a child in my West Sussex constituency, which has deprived wards, will receive less than £4,200?
The Labour party is for fair funding, but this is not fair funding; this is unfair funding for every school in our nation. The hon. Gentleman should take heed of what that might mean for his constituency. Pulling people down is not the way forward. If we want to make the best of our economy post-Brexit, we must ensure that we invest in all our schools, not take from one school, robbing one group of young people, to give to another, leading to an overall cut in distribution.
I have given way once, so I am going to make some progress.
It was no surprise when the National Audit Office found that the number of maintained secondary schools in deficit rose from 33% to nearly 60% between 2010 and 2015. Its report refers to a sample of schools that said that typical savings came through increased class sizes, reduced teacher contact time, replacing experienced teachers with new recruits, recruiting staff on temporary contracts, encouraging staff to teach outside their specialism, and relying more on unqualified staff, none of which are measures that parents would want to see at their school. The NAO tells us that the Department’s savings estimates do not even take account of the real impact on schools. For example, the Government seem to remain committed to cutting the national education services grant, which amounts to £600 million, but they have not yet completed any assessment of how that will impact on schools across England. When will that assessment be put to the House?
Just this Monday, the Public Accounts Committee heard from headteachers who are desperately trying to keep providing an excellent education in the face of funding cuts. I hope that the Secretary of State heard the contribution of Kate Davies, headteacher of Darton College in Barnsley, for example. She said that as a result of funding cuts she had had to
“reduce the curriculum offer and cut out the whole of the community team. We have reduced staffing and reduced the leadership team.”
I am sure the Secretary of State heard Tim Gartside, headteacher of Altrincham Grammar School for Boys, say only this morning that the funding cuts that his school faces are so severe that he only has three options left: reduce the curriculum, increase class sizes, or ask parents to make a cash contribution to keep the school running. What is the Secretary of State’s plan? Does she want schools to cut subjects, increase class sizes, or make parents foot the bill? Is she not worried that routinely requesting termly cash donations from parents risks discriminating against low-income families and schools in lower-income areas? We have heard similar from not only the representatives of teachers, but unions that represent teaching assistants, such as Unison and the GMB. If she thinks assistants are a soft target for cuts, she is much mistaken.
Evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation shows that teaching assistants have a particularly important impact on the literacy and numeracy of pupils on free school meals and on those who were previously struggling—the very pupils that the Government said only earlier this week needed extra support if we are to increase skills and productivity. Teaching assistant pay has declined so far since the Government abolished the school staff negotiating body that many are now on the minimum wage. There are literally no more cuts to make to pay. Any further cuts will hit teaching staff directly.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. I am sure that the reason the debate has been over-subscribed is that many hon. Members from both sides of the House have realised that the national funding formula and the cuts faced by our schools are taking them over the edge and building a crisis in our school system.
The Conservative party’s promise was not to spend more on schools; it was to spend more on each pupil, in real terms. Yet the Government will cut per-pupil spending. Under Labour Governments, education spending increased by 4.7% per year. The fact of the matter is quite simple: the Secretary of State and her party entered government on a manifesto that pledged to protect per-pupil funding. That promise is being broken.
I have noticed over the past two years that the Opposition seem to have an awful lot of money to spend, and the hon. Lady is obviously suggesting spending more. Does she accept the analysis performed by the Institute for Fiscal Studies of the Labour and Conservative manifestos, which effectively said that the two parties’ commitments to investment in education came to exactly the same figure?
The difference between the Labour and Conservative manifestos is that when Labour was in power, in 1997, 2001 and 2005, our manifesto pledged to increase spending on education, and we delivered on that. It is the Conservative Government who are not delivering on their promises. Government Members should hold them to account.
Instead of proper funding for our schools and investment in our future, we have seen years of regressive tax giveaways to the wealthiest, and now the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have threatened to turn Britain into an offshore tax haven for billionaires—a bargain- basement economy that loses billions of pounds in tax revenues each and every year. The Government are faced with choices, and time and again they make the wrong decision.
I know that every Member, on both sides of the House, will want every child in their constituency and in our country to get the best possible start in life, but if the Government do not change their course, that simply will not be possible. So today is the chance for the Secretary of State to tell us whether she will keep her manifesto pledge and commit to provide the real-term increase in school budgets that was promised. If she will not, I call on all Members of the House to send a clear message today: that we will accept nothing but the best possible start in life for every child in our country.
I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “House” to the end of the Question and add:
“shares the strong commitment of the Government to raising school standards and building a country that works for everyone; and welcomes proposals set out in the Government's open schools national funding formula stage two consultation to move to a fair and consistent national funding formula for schools to ensure every child is fairly funded, wherever in England they live, to protect funding for deprived pupils and recognise the particular needs of pupils with low prior attainment.”
Members on both sides of the House can agree that we want to deliver a world-class education system that gives every young person the chance to make the most of their talents, no matter what their background or where they come from. Indeed, the true value of an excellent education is that it can open up opportunity and support young people to reach their true potential. For me, education was certainly the route to my having a much better life than my parents had.
We are keeping our promises and our record in government speaks for itself. We now see 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010. We are keeping our promise by protecting the core schools budget in real terms over this Parliament. The shadow Secretary of State talked about what parents want in schools, but what they do not want in schools is what the previous Labour Government left them with: children leaving school without the literacy, numeracy and qualifications they need; and children leaving school thinking that they had strong grades when in fact what they were seeing was grade inflation. We have steadily sought to change that and to improve our education system. Many young people now leave our education system in a much better place to achieve success in their future life.
The right hon. Lady will be aware that the Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, heard from the permanent secretary, Jonathan Slater, on Monday in our session on the National Audit Office report to which my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) referred. That report does acknowledge what the Secretary of State says about a real-terms increase in the overall budget, but because there are more pupils than was envisaged, there will be an 8% reduction in per-pupil funding. Does she agree with the NAO report and the acknowledgment of her permanent secretary to that effect?
The NAO report makes it very clear that there are cost pressures, which I shall talk about later on in my speech. It also makes it clear that there is significant scope for efficiency in our school system. Although we are raising standards in many schools—nearly nine out of 10 schools are now rated as good or outstanding—many young people are still not achieving the necessary standard in our education system.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s decision on fairer funding. Does she agree that schools in areas such as mine that were at the bottom of the pile under the previous Government’s formula need quite a step up over the next few years because they were very badly done by?
I do agree. We want every child to have the same chance to do as well as possible no matter where they grow up in our country or, indeed, where they start from academically. That is why we must ensure that the resources going into the system reflect our high ambitions for every child wherever they grow up, and that they are distributed to that effect. It is because of this Government’s economic policy, which has seen jobs, growth and the careful management of public finances, that we have been able to protect the core schools budget in real terms over the course of this Parliament. In fact, our core schools investment is the largest on record.
David Cameron promised that the funding per pupil would be protected but, as we have heard, that is not happening. In my constituency, funding per pupil is being reduced further as a result of the formula. Why is David Cameron’s promise being broken?
It is not. We are protecting funding per pupil as well. On apportioning funding fairly between schools, we know that it is time to look at the school funding formula to ensure that we rectify the current unfair and outdated system, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) set out. At the moment, funding is not distributed evenly across our country and does not take account of pupil needs. For example, a school in Sutton receives £75 in extra funding for each pupil with English as a second language, but in Tower Hamlets that figure is £3,548. We know that a primary school pupil who is eligible for free school meals and who has English as an additional language attracts £4,219 in East Sussex, but just down the road in Brighton and Hove, that same child would attract £5,813 for their school. We know that a secondary class of 30 children with no additional needs attracts £112,100 of funding in Staffordshire, but £122,500 of funding in Stoke-on-Trent. That is a difference of £10,400 for one class.
We know that parents and families see that unfairness playing out for their children, and it is simply untenable to say that these historical imbalances and differences in how we fund our children across the country are something that we should accept. No parent should have to put up with such disparity. I hear the shadow Secretary of State say that she does not like our proposed funding formula, but it is subject to consultation. I have actually extended the consultation period from 12 weeks, which was the longest period ever for such a consultation, to 14 weeks, because this is complicated. It is important that we have a measured, proportionate debate around the right way to proceed with the funding formula. What is absent from Opposition Members’ speeches is any suggestion of a better way of doing things. When the shadow Minister wraps up the debate, I will be interested to hear whether Labour has any alternative to the national funding formula—or any other education policy for that matter. We are right to be taking action.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The formula recognises that different schools face different costs, particularly in rural areas, so the sparsity factor recognises that rural schools often have a higher cost base. That sits alongside a lump-sum element that is built into the formula to make sure that schools have the money that they need to be able to function effectively. Colleagues in rural seats will recognise that small rural schools have gained an average of 1.3% under the formula. Primary schools in sparse communities will gain 5.3% on average.
There was a manifesto commitment to increase school spending per capita, but secondary schools in Greenwich face the prospect of having to make on average £1 million savings between now and 2019, with primary schools saving more than £200,000 each. Some 74 out of 77 schools face those cuts. Is that consistent with what the Conservative party told parents in my borough before the election?
We said that we would protect the core schools budget in real terms, and that is exactly what we are doing. In relation to the hon. Gentleman’s local community, the change in the funding formula partly reflects the fact that, for a long time, we have used deprivation data that are simply out of date. It is important that we use up-to-date deprivation factors. For example, in 2005, 28% of children in London were on free school meals. That percentage has now fallen to 17%. It is right that we make sure that we have consistent investment for children from deprived communities, because that is where the attainment gap has opened up. It is also important that funding is spread fairly using up-to-date information.
When I was a schoolteacher under the Thatcher Government, I remember my school running out of paper in about February. A colleague and I had to go into the attic of the library and tear pages out of books from the 1970s so that our children could write on them. I remember wondering how we could expect children to write in those circumstances. Is the Secretary of State proud of that record, and what does she think that the scale of these cuts will do to staff morale in schools up and down the country?
I was actually at school during that time period, and I felt that Oakwood comprehensive gave me a great start in life that set me up to be able, hopefully, to make a meaningful contribution to both the economy and my local community.
We are introducing the national funding formula. I accept that it is complex and challenging, and there is a reason why such a thing has not been done for a long time: it is difficult to ensure that we get it just right. That is why we are having a longer consultation. We have provided all the details so that colleagues can see how their local communities will be affected, and then respond.
In my constituency, which already has one of the lowest-funded education authorities, two thirds of schools will receive a cut and a third will receive a maximum increase of 0.3%. That situation will undoubtedly lead to teacher losses and probably school closures. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to look at the situation? This might be only a consultation, but the proposal needs a radical overhaul.
I recognise my hon. Friend’s concerns. I am happy to talk to him one to one about his local community, as I have done with other colleagues. We are undertaking the consultation so that we can ensure that we get the new formula right. It is important that the formula works effectively on the ground. Alongside it, we will make sure that we protect the funding for deprived communities so that we can use that mechanism to tackle the attainment gap. We have also made sure that an element of our formula follows children who start from further behind, for whatever reason. Low prior attainment is properly addressed in the formula to make sure that if a child needs additional investment to help them to catch up, wherever they are in the country, that investment is there.
The second stage of the consultation on the funding formula runs until 22 March. We want to hear from as many school governors, schools, local authorities and parents as possible. I know that colleagues on both sides of the House will also want to contribute. As I said, we have put a lot of data alongside the consultation because we want to ensure that people have the information that they need to be able to respond. The transparency that the new formula will give us also means that we will have much more informed debates in this House about how we want to fund our schools, and the relative balance we want between core funding, deprivation funding and low prior attainment funding, as well as issues such as sparsity.
I strongly support my right hon. Friend in seeking to achieve fair funding, which is absolutely the right thing to do. However, there will be little help for secondary schools in my constituency, and the primary schools will actually lose out. How can that be right, given that West Sussex is already the worst-funded shire authority? Will she undertake to have another look at the draft allocation before it is finalised?
My right hon. Friend will want to contribute to the consultation. It is important that we hear from as many colleagues, and indeed schools, from across the country as possible. As I said, we have put out a lot of additional information so that we can have an informed debate in the House, and these proceedings form part of that.
I will make a little more progress because I know that many Members want to have their say on behalf of their local communities.
I want to move on to the broader cost pressures that schools are facing. Many of those pressures actually come from steps that we have taken, for example by introducing the apprenticeship levy. That levy will benefit millions of young people in the coming years, but it will also benefit schools through the training and development of existing staff. We have also introduced the national living wage, which benefits low-paid workers in schools and other organisations, and that was the right thing to do.
My Department has a role to play in supporting schools across the country to drive greater efficiencies. We have analysed the cost bases of different schools that operate in similar circumstances. As the National Audit Office report sets out, we believe that efficiencies can be made.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way; I appreciate that this is a very busy debate. I want to speak up briefly for London. I need an assurance from her—I am sure that she has touched on this—because of the negative effect that the reform of the funding formula may have on schools in London, some of which face intolerable pressures.
Under the proposed formula on which we are consulting, London schools, purely because of the underlying cost pressures of running schools in London and the deprivation levels in their areas—although they have reduced, they are still comparatively high—will still receive, on average, 30% more. My hon. Friend will of course want to speak up on behalf of her community. This is about ensuring that we fund the right amount by using current data on deprivation, rather than data that are five or 10 years old.
We believe that the Department can work with schools to help them to make the best use of their resources. I want every single pound that we put into our schools system to be used efficiently to improve standards and have the maximum impact for pupils. We know that we can work with schools to ensure that they can use this record funding to make the maximum impact. Indeed, I would point to the situation in York. It has been one of the lowest funded authorities in the country, yet 92% of its schools are good or outstanding. We therefore know that we can make progress in education while making efficiencies.
I very much support what the Secretary of State is trying to do, since Wiltshire is one of the worst-funded education authorities in the country. However, will she look again at the sparsity factor, because school governors are currently crunching the figures, and some of them are saying that they worry about the viability of small schools in rural locations being undermined, which clearly will not be the intention of the Secretary of State?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Indeed, we looked at the formula to ensure that we did introduce a sparsity factor. Not all local authorities actually had a sparsity factor in their local formula, but we are now making sure that it is there for every single school. We have also introduced the lump-sum formula.
We got to the stage in developing the formula where the only way we could continue to improve it was to ask people what they thought about it, which is why the consultation is so important. It is important that we get the formula right, but I recognise that this complicated formula has to work for schools around the country that are in very different situations, which is why the debate is so important. Following the phase 1 consultation, it is right that we steadily take the time to hold a phase 2 consultation to help us to finalise a formula that can work and have real longevity.
We will work with schools to help them to improve their efficiency. We have already published a school buying strategy that sees us launching an efficiency website. We are putting in place national deals to help to ensure that schools get the best deals on things such as utilities. We are putting in place buying and digital hubs so that strong procurement teams are close to schools to give them advice when they need it. We are also setting up school business manager networks so that we work with the people who are driving efficiencies in schools to share best practice and improve performance. Over time, I believe that we really can take some steps forward on that.
We are making sure that record funding is going into our schools, we are making sure that our curriculum is stronger than ever before, and we are actually turning out young people with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. That is not the only part of our education policy; we are also investing in apprenticeships and radically reforming technical education. We are going to make sure that this Government end up being able to say that every young person, wherever they grow up, is able to do their best and reach their full potential. I hope that, over the course of the debate, colleagues will recognise that that is the strategy that we will deliver.
I am sure that, in her characterisation of different education authorities, the Secretary of State would say that Slough is unfairly generously funded, but I want to speak about the hundreds of pupils in Slough who get no funding at all for their education. You might think, “How can that be?”, but this is a very serious issue, which is not properly addressed by the Secretary of State’s proposed fair funding formula.
There is swift growth in areas such as Slough. For years, we have been in the top 10 authorities for growth in pupil numbers, and we do not get paid until 18 months later for extra children who arrive after the October census date. Locally, that is dealt with by taking a top slice of the dedicated schools grant of £1 million or £1.5 million to fund bulge classes in existing schools.
Obviously, other authorities face churn and growth in pupil numbers, but in most places the number of additional pupils is not particularly significant, and new arrivals after October tend to be balanced by departures. Also, most of the extra children are born in families who are already there, so they apply at the usual time for schools.
That does not happen in Slough. When I asked schools about the numbers, the results were stark. One primary school had 13 children leave, but it had 23 new starters: one was completely new to English, others had English as a second language, and two more from overseas start next week. One secondary school estimates that the pupil formula for the 13 extra pupils who arrived after the census date in 2015-16 would have been worth £49,937; in the current year, the figure is £39,595. Those figures have gone down partly because the school has been subject to the minimum income formula, which I call the maximum cut formula, because that is the case for the secondary schools in Slough.
A primary school that opened two extra classes in November 2015 to accommodate children new to the town now has 63 pupils above its standard number. The bulge classes are funded by the top-slicing of the dedicated schools grant, but that money only lasts for a year, and the extra pupils will not be funded by the DFE until next year, so this year two whole classes are being educated in one primary school with no capitation funding. We are not talking about children who are easy to teach, and there are the children who arrive from—
Indeed. There is a hint in the new funding formula that they might do something about this, but no clarity about what. This is absolutely urgent, because the per-pupil comparisons between different authorities are not accurate. Places like Slough and London that have historically been quite well funded and are facing the largest cuts are the places with the largest numbers of pupils who are not being paid for at all.
The Minister for School Standards knows about the massive problems we face in teacher recruitment. Over the past five months, five geography teacher posts in Slough have been advertised, with not one single applicant. The Migration Advisory Committee will not make the teaching of English, where we have a real shortage, a job that can be applied for by teachers overseas. We are in a crisis, and the Department is not responding to the real needs of the community that I have the privilege to represent. I really want answers on this now.
The very fact that we are having this debate is proof that there has been a huge step forward, because there is a proposal on the table for fairer funding. We should salute the Government for getting this far. We are obviously in a consultation process. The Education Committee is part of that process, in a sense, because we will be seeing the Minister for School Standards shortly, and we will expand on many of my points then.
In a funding situation where schools in a county like Gloucestershire are, in effect, no further forward and some are actually going backwards, there are clearly issues to explore. One of those is the need to lift the baseline, which can be done in a number of ways; I will suggest three. First, we must look at the deprivation assessment in line with the pupil premium, because the two things are clearly related, and it would be wise to consider the impact of one in the context of the other. That provides scope to lift the baseline.
The second area is small schools. We all want to support small schools, but we might need to look at the ratio between what we think of as a small school and a slightly larger school. The use of statistics, as we all know, can have unpredictable and unintended consequences, and that is possibly the case with small schools. The third area is recalibrating the 3% floor, which could give authorities that have had historical problems with underfunding some way out of that.
I know those three ideas are complicated in the context of these reforms, but we need to demonstrate that we really are committed to providing fair funding. If we think carefully about the impact of the various measures I have outlined, in conjunction with the wider question of the objectives of the new funding system, we may well deliver for our children exactly what we want.
No, I am not going to give way, because too many people wish to contribute.
In an ideal world, we would want to spend more on education. When the Government continue to grow the economy, as I am sure they will, with or without Brexit, that will be achieved. But we have to be realistic about the size of the cake and make sure that everybody has an appropriate slice.
The Department has produced a school-by-school analysis of the impact of the proposed funding formula. For schools in Liverpool, the results are worrying; 80% are forecast to lose funding, and we are set to lose around £1.3 million from the schools block in the first year, 2018-19. When the formula is fully implemented, unless it changes, that will increase to slightly more than £3 million. I know that consultation is still under way, but it is very important that schools in my constituency know what is happening as soon as possible so that they can plan their budgets.
I welcome the fact that the Liverpool settlement will mean more money for high-needs funding. There is, however, concern from the council and schools that that high-needs funding will not be available in time to alleviate the cuts in the schools block. What timescale do the Government envisage for full implementation of the new formula, particularly the high-needs funding element?
As we know, early years education is vital to pupils’ life chances. I have two nursery schools in my constituency, Ellergreen and East Prescot Road, both of which have been rated outstanding by Ofsted. Both are very concerned about the Government’s plans for nursery school funding. I seek assurances from the Minister that long-term funding for our nursery schools will be secure, so that they can continue their excellent work of providing quality early years education.
When I saw the motion for this debate, I wrote to the heads of schools in my constituency, asking them for their concerns. Blackmoor Park Infant School in West Derby told me about its need for repairs. It is using four mobile classrooms, which are three years beyond their shelf life. The headteacher told me that the school does not have enough money to replace them, because of the financial pressures that it faces.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The financial pressures that the schools told me about are highlighted in the Opposition motion. Secondary schools are also feeling the pinch. The head of St Edward’s College in my constituency told me that
“small budget lines are being nibbled away and in the end this is going to have a massive cumulative impact.”
The headteacher of St Cecilia’s Infant School told me that she is worried about the impact of budget cuts on staffing levels, particularly with regard to support staff.
Pupils with special needs present particular challenges for school budgets. The head of Croxteth Community Primary School raised with me the issue of educating those whose needs are more challenging and complex. The headteacher of Redbridge High School, a very good special school in my constituency, is worried that the imposition of a national funding model for children with additional needs has taken away local flexibility to move money around. Another of the fantastic special schools in my constituency is Bank View High School. The headteacher, who is concerned about the impact of cuts elsewhere in the public sector, said to me:
“How are we able to make our pupils effective members of society, who are able to be employed, if support agencies such as CAMHS are also having their funding reduced?”
The hon. Gentleman is making very reasonable points on behalf of schools in his constituency. Does he recognise that it is fundamentally unfair for small cities, such as my constituency of Gloucester, to receive approximately 50% less per-pupil funding than the metropolitan city area that he represents, and that it is right for the Secretary of State to address that?
I certainly recognise that it is hugely challenging to ensure that there is fair funding for all schools in all parts of the country, but the cuts that I am referring to, and the cuts that my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State talked about, are not to do with the national funding formula. I addressed it because it is an important issue, and because it is contained in the Government’s amendment to the motion. The motion is about the funding pressures that schools face before the implementation of the national funding formula, and we need to address that as well.
Like my hon. Friend, I consulted headteachers in my constituency. Jacquie Sainsbury, the headteacher of Brookhill Leys Primary School, where 55% of kids are on the pupil premium, said, “How am I going to find £230,000 out of next year’s budget?” Do the Government not have a duty to help headteachers such as Mrs Sainsbury?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Schools across the country in constituencies in all parts of the country are facing these challenges. In the end, my view is that investment in education should be a priority, and we should be able to agree to that on a cross-party basis.
No, I am running out of time.
I urge the Minister to listen to the concerns of schools in Liverpool and elsewhere, so that school budgets are protected. It is vital that schools have the money they need to deliver the quality education that children and young people deserve.
Last week, I was fortunate enough to secure a debate in Westminster Hall on the funding for schools in Devon, and it was well supported by my colleagues from across the county. In that debate, several of us—including my hon. Friend the Member for South West Devon (Mr Streeter), who cannot be in his place this afternoon—made it clear that unless there were some changes, we would find it extremely difficult to support the Government.
It was therefore with some interest that I was made aware of this debate, and I thought it would be an occasion—in my case, a very rare one—when I would not be able to support the Government. However, I have studied the motion and the amendment carefully, and having heard the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), I have to say that the Whips can relax, because I am now more convinced than ever that I will be able to support the Government amendment.
I know that the hon. Lady was not in this place during Labour’s rule, but I would say gently to her that had she not been asleep under a tree like Ferdinand the Bull, she might have noticed that during the period from 1997 to 2010 a Labour Government exacerbated the educational funding gap between rural and urban areas. The team we now have in the Department, with the Secretary of State and her Minister for School Standards, are excellent. They inherited an extraordinarily difficult situation, and they are attempting to resolve it in as fair a way as possible. [Interruption.] I know the hon. Lady, who is chuntering from the Opposition Front Bench, was not in the House in 2010, but if she had been, she would have realised, as did many of her colleagues—this fact is worth remembering—that the Exchequer was left completely empty. Labour blew the economy, and they blew their credibility. It was not until 2015 that there was some rebalancing, when the coalition Government provided a much-needed boost in funding for more rural schools.
I would say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that there is currently a consultation on this issue, and it is one that I and my colleagues in the south-west feel passionately about. I am grateful to the Minister for School Standards, who I understand has agreed to meet a delegation of headteachers from Devon secondary and primary schools. Our situation is very bleak at the moment. Historically, Devon has been one of the lowest-funded education authorities in the country, and when we were told there would be a reassessment, we assumed that it would benefit us after all these years. Following all the campaigning we have done for a fairer deal over the decades, we did not think that the result of the consultation would mean that we were worse off. If implemented, the national funding formula proposals will result in 62% of Devon schools gaining, 37% losing out and 1% remaining the same. The proposals will reduce Devon County Council’s overall schools funding by £500,000 for the first year—but more of that on another occasion.
After seven years of Lib Dem and Tory Government cuts to my community, the Government have failed to meet their deficit reduction target and they are back doing all that they know how to do, which is to make further cuts, this time targeting children in my constituency. I do not believe children should suffer for the Government’s failure. Southwark schools perform above the national average, but they face specific challenges, including increasing class sizes as a result of our growing population. I was therefore surprised to find my borough targeted with £5 million in cuts by this Government.
Absolutely, especially in London.
My constituency is even more badly affected than the borough of Southwark. On the Department’s statistics, my schools will lose £1,050 per child per year. They are the worst affected schools anywhere in country, but the Government have claimed that this is fair. There are 35 schools in my constituency, of which the ones losing out are Alfred Salter, Globe Academy, Walworth Academy, Bacon’s College, Boutcher, Charlotte Sharman, City of London Academy, Cobourg, Compass, Crampton, English Martyrs, Friars, Harris Academy, Notre Dame, Peter Hills, Redriff, Riverside, Robert Browning, all three St Joseph’s, Snowsfields, Southwark Park, St George’s, St John’s Catholic, St Jude’s, St Michael’s, St John’s Walworth, St Paul’s, St Saviour’s and St Olave’s, Cathedral, Surrey Square, Tower Bridge, Townsend and Victory. If anyone was keeping a tally, they will know that that was a list of 35 schools. Every single school in my constituency will lose out, and not one school will benefit, under the Government’s proposals.
I completely agree.
The cuts proposed by the Government have led parents to get in touch with me to say, “What is it about Southwark children this Government do not like?” Why is my constituency being targeted for cuts? These cuts will impede the progress that schools have made, prevent them from managing the challenges they face and damage the prospects of the children and families I serve, but whom this Government are failing.
Of course, the Department’s figures do not include costs that schools cannot ignore: pension contributions, the apprenticeship levy and higher national insurance contributions. The National Audit Office figures suggest that the borough of Southwark will lose £12.5 million by 2018-19 and that schools in my constituency alone will lose £6.9 million.
If Ministers push forward with these plans, they will fail schools, fail teachers and fail families and children, and the Secretary of State will undermine parents’ aspirations for their children, undermine future opportunities for Southwark children and undermine the prospects for this country overall. The Government must rethink this blatant attack on opportunity and stand by their manifesto commitment.
I welcome the consultation and the review because my constituency will see an increase of 2.6% or £1.3 million. Forty two of my 54 schools will see an increase, which is 77% of them. Some of the increases are significant. New York Primary School will see an increase of 11.4%. North Cockerington Church of England Primary School will see an increase of 10.2%. The theme that runs through the increases is that these schools were historically underfunded by the Labour Government. This Government recognise the challenges that rurality and sparsity present for local schools.
I will not, thank you.
Louth and Horncastle is an extremely rural constituency, with less than one person per hectare. Some of the wards on the coast are among the 3% most deprived communities in the country. They deserve a better funding deal and that is what the Government are trying to achieve. This is not about the Tory shires as some, although not all, Opposition Members like to paint it. It is about making funding fairer than it has been historically.
I echo the concerns of colleagues that the laudable principle of including sparsity must work on the ground. The Minister for School Standards has agreed to meet me to discuss individual schools, for which I am grateful, to ensure that the principle applies in practice. I recognise that the 12 schools in my constituency with decreases face a challenge. I do not underestimate that and look forward to discussing it with the Minister.
There has been much talk among Opposition Members regarding cuts. When I hear that the education of children in the Leader of the Opposition’s constituency is funded to the tune of more than £6,000 per student, whereas in Lincolnshire the figure is £4,379 per student, I simply do not understand how Opposition Members can claim that that is fair and not deserving of review. I say that understanding only too well the challenges in education.
I am delighted to hear my hon. Friend making such an important speech. She is highlighting the fact that schools such as the Judd and Tonbridge Grammar in Kent, which have such great reputations, are massively underfunded. This settlement will go some way towards making the situation fairer.
I am extremely grateful. This is about making sure that the cake is cut just a little more fairly than it is at the moment.
I will make one final point because I am conscious of time. I also apologise to colleagues from whom I have not accepted interventions. May I thank the teachers, the governors and the staff of my 54 local schools? I look forward to meeting all of them before the general election. That is my promise and I will try to keep it. I love it when they come to the House of Commons because, if nothing else, bringing our schools into this place to show them how democracy works is how we get young people interested in our democracy.
Schools already face real-terms cuts to their budgets, and now, for every single one of the 26 schools in my constituency, the new national funding formula represents a further blow of the axe. For every pupil in the city of Nottingham, funding is being cut by an average of £650, while more affluent areas are expected to gain. This is not just bad for children in Nottingham; it is bad for our country and our society. According to Ofsted’s latest annual report, there are now twice as many inadequate secondary schools in the midlands and the north as in the south and the east. Sir Michael Wilshaw has rightly warned:
“Regions that are already less prosperous…are in danger of adding a learning deficit to their economic one.”
I support the principle of fair funding, but that cannot be at the expense of children in cities such as Nottingham, where there are high levels of need and poverty and where we already face the challenge of closing the gap in educational outcomes between children from poorer homes and those in wealthier ones.
Secondary schools in my constituency are not the responsibility of Nottingham City Council; they are academies, and sadly some of them are still not improving. We already face intense funding pressures. The Institute for Fiscal Studies tells us that all schools face an 8% real-terms cut to their budgets as a result of higher national insurance contributions, increases in employer pension contributions and unfunded national pay rises. The National Audit Office has provided evidence of growing financial pressures, particularly in secondary schools: 59% of maintained schools and 61% of academies were in deficit last year.
The NAO also concluded that the Department’s approach meant that schools
“could make spending choices that put educational outcomes at risk”.
Local headteachers have told me what that will mean: fewer teachers, less pastoral support, bigger classes, more contact time for teachers, less choice at key stages 4 and 5. The added enrichment—the breakfast clubs, the school trips, the reading sessions for parents, the extra-curricular sports, culture and arts activities—will be the first to go, yet these are the very things that can make all the difference to children growing up in poverty.
I am afraid not.
I know that Nottingham has schools that need to do better, but it is some of these very schools that are losing out under the Government’s new national funding formula. Learning is not a matter of chance. The quality of school leadership and teaching is critical, yet there is a national headteacher shortage and a teacher recruitment crisis. As the Social Market Foundation found, schools in deprived areas are more likely to have fewer experienced teachers, teachers without formal teaching qualifications or degrees in relevant subjects—[Interruption.] I cannot hear what the Secretary of State is chuntering about—and a higher teacher turnover than schools elsewhere.
These latest funding changes will make school improvement harder not easier. The Secretary of State and Minister say they want more good and outstanding schools. It is a noble ambition. It is what I want for every child in my constituency, and I am proud of the work that Nottingham’s educational improvement board is doing to try to make it a reality, but creating more good schools requires more than ambition; actions speak louder than words, and right now actions must mean adequate funding.
It is a great pleasure to have caught your eye so early in the debate, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to speak in favour of the amendment and against the motion.
The motion is wrong in fact—this is a novel point, so it is great to make it now—because it refers to “school funding cuts”. That is wrong as a matter of fact. This year alone, the Government are spending more than £40 billion on schools up and down this land, which is more than any other Government. There was a time when Labour was in favour of fairer funding. As recently as March 2010, the then Labour Government were looking at a national funding formula, but as ever it has taken a Conservative Government to grasp the nettle.
I am very grateful for that intervention. Indeed, if we look at the per-pupil funding figures, we find that that is where it is most important. The hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle) mentioned fairness and deprivation. In his constituency, pupils receive £6,450 per pupil; in my constituency in Poole and in Dorset, they receive £4,100 and £4,200 per pupil.
One academy head told me that as a result of current funding pressures and class size growth, he is having to cut art and tech classes. That is today; that is the “efficiency saving” about which the Secretary of State speaks. How will a cut of £100,000 under the Government proposals help?
The point I am making about per- pupil funding is one of fairness. If this were done on areas of deprivation or on an index of deprivation, I could look my constituents in the eye and say, “That is why you are receiving, on average, £2,000 per pupil less than you otherwise would.”
I thank my hon. Friend for letting me get in at last. Does he agree that it is grossly unfair that the pupils of Somerset have had, on average, £2,000 per pupil less than the national average? We are very grateful to the Government for increasing funding to Taunton Deane by 4.5%. This will make it fair, when historically things have been grossly unfair.
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend, who is right to highlight the unfairness. If there were a rhyme or reason or an explanation, and if it had been done on the basis of an index of deprivation, I could support it, but it is not. It is based on historical anomalies. That is why I wholeheartedly support the principle of fairer funding.
I want to make two points about the detail of the fairer funding. First, the schools that are right down at the bottom, in local authorities such as Poole and Dorset, should not, I suggest, see any reduction in funding. When I respond to the consultation, which I very much look forward to doing, I will make that point to the Minister.
My second point relates to grammar schools. I warmly welcome what the Government are doing in their move towards grammar schools, giving our parents a greater choice. We know that this is popular and that parents want to make the choice that is best for them and their children. I welcome the Government’s direction of travel, but it does seem odd that 103 out of 163 grammar schools appear to be losing out under this formula.
I am grateful for that. I see the Minister for School Standards in his place and I know that he is listening carefully. I suggest that a delegation of Members of Parliament should go to see him—I know that, of all things, that will gladden his heart. He has been very receptive in the past, and I know that he will be again in the future. That is why I support not only the principle of fairer funding, but the fact that we have a chance at the second stage of the consultation running all the way up to 22 March. I see the Minister nodding, so I shall take it as an open invitation to come and knock on his door, with a delegation from the cathedral city of Salisbury and from Mid Dorset and North Poole. I greatly look forward to that meeting. The principle is right; let us now get the detail right.
I make no apology for talking about schools in my constituency, which is the eighth worst affected in the country, while the neighbouring constituency, Chelsea and Fulham, which makes up the rest of the borough, is the seventh worst affected. All 48 schools will lose significant sums, and the borough loses £2.8 million. According to the excellent work done by the National Union of Teachers and the other teaching unions, that represents £796 per pupil per year, or 15%.
When I look at where the money is going from, I find it particularly objectionable. Wormholt Park is the highest-losing primary school with £65,000 gone; while Burlington Danes Academy is the highest-losing secondary school. Both are excellent schools with excellent staff, but they are in two of the most deprived wards not just in my constituency and London but in the country: College Park and Old Oak, and Wormholt and White City. What do we expect? What sort of message does this send out to the pupils, parents and teachers of those schools, who are working hard to try to ensure that the excellent standard of education continues against the odds?
Westminster’s is a mixed story, but a number of schools, including those that are among the 3% most deprived in the country, stand to lose substantially. Does my hon. Friend share my concern about the fact that the Government are finding resources for a number of free schools that have been unable to fill places? When the Government talk about efficiency, could they not question the efficiency of that?
My hon. Friend is right. It constitutes a triumph of ideology over practicality.
Let me quote what has been said by two of the people in my borough who know what they are talking about. The head of the borough’s schools forum, who is also the principal of one of our excellent local secondary schools, has said:
“If schools’ budgets are cut, at a time when costs are increasingly significantly, it can only have a negative effect on the education that we are able to deliver.
We will not be able to employ the number of high quality teachers and leaders that we need to be able to maintain standards.”
The council cabinet member responsible for these matters has said:
“It’s clear that the government is trying to redistribute a pot of funding that is just too small. Cutting funding hardest in London, rather than giving all schools the money they need for teachers, buildings and equipment, is divisive and just plain wrong.”
That is absolutely right. According to the National Audit Office, there are extra cost pressures amounting to £2 billion across the country, but London is far and away the worst affected region. It contains eight of the 10 biggest losers in the country, which are in most boroughs and most constituencies—although not in every one: I know that the constituency of the Minister for London is the 12th biggest gainer. I find that particularly objectionable because London is a success story, and success is being punished.
From the London Challenge to the London Schools Excellence Fund, ever since the days of the Inner London Education Authority, we have prized education, particularly for people from deprived parts of London. We see it as an opportunity. It is a shame that a London Member, the Secretary of State, is overseeing this denuding of resources from London schools.
I am sure that my hon. Friend has received letters from teachers expressing great concern about the implications of this. Surely the logic of the argument is that if there is to be fair funding for schools, funding should not be taken away, but should be increased in other areas. The Government are pursuing a ridiculous policy.
I entirely agree. This is a very crude exercise, and it is also a political exercise. I find some of the triumphalism that we have seen on the Conservative Benches extremely objectionable.
Early one morning last year, my neighbour knocked on my door. When I said, “I have got to go to work”—if you call this work—she said, “This is more important. Will you come round to my children’s school? We are having a meeting about the funding formula.” So I went to the Good Shepherd primary school, which is in the street next to the one in which I live, and listened to parents and teachers who were both very well informed and very concerned. The same is true of schools throughout my constituency. Real people are having to address real problems, and I am afraid that the Secretary of State’s contribution today showed an extraordinary degree of complacency. She knows the problems in our schools, because she is a good constituency Member, and she must address them. This cannot be a levelling down. It cannot be robbing Peter to pay Paul. We must be fair to everyone.
Education has the power to change lives. As the motion recognises, it helps children to fulfil their potential. Like many Members of Parliament, I have campaigned to ensure that my constituency gets its share of funding through a new, fairer funding formula, because it has been historically underfunded. I want to see a formula with a significant element allocated to core funding, to ensure that every school has the funds it needs. Funding for good education is not only important, but necessary.
I want to focus, for a moment, on the implicit suggestion in the motion that it is the Government’s funding decisions that are inhibiting children from reaching their full potential. Funding on its own is insufficient to ensure excellence. Let me give two examples. The first relates to early years. In its 2016 report, Ofsted emphasised the success of our early years education. When it came to recommendations, it said not that more money was needed but that parents needed to take up the education opportunities that were already being offered. It reported that 113,000 children who would have benefited from early years were simply not taking up Government-funded places.
My hon. Friend is making a very valid point about early years. Does she agree that this is not just about a new fairer funding formula? This Government are putting much money into education, particularly for the new 30 hours of free childcare. Neroche pre-school in my constituency is having a brand-new building built on the back of that money and it is only too grateful to the Government.
My hon. Friend makes an important point: it is not just about fairer funding. I am very pleased that my area of East Cambridgeshire was one of the 12 opportunity areas announced last week to get significantly more money—£72 million in total. So this is not just about fairer funding money coming in.
I mentioned that there were two examples, and I want to move on to the second. On secondary education, in the same report Ofsted mentioned that secondary schools in the north and midlands were weaker than those in other areas of the country. It remarked that
“lower performance across these regions cannot be fully accounted for by poverty or by differences in school funding.”
The Ofsted report also stated that leaders and teachers had not set sufficiently high expectations for the behaviour of their pupils, which leads me on to my key point. To raise standards and to allow children to achieve their aspirations, we need to do so much more than provide adequate funding. We need to champion teaching as a vocation. We need to inspire more outstanding teachers to teach. We need to give teachers the respect and autonomy they deserve. We need to support our students in the classroom to enable them to deal with life’s challenges, from helping them with mental health issues to building up their resilience and aspiration. We need to work with industry to identify local skills shortages and to raise standards in our technical education. These go hand in hand with funding, and all these measures have been championed by this Government, whether in the industrial strategy Green Paper announced this week, the Prime Minister’s statement on mental health earlier this month, or the “Educational excellence everywhere” White Paper last year.
Education is a building-block for the future. Good funding is essential, but we need to work together across all Departments to ensure that our children fulfil their potential.
As a former teacher, experienced school governor and parent, I fully understand the value of providing every child with an excellent education. Education changes lives, it empowers individuals, it increases social mobility, and it is the single biggest driver of economic success for a nation. It is right that we pursue high standards and seek to provide the very best education for all the children of this country.
This Government are going about things in the wrong way, however. The new national funding formula will see 98% of schools worse off and demonstrates more than anything else could that the Government are not serious about raising educational standards or about social mobility. My constituency of Burnley, which continues to have some of the highest levels of social deprivation and is in the top five most deprived areas in the whole of Lancashire, will lose £477 for every secondary pupil and £339 for every primary pupil. In the past, the Secretary of State has said that no school would lose more than 1.5% of funding per year under the new formula. How can she square that with projections that my schools will lose 8% on average by 2019?
Even before these cuts, we are already seeing increased class sizes, subjects being dropped from the curriculum, pupils with special educational needs and disabilities losing vital support, and teacher vacancies. I ask the Secretary of State how she believes cutting funding for schools in Burnley will help a whole generation of young people to succeed.
There is nothing fair about funding that is not sufficient. How can it be fair to take educational funding from schools that are already stretched to breaking point—schools that already go the extra mile to give every child the best possible start in life?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman’s figures are correct, but I fear that they are not. My information suggests that they are not. The research that I have done shows that that is not the case.
My schools are already working flat out to ensure that children coping with social and economic deprivation can overcome disadvantage and fulfil their potential, yet those schools are having the rug pulled from under them. Robbing Peter to pay Paul—or robbing Peterborough to help Poole—is not going to help. In my constituency, there has been a concerted effort by the key stakeholders, the schools, the council and businesses to work together to grow the local economy. That has not been easy, but we are making good progress. We are focusing our energies on raising skill levels, confidence and aspiration among young people. Considerable effort has been expended on this, and these funding cuts feel like a kick in the teeth.
Education is the key not just to better life chances for individuals but to our economic success. Ensuring adequate funding is crucial so that every child, wherever they live and whatever their background, can fulfil their potential. As a nation, we know that every citizen matters in the widest possible sense, not least to our economy. Investing in education is an investment in the economy, and failing to do that is short-sighted in the extreme. A Government who talk of increased social mobility and growing a strong economy need to understand that investment in education is absolutely fundamental to those aims.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Burnley (Julie Cooper).
The Secretary of State and her team are to be congratulated. To many Conservative Members, and probably to some Opposition Members, this problem seems almost too large and intractable to wrestle with. However, we are in a consultation process. Of course there will be one or two anomalies and a few little creases will have to be ironed out. There will be unforeseen circumstances that need to be attended to. The scary thing is that those Opposition Members who have spoken so far have been either unable or unwilling to see the inherent unfairness of a system that they not only promoted but fed, either because it was to their advantage to do so or because they had no interest in rural areas.
The Government have been trying to counterbalance the differentials in funding for 2016-17, but when House of Commons Library research shows that Manchester has a per-pupil figure of £4,619 and Doncaster has a figure of £5,281, but the figure for Dorset is £4,240, we know that something has gone wrong. This tells us quite clearly that it is thought that taxpayers in Dorset and their children’s needs are less important than taxpayers and their children in other areas. There was nothing fair in the funding formula that Labour bequeathed to us. We could have had a knee-jerk reaction, which really would have put the cat among the pigeons, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and her predecessor have adopted an incremental approach to try to address and arrest the problem, and they are to be congratulated on that.
I concur with many of the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), among others. When we go into our village primary schools, we see the enthusiasm of the teachers, parents, governors and staff in general. We see their enthusiasm for education, but we know that they have been trying to do their work with one hand tied behind their back because they have been penalised for living and working in a rural area.
I took over from the hon. Lady as chairman of the governors of Wilberforce primary school many years ago, so I am familiar with the problems facing schools in her constituency, as well as those elsewhere. Perhaps I need to make the point to Opposition Members quite baldly that just because schools that have done very well under an unfair system start to see some rebalancing while the cake is being re-divided, that is not necessarily an argument for saying that there should be no change for those schools that have disproportionately enjoyed funding while those in rural areas have not.
Does my hon. Friend agree that many of our rural schools in Somerset and Dorset have been doing so well with the funding they have had? This extra funding might enable them to put in place some of the things that they have not been able to have because there simply has not been enough money to go around.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Back in the summer, I convened a roundtable of all the headteachers and chairs of governors at my schools. They said that the key thing was the recruitment and retention of teachers, and that the heart of the problem was the inequity in funding and the lack of a formula that recognises rural sparsity and the additional costs that such schools face.
I will not.
I declare an interest, because I have three young daughters at a village primary school in my constituency and—here is the plug—my wonderful wife is the chairman of its parents, teachers and friends association. The hard-working farmer Spencer Mogridge gets up at 3 o’clock or 4 o’clock in the morning to look after his livestock, but he still goes to the PTFA meeting at 7 o’clock in the evening to organise the school fun run—[Hon. Members: “Were you on the fun run?”] I was not on the fun run. I think the words “fun” and “run” should never be used in the same sentence; it is an oxymoron.
I see such keenness at all levels of the rural educational establishment. That is why people want a fairer funding model that addresses the imbalance, recognises needs, and ensures that the lifeblood of many of our rural communities, which I believe our rural schools are, can continue long into the future.
In recent weeks, the Government have revealed their reforms to the national funding formula. The reforms paint a bleak future for the schools of Bradford, promising stagnant funding allocations that fail to meet increasing pupil demand. The city has faced, and continues to face, difficult times, but it is trying its best to improve standards. This perfect storm of funding cuts will damage Bradford’s education system and harm the life chances of our children.
What I fear most is that the reforms mark a determined and intentional culture of underinvestment by this Government in our school system. What do the national funding formula reforms mean for Bradford? Overall, 89% of Bradford’s primary schools, secondary schools and academies face cuts to their budgets, with funding for early-years provision set to be cut by £2.4 million, which is more than 6%.
Difficult funding decisions are already being taken in Bradford. In recent weeks, the Bradford schools forum took the difficult decision to divert millions of pounds from the budgets of mainstream schools to help to fund additional school places for pupils with special educational needs. Every child, whether they are learning in a mainstream school or a special school, deserves an excellent education.
Against that woeful financial backdrop, it is not only day-to-day teaching budgets that are becoming ever more constrained. Investing in new provision is becoming less and less viable for our schools system. In recent months, the Prime Minister has said that she wants parity for mental health provision in this country. That must be as true for our young people as it is for the rest of the population. Many believe that mental health provision for our children and young people is in need of urgent improvement.
In response to my recent parliamentary question, the Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families said:
“Schools are able to decide on, and make assessments of, the support they provide for their pupils, based on their individual needs.”
At a time when our schools’ budgets are facing real-terms funding cuts, it is unlikely that they will be able to find extra funding for new provision, even if they believe that additional support would benefit their pupils.
If the Prime Minister is truly committed to parity of care between physical and mental illness, her Government must seriously consider making additional ring-fenced funding available to schools. If, as a country, we are genuinely committed to driving improvements in educational attainment, tackling inequality and supporting our children with decent mental health provision, fair and decent funding is nothing short of vital.
I am lucky to represent a constituency in one of the best—if not the best—boroughs in the country for school results and Ofsted ratings. Having visited every school in my constituency at least once, I can safely say that that is due to the exceptional teaching and school leadership on offer. My comments are informed by the many meetings I have had with headteachers from across the constituency, including in a delegation that I brought to see the schools Minister last year.
Overall funding is now at its highest level, but there is additional demand. When we discuss how public spending should be divided, I will make no apology for asking for more money for schools, but that must be set against the demands made by Government and Opposition Members for more funding for everything from the NHS to national infrastructure—the money has to be divided up somehow. That brings me on to the national funding formula.
The existing formula was plainly unfair, and a cross-party group of MPs said that it had to be made fairer. Under the existing formula, Kingston has the third worst-funded schools in London. Pupils in Kingston get £2,406 less than pupils in Tower Hamlets, which is in the same city, just 14 miles away. How can that be fair? I campaigned for a fairer funding formula along with parents in my constituency. I am pleased that we have seen a marginal increase in our funding and that, importantly, mobility is being taken into account.
I ask the hon. Lady to come and repeat that in the poorer parts of my constituency, where some people are just as deprived as those in Tower Hamlets. In addition, a high proportion of children receive the pupil premium. I do not disagree that deprivation should be one of the most important factors or that schools in boroughs such as Kingston will always get less because deprivation is a key factor, but that level of disparity is simply not fair. There will be winners and losers whenever a funding formula is reorganised unless there is a massive increase in funding to level things up rather than down, but no party committed to such funding in its manifesto.
No, I will not.
Headteachers make the legitimate point that the increased costs of the national living wage, and national insurance and pension contributions, are putting pressure on their budgets. The situation is the same in other areas of the public sector, but we should not forget that point in this debate.
Finally, high-needs funding, not the national funding formula, is the biggest issue in my constituency. Such funding has resulted in an overspend on the dedicated schools grant of some £5 million, which will have to be found from school budgets as a whole. The council and free school providers have put in two applications for new special schools in the borough—one in Kingston and one in Richmond—which will reduce pressure in the medium term, but there is no clear answer to where that £5 million will come from in the short term, apart from every single child’s school funding. I am pleased that the Minister was able to meet the council leader and me a few weeks ago to discuss that.
All the points that I have made must be taken into account in addition to the funding formula. I am pleased that Kingston schools will receive a small increase. We could have been bolder and made bigger reductions elsewhere to make the situation even fairer to pupils in my constituency, but there must be fairness across the board, as my constituents recognise. I will be submitting a response to phase 2 of the consultation, just as I did previously, and it will be informed by my constituency’s headteachers—the best headteachers in the land.
This week, the Public Accounts Committee reviewed the National Audit Office report on the financial sustainability of school funding, and the most helpful thing I can do now is to give the Chamber some flavour of how that went. Present were officials from the DFE, including the permanent secretary, Jonathan Slater, but the session with them was preceded by a panel made up of headteachers and Russell Hobby of the National Association of Head Teachers. Understandably, they spoke of the current severe financial pressures, the effects of tight funding, and the strategies they have to deal with that, which will be familiar to those who have listened to the debate so far—things such as reducing the curriculum; increasing class sizes; phasing out support for special needs and mental health; cutting out extracurricular activities, professional development and school trips; and increasing teacher contact time.
Unsurprisingly, the officials from the Department did not altogether recognise that picture. Interestingly, though, Government Members should be aware that they did not dispute any of the financial facts. There was no disagreement whatever that schools have to save £3 billion in the current spending round, which represents an 8% cut by 2020, or that this is the toughest challenge since the 1990s, when the previous Conservative Government were in power. The Department simply did not dispute the financial facts that more schools are in debt and that debts are growing bigger; nor could it, because it had agreed the report with the NAO.
The Department’s argument was not about the financial facts themselves, but about the effects of those facts. It suggested that if every school procured efficiently, particularly on things such as heating and insurance, used its available balances and managed its payroll effectively, disaster could be averted. The Department stands ready, as does the Secretary of State, with the advice, tools, tutorials and data to help schools to do that. It thinks that disaster can be averted—that it is, in the words of the permanent secretary, “doable”.
My view is that there are good reasons for scepticism. The DFE exercise, such as it is, has largely been a desk exercise. The Department knows little about the individual circumstances of schools, and how could it? There are just too many for central Government to gauge and understand. It is a fact that not every school can actually reduce its payroll costs—not if it is endowed with experienced and established staff, and not if it needs to take up the slack caused by the reduction, or abolition, of the educational support grant. The latter is particularly true for small schools. Not every school can reduce its procurement costs—not if it is in an old, leaky building, has already reduced them, or is tied into long-term contracts. What is doable in theory is simply not doable in practice.
The most chilling passage in the NAO report is at paragraph 2.6. I do not have time to enlarge on it, but I advise Members to read it very carefully.
I rise to speak about school funding. Many people in this place will not be aware that I was very involved in school funding and in trying to get a fair formula for schools many years ago, when I was the chairman of the Grant Maintained Schools Advisory Committee, which is now called FASNA—Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association. Work has been going on for 25 years to get a fair formula.
The civil service always says there will be winners and losers; of course there are winners and losers—there are now. In Derby City, the highest-funded school gets paid £5,564 per pupil, while the lowest-funded gets only £4,739. The gap is around £800 per pupil. If a school has 1,300 or 1,500 pupils and that £800 is multiplied up, it makes an enormous difference to the quality of education that can be provided. We know that some schools need more funding than others, and we recognise that they do not all want to lose £800—some of them need that extra funding—but those at the bottom of the list are consistently at the bottom of the list.
I am delighted that the Government have decided that we are going to have the school funding formula, because it is about time. We have wanted it for more than 25 years, so I am delighted that the Government are tackling it and are going to consult on it and get it right.
Yes, the new formula could make a huge difference to Derby schools. It is important that the extra support is given to the right schools, and that those schools that have been underfunded for so many years get a fair crack of the whip. We must not allow Derby City Council to skew it in any way, shape or form so that the same old schools get extra money and those that have been deprived do not.
There are issues with schools at the moment, and I know that many are looking forward to the national funding formula. Schools have fixed costs. Their costs are the same whether they are in an inner city or a leafy suburb, so why are they paid different amounts of money? The biggest problem at the moment—certainly this applies to one school in my constituency—is that the apprenticeship levy is hitting now, but there is no more money for it. We must look at how we can help fund it, because it is within the overall budget. Schools have no choice over it, but it is a very good thing.
Schools are also having to drop participation in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, because they cannot afford to run it any more. The scheme is really important for Derby schools. There are amazing opportunities for young people. If we lose those extracurricular activities, we are not giving pupils the all-round education that they should have. I hope that the Minister will look at that.
When schools are full, they maximise the amount of money that they can have. What I do not want to see this year is schools having to increase class sizes and reduce teaching time. I would like us to look at that again. The national funding formula cannot come soon enough for the schools that have been looking forward to it for years.
Every child in this country, and every disabled child in this country, deserves a decent education. The principle that no child should be worse off as a result of these funding reforms should run through this consultation. Where a child was born should not dictate their life chances, yet that is the case for too many children in our country, and too many children in Wakefield, where 25% of them are growing up in poverty. I was proud to be a member of the last Labour Government, who lifted nearly a million children out of poverty, and I am so disappointed by what this Government have done, overseeing the closure of 800 Sure Start centres and changing the goalposts on measuring child poverty.
Wakefield schools have taken a very deep hit from these proposals.
No, I am not giving way.
Fair funding should mean a levelling up, not a levelling down. Every school in my constituency will see their funding cut under the Secretary of State’s proposals. The manifesto promise to protect education spending has been broken, as we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg). The Government have not provided for funding per pupil to increase in line with inflation; have not accounted for the increase in pupils attending schools; and have not considered the costs of higher national insurance and pension contributions, which now have to be absorbed by the school budgets. When the efficiency savings are factored into the funding formula, funding in Wakefield per pupil will fall from £4,725 this year to £4,211 in 2019-20—a real-terms cut of 11%.
I will not give way.
Nine maintained schools across Wakefield district are projected to be in deficit by 31 March, which means increased class sizes, subjects dropped from the curriculum, pupils with special educational needs and disabilities losing vital support, and teacher vacancies left unfilled.
There will also be a very worrying impact on special educational needs. At the moment, there is some flexibility to move money around and to move it into the high needs block. Under the new formula, there will be disruption and uncertainty around special needs funding for cities such as Wakefield. The funds are simply not enough for children in our city who need that extra support.
The hon. Lady said at the outset that it was important for all children to get the same opportunities. She also mentioned that class sizes would go up. Does she think it is fair that, for the children in my constituency, class sizes in every single secondary school are over 30, and that those schools have been historically underfunded for years and years and years?
The hon. Lady reinforces my point, which is that the Government must take into account rising pupil numbers. This formula and the efficiency savings fail to do that, so she needs to have a word with her Secretary of State about them.
We cannot have a situation in which there is just not enough money to go around to educate all children well. In Wakefield, we will see 1,000 more pupils start school in September and yet no money has been allocated for that increase, which means that the schools and the pupils will miss out. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that schools in England face the steepest cuts to funding since the 1970s.
Despite those circumstances, headteachers such as Martin Fenton at Greenhill Primary, Rob Marsh at Cathedral Academy, and Georgina Haley at Netherton Junior and Infant School are doing excellent work in my constituency to improve the life chances of children in Wakefield. I urge the Secretary of State to drop her grammar school plans, revise the national funding formula for schools, and make sure that we do not go back to the bad old days. I was at school at the same time as she was. I had to pay £12 for my O-level physics textbook, and we did not have a teacher for two years in the good old days of the 1984 teaching budgets. We do not want to go back to those days.
“This is welcome news for Lincolnshire schools as we are one of the lowest-funded authorities in the country. We have been campaigning for a fairer funding allocation for some years because it can’t be right that authorities in other parts of the country get more money to pass on to schools due to historical allocations. This is long overdue and we will be making our strong views known in any consultation leading up to the changes. A fairer funding allocation is what our schools deserve.”
Those are not my words, but those of Councillor Patricia Bradwell, executive member for children’s services at Lincolnshire County Council. She is right: she knows that rural sparsely populated areas can be areas where deprivation, special needs, the challenges of students whose first language is not English, and a host of other issues are just as common as they are in cities. The Government’s proposed funding formula makes huge strides in righting that historic injustice and I welcome it.
The funding formula is in a consultation phase, so I hope that the Government will take the opportunity to make it even better. The Library tells me that 29 of my 39 schools for which they have data will see their funding rise by up to 2.9%. On current form, 10 will see a slight fall—for the same overall total, it would be perfectly possible to see no fall at all.
I would make two pleas to the Department, with one overarching theme: for the same amount of money, distributed fractionally differently, we could do even better. First, the Government are rightly committed to the expansion of grammar schools, which are engines for social mobility, with fine institutions in Boston and Skegness and, indeed, across Lincolnshire. In the fourth-lowest funded authority in the country, those schools were not over-funded in the past. A tweak to the formula could improve their situation markedly. Secondly, in many communities, small rural primary schools bind together friends and neighbours and keep villages sustainable, functioning units for community cohesion. If the formula is to have a sparsity factor, it is only right to acknowledge that a county such as Lincolnshire is about as sparse as they come. Again, for no overall increase, it could be done slightly better. One approach might be simply to give local authorities even greater powers to decide how spending might be allocated.
In conclusion, Lincolnshire is on record as welcoming a £5 million boost for schools across the county. That rights an historic wrong and will go a long way towards meeting genuine needs and ending the pretence that urban areas have a monopoly on deprivation. Lincolnshire further welcomes the consultation as a way of making sure that the extra money, which is very welcome, is spent even more effectively after these very promising proposals are implemented.
First, I should declare an interest, as my two children attend a local school that is affected by the cuts. My wife is the cabinet member for children and young people on our local authority of Cheshire West and Chester. By happy coincidence, my local council has an exceptional record on education, with over 90% of schools rated “good” or “outstanding”. Not one school is “inadequate”.
All that good progress, however, could be jeopardised if the planned reductions to funding are implemented. The extent of the reductions in both the lump-sum allocations and the basic per pupil amount will remove almost £7.9 million from schools in Cheshire West and Chester. That equates to a 2% cut across the board, with the biggest losers facing a cut of just under 3%. Thirty-two of 33 schools in my constituency will not maintain their per pupil funding in cash terms, contrary to what the Government promised. With that in mind, I wrote to local schools in my constituency to ask what they thought. I am extremely worried by the responses that I have received.
Ellesmere Port Catholic High School has seen huge improvements since being placed in special measures in 2013. The headteacher and the school worked exceptionally hard to turn things around, and in June 2015 they were awarded a “good” rating. So impressive was the improvement that the chief inspector of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, referred to the school in a speech he made in November 2016 about schools that have made remarkable transformations, stating:
“At Ellesmere Port Catholic High School, only a third of pupils achieved 5 good GCSEs. Now almost three-quarters do”.
Those improvements should be applauded, so I was deeply concerned to learn that the school is projecting funding deficits for the next few years, which will threaten the improvements it has made. It tells me that early indications show a £44,000 annual reduction from 2018-19, on top of the deficit already forecast. That will make the approved deficit reduction plan completely unachievable unless cuts to staffing are made. The headteacher told me,
“we are already stretched to the limit and it is a very bleak outlook knowing that we will have to make further reductions...the Government must invest in schools for the sake of our children and future.”
Whitby High School told me that it could face a funding reduction of £111,000. By 2020, the School Cuts campaign estimates that it could be facing a 10% real-terms budget cut, equivalent to a staffing reduction of 17 if savings are not found elsewhere. Governors of Little Sutton Church of England Primary School told me that they are very concerned about the school’s future sustainability following the new funding arrangements. Cambridge Road Primary School has told me that since 2013 it has already experienced a real-terms reduction in income of 4.4%, or £65,000; and that, combined with wage increases and inflation, the real-terms reduction has been in excess of £100,000.
I am sorry, but I do not have time.
St Mary of the Angels Catholic Primary School has estimated that by 2019 its budget will be down by £90,138, which could clearly lead to a loss of staff if savings are not found elsewhere.
This is a terrible situation for local schools. As one headteacher said to me,
“it does appear that the ‘fairer’ funding model being discussed is far from fair.”
I could not have put it better myself.
When I met headteachers in my constituency campaigning for fairer funding in the county of Nottinghamshire, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), who is my parliamentary neighbour, told those gathered there that he had only ever met two people who understood how these formulae work; one of them was dead and the other had gone mad. It gives me a lot of pleasure to see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has at long last grasped the nettle and is tackling an issue that our right hon. and learned Friend, as a former Education Secretary, said no Education Secretary would ever take on.
The funding formula was manifestly unfair, as many hon. Members have said. On behalf of schools across the county of Nottinghamshire, which was one of the f40 counties, I am delighted to welcome an increase of 0.8%—admittedly small, but an increase none the less.
I also think that it is incredibly important to take on difficult issues and not to kick these cans down the road, as happens time and again in politics, for example with tax credits. It is immensely difficult to take money away from people, even if the reasons for providing the money have been proven to be wrong and the formulae are outdated—the opposition to that is considerable. This is an example of the Government taking on a difficult issue, rather than kicking it further down the road.
This formula also sends out a signal that there is poverty in rural areas, and no county exemplifies that better than Nottinghamshire. I may be privileged to represent the more affluent rural parts of the county, but at least half of it is made up of ex-coalfield communities, such as Ollerton, Ashfield and Mansfield, with deep-rooted social problems, left to fester by the Labour party. This formula will not benefit my constituency; it will benefit those deprived parts of Nottinghamshire. I am proud of that, even if it is a difficult conversation to have with most of my headteachers.
My last point—given that so little time is available—is that there are parts of this country that have been well funded but produced appalling results, and nowhere exemplifies that better than the city of Nottingham. We have heard today from representatives, colleagues and friends who represent the city that their funding has fallen. I feel sympathy for that, but those relatively well funded schools have let down generations of students, with an appalling local authority and poor-quality leadership. As well as increasing funding for my schools in Nottinghamshire, I look to the Secretary of State to find a strategy to address the intergenerational failure in places such as Nottingham, which desperately needs it.
In my first week as an MP, I received a letter from the headteacher of the school my two children attend—the local school in the constituency I represent. The school highlighted some of the very real issues that it and other schools in my constituency will face in the next few years. When I got to the end of the letter, I realised that I had received it not because I was the newly elected MP but because I was a parent, and every parent at my children’s school had received the same letter. I thought to myself, “This is surely unprecedented. This is surely an indication of the deep anxiety felt by the headteachers of my children’s school and the other schools in my constituency, in both Kingston and Richmond, about the future of their funding.” I therefore spoke to the headteacher of my children’s school about the issue.
The Secretary of State refers to using staff more efficiently. In my children’s school, that means cutting teaching assistants, which means that the biggest impact will be felt by those pupils who need the most help—those with special educational needs or additional language needs. These cuts, therefore, will increase the gaps in attainment between those at the top and those at the bottom, and they will limit opportunities for those who already have the least opportunities.
I attended a meeting of headteachers in the Kingston borough with the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry), and one of the things that was highlighted—it seemed extraordinary to me, but it was confirmed to me by the headteacher of my local school—is that schools have to pay an apprenticeship levy and that that is adding to their costs. It is extraordinary that schools have to find money from their budgets—to take money that would otherwise be used for teaching staff and resources—to pay a penalty for not providing training. I find that an absolutely extraordinary anomaly, and I hope the Secretary of State will look into it as a matter of urgency, because it seems an unnecessary burden for schools in my constituency and elsewhere.
I understand the motivation to ensure that the distribution of funding is evened out across the country, and I understand that that will be seen as fairer for some people, but I urge the Secretary of State to achieve that by looking for ways to increase funding to schools that are already disadvantaged, not by taking it from schools that have traditionally received more, because that will cause a great deal of hardship for schools not just in my constituency but elsewhere.
Of course I commend the Government’s determination to build a new schools’ funding formula, but I am pleased it is still at the consultation stage.
Representing South Cambridgeshire—a constituency in a county that, until 2015, was the lowest funded in the country and had been for decades—I understand only too well how underfunded schools have struggled. The proposed new formula, though it has laudable intentions to focus on deprivation and poor educational attainment, does not yet recognise three additional critical factors. First and foremost, consideration must be given when a school has been seriously underfunded for decades. My schools have been mending and making do for years—I do not exaggerate when I describe broken window panes and holes in roofs. For us, teaching assistants are a luxury, and the purchasing of text books and even basic equipment is the ask of local businesses and the community. It is not a question of cutting teaching assistants—filling even core teacher vacancies is often not possible.
The Government showed an appreciation of that when they provided a small but welcome interim funding boost last year and this year, but I am afraid that the reality is that the money has been completely absorbed in pension and national insurance increases. Furthermore, under the current funding proposals, not only will this interim funding not be maintained as a starting baseline, but 27 of my schools would be even worse off, with a real-terms cut of about 4%. Every one of my rural primary schools with fewer than 150 pupils would lose money, and Members have spoken today about sparsity. So I urge the Secretary of State to recognise that the new formula, though built on many sensible principles, cannot simply be superimposed on a landscape of significant historical under-investment—not if we expect those schools to survive, let alone to halt and close the widening free school meals attainment gap.
I now turn to the additional financial pressures experienced by areas of high growth, which we have also heard about today. In the next four years, we will have opened 24 new schools in Cambridgeshire since 2012 just to cope with basic need. It is not right that we subsidise that in the early years with money from existing schools. For example, a typical secondary school would contribute £41,000 out of its annual budget towards it. I recognise that the consultation is open-ended about growth and how we should deal with it, but we clearly need to find a way of fixing this, perhaps through a separate fund to help these schools in the early years.
Finally, I ask that we look at the cost of living. In Cambridgeshire, particularly South Cambs and the city, house prices are about 16 times the average wage, so we need to think about how we can help with teacher recruitment, because people’s budgets simply do not go that far.
Having spoken to the Secretary of State, I believe that there is genuinely a sincere desire to offer up this proposed model for road testing, and that is what we are doing today—we are kicking the tyres.
Unsurprisingly, I am here to speak for the children of Oldham, who, under these proposals, will be significantly affected by money being taken away from their much-needed education. I should declare an interest: I have two young boys, one at secondary school and one at primary school, both of whom will see cuts—
I am going to carry on for a time because I am conscious that other people want to speak.
Both of them will see real-terms cuts to their education provision, as will another 60,000 young people in the town. Every single one of Oldham’s 99 schools will see a cut, with the average being 9%. We are meant to be an opportunity area. According to the Government, the roads are paved with educational opportunity gold. They say that they have recognised that there are issues and are determined to turn things around, so we should welcome the investment of £16 million. Unfortunately, they then come and take £17 million away. So let them tell me, and tell the young people, parents and teachers in Oldham, where the new money is. How can we turn around educational attainment when the problem is so deep-rooted and the situation is so unequal—when education has not been valued in previous years and we are desperate to realise the opportunities that these young people deserve for the future? Let the Government tell Oldham how it has a positive future when the rungs are being taken from under it.
We have seen money being taken away from early years. We have seen nearly £1 million taken away from a sixth-form college. We have seen £3.5 million taken away from Oldham College. Time and again, money is being taken away. I do not resent for one second any other Member of this House saying that their area needs more money to provide a decent standard of education. If they represent a Tory shire, then that is fantastic—they can make that case and I will support them in doing so, but not at the cost of children, and their families, who have been let down for generations, and who need this chance more than most.
The world is more complex than it has ever been. The skills that people need will be more complex than ever before, but people are being set up to fail under this model. I make this plea: next time the Secretary of State visits Oldham and my constituency, instead of just giving a courtesy notice, why not attend a roundtable with the headteachers and the governors to really listen and understand the impact of these cuts? If the Government really do care, let us have fewer words, more action, and more investment.
Solihull is mentioned in many surveys as being one of the best places to live not just in the west midlands but in the UK as a whole and that is due in no small part to its schools. My schools have put in a Herculean effort for years. They do more with less. They have embraced change and gained the benefits from so doing, despite having been one of the losers in the fairer funding formula for many years. I welcome the Government’s commitment to making the necessary changes. Although this is a consultation at the moment, I hope that they will take on the comments that many hon. Members are making so that we can get this right and set for the future.
In my constituency, although secondary schools gain, and I am very grateful for that, some primary schools do not, with some losing up to 2.5%. In addition, the unequal treatment of Solihull schools compared with those of neighbouring Birmingham has not yet been fixed, with those in the city still enjoying a substantial per-pupil advantage, currently standing at £1,300 per year.
To put that into a real-world context, schools in Birmingham can use the extra cash to offer more competitive salaries and attract newly qualified teachers, especially in subjects such as mathematics and science, and that hurts schools in neighbouring communities that do not have the money to spare. Schools in Birmingham also have more funds to set aside for facilities, extracurricular activities, school trips and all the other things that allow schools to provide a rich and well-rounded education.
In a compact, urban region such as the west midlands, even small inequalities of that sort can have serious consequences for those who are left out, and the inequalities are more visible than they might be elsewhere. Local headteachers tell me that parents regularly ask them why pupils in Birmingham schools are taken on exciting school trips, but their own children are not. Such unfairness is made all the worse by the fact that so many Birmingham children are educated in Solihull. I believe that up to 40% of the children in some of our local schools come from outside the borough, but those pupils do not bring their funding advantages with them.
I am pleased that the need for fairer funding in our schools is widely recognised, and that the Government are grasping the nettle. The proposals are an important first step, and now we have our consultation, but we must go further to end the unequal treatment of communities such as Solihull.
Teachers in the borough of Hounslow have achieved amazing results over the last 10 or more years. Almost all our schools are good or outstanding, and value-added is positive in every school. That is in a borough where all schools and all classrooms contain children with additional needs of some kind—children who arrive not speaking English, children with disabilities and special educational needs, children who are homeless and keep having to move on or who are sofa surfing with their parents, and children with many other needs. Most of our schools suffer from severe aircraft noise from planes approaching Heathrow.
The overall savings proposed by the Department for Education for schools in my constituency by 2018-19—a combination of the national funding formula and the wider cost pressures that they face now—amount to £5.1 million. That is a 6.2% cut. The existing cost pressures include, as other Members have mentioned, inflation, the apprenticeship levy, pension and national insurance costs, the requirement for independent careers advice, and more children with special needs in our mainstream schools.
As in the Secretary of State’s constituency, the cost pressures that my heads face will mean, on the whole, fewer teachers and support staff, plus other cuts. We have established that each of our secondary schools will have to lose between nine and 18 teachers, and primary schools will have to have up to 11 fewer teachers. Fewer subjects will be taught at key stages 4 and 5, there will be fewer external visits and fewer specialists will come in to teach and enthuse children about future jobs and careers, staying safe or other specialist issues that we want our children to learn about and get their heads around. There will be less specialist and individual support for children who have additional needs, who do not speak English, who are very gifted or who have mental health problems and need counselling. Agency costs for supply teachers, as our headteachers face the recruitment and retention crisis that is affecting all subject areas, will add to the salary bill.
In classrooms where there are children who need additional attention, teachers and children will feel the impact of the cuts every day. More classes will be taught with only one adult—the class teacher—in the room. The lack of additional support is a cost for every child in the classroom, both those who have additional needs and those who do not. The cuts will mean that less is spent on repairing buildings, improving outdoor space or buying the equipment and materials that the curriculum requires.
For reasons that will become evident to the House, I am particularly grateful to have caught your eye in this debate, Mr Speaker. I commend the Secretary of State for tackling this issue, because it is quite clear from the debate that, in a modification of the Lincoln dictum, on this issue one can only please some of the people some of the time. Inevitably, when there is no more cash around, there will be winners and losers. Unfortunately, my constituency is one of the big losers.
I campaigned with the f40 group for over 10 years, and the absolute sun on the horizon was the national funding formula, but now that the consultation on the formula has arrived I find that my schools will actually get less money. In Gloucestershire, we will get a 0.8% cash-terms increase this year, and in the Cotswolds, there will be a 0.3% cash-terms increase. Two thirds of my schools will get a cut, and a third of them will get a very small increase.
In Gloucestershire, schools were already very efficient. They had amalgamated a lot of back-office functions and had formed partnerships. The secondary schools had done everything they could to become academies, being among the earliest in the country to do so. Gloucestershire is therefore a very efficient county, but we now find that our schools will get cash-terms cuts. That is on top of the Government having imposed limits on above inflation increases in relation to funding teachers, the national minimum wage, pensions, national insurance and procurement. A cash-terms cut for over half my schools means a real squeeze on education in Gloucestershire.
I should pay tribute to the parents and governors of my schools, because the vast majority go well beyond the extra mile to give my children the very best education. As a result, on very meagre funding, we get reasonable results in Gloucestershire. However, the figures I have given from the consultation will put Gloucestershire down from 108th to 116th in the f40 league. That is simply unacceptable because it means that some teacher posts will definitely be lost, and it is likely that some of my smaller schools will close.
Will my hon. Friend do what I am doing, which is to encourage all my governors, teachers and parents to feed into the consultation? I suspect there are some anomalies because it is the same in my area, in that we expected more and it has not been delivered.
I do urge all people to do so. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) is sitting beside me, and I am sure that all Gloucestershire’s MPs will feed into the consultation. I am also sure that many of my aggrieved headteachers, parents and governors will do so.
It is inevitable that some of my secondary schools, which face some of the largest cuts, will have to reduce the breadth of the curriculum they currently offer. That would be unfair because every child in the country should have roughly the same breadth of curriculum in their schools. I accept that that is often difficult in smaller secondary schools, but it will be very hard for children and their parents to bear if their A-level choices are no longer available as a result of Government policy.
I simply say to my hon. Friend the Minister that I know this is a consultation, but I am looking for some very radical changes. The weighting for deprivation and other measures in the consultation is too high, and the basic pupil funding should never in any circumstances be cut.
I pay tribute to the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), who made a brilliant speech. She demonstrated, as has the fact that a large number of Members wanted to speak in this debate, that education truly matters in our country.
I will make a few brief points. The first is that the narrative of this discussion is completely wrong. It is a typical Tory divide-and-rule strategy. I do not believe that schools that might gain from a change in the funding formula want to do so at the expense of other children, teachers and schools. For example, I know that the folks who are set to gain from the changes in Knowsley, just across the River Mersey from where I live, do not want to do so at the expense of children and schools in Liverpool, Sefton and Wirral. We should not be dividing people, but bringing them together.
Schools in Wirral are set to lose hundreds of pounds per pupil. That plays into another classic Tory narrative, which is that people do not need money to get anywhere in life or to help in education. The hon. and learned Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer) said that money is not sufficient to drive achievement. In fact, money may not be a sufficient condition, but it is a necessary one, as all the evidence shows. I am next to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), who led the London Challenge. I know he would say that it was reform and improvement, alongside decent funding, that resulted in those achievements under the last Labour Government that we are all proud of.
Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming one element of the funding formula, which is the inclusion for the first time of a mobility factor to reflect the additional costs of high pupil turnover? However, does she agree that it ought to be larger than the 0.1% of the total that is being allocated on that basis at the moment?
I have never disagreed with my right hon. Friend yet and I do not now.
As a Member of Parliament, I am afraid of very little, but I still get nervous when I have to go and see local headteachers. I want to give the final words of my speech over to those headteachers. To begin with, Mark Whitehill, who is head of Gayton Primary School in Heswall, spoke this simple truth:
“If Education really is a priority, we need the staff to help us deliver it!”
Another brilliant head in my area, Catherine Kelly, agrees with that. She said that her job is about life chances, but colleagues whom she respects as fantastic educationists are talking about leaving the profession because, as heads, they are not focusing on the right things as they are having to balance the books and make ends meet. She said that they are
“invariably being set up to fail”.
She is frugal and knows that if the school is overstaffed, it is a waste of the students’ resources, so she would never make that happen. She says she is afraid that the Government “clearly doesn’t understand education”, which I believe is true.
The last word goes to David Hazeldine, a great head from Wirral, who says:
“The fundamental issue is that there is not enough money in the system. Teacher recruitment shortages and massive underfunding are placing children’s education and well-being at risk.”
He says that that is “creating a perfect storm”.
Those three heads have put it better than I ever could. I ask the Secretary of State to learn the lessons of schools in her own constituency and recognise that although money is not all that schools need, they cannot do without it if they want to give kids a chance.
Many parents are attracted to my constituency by the excellence of its schools. I look forward to visiting Oakfield Primary Academy and Brownsover Community School this Friday. We have a broad range of schools, including a bilateral school that provides co-educational grammar school places, which is incredibly popular and oversubscribed.
Under the consultation, Warwickshire will remain one of the counties with the lowest funding at £4,293 per pupil. That is among the lowest figures we have heard today. It is a credit to the heads and staff of the many schools in my constituency that they achieve such excellence with that sum. There will be a 1.1% increase, which is very welcome. That will affect 29 schools in my constituency, most of which are rural primaries. Nine schools will receive the same or rather less. In many cases, those are the excellent secondaries to which I have just referred, one of which will lose £90,000 a year. Of course, many of those schools have sixth forms and so face a particular challenge because there are smaller classes and they want to offer specialist subjects—often the very A-levels that lead to the qualifications that our country so badly needs.
Since coming to office, the Government have been steadfast in their commitment to ensuring that all children, irrespective of their background and where they live, get a world-class education. This consultation levels the system out. It will be a fairer system. The shadow Secretary of State spoke about cuts. There are no cuts. The Secretary of State has made it very clear that the overall budget will remain the same. This is about ensuring that we allocate the funds within our system fairly and that there is a level playing field for pupils across our country.
In the two minutes I have to speak, I would like to welcome the Government’s commitment and commend the Secretary of State for tackling this difficult issue. The hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) spoke about fairness. Children in the area represented by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) currently receive £178 more per pupil than my children in Suffolk. After the change, her area will receive £219 more per pupil. I would like the consultation to iron out these anomalies. We in Suffolk are grateful for the uplift, but I, like many others, have campaigned for fairer funding—my children deserve to be treated equally.
I appreciate that it is too complex to make the change in one go, because that would mean walloping some schools harder than others, so we need to have a gentle trajectory. That said, we must not stand back and fail to grasp the nettle. For too long, our children, particularly in rural areas—we have heard from Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Essex—have been underfunded. We have had to play second fiddle to large metropolitan areas. Children in those areas do not deserve better life chances; they deserve the same life chances as others. I have areas of deprivation in my constituency and children who could do with more money spent on their education. This is the right way to continue.
This morning, I held a roundtable of businesses and educationists from across the region. They are talking about skills. Please let us concentrate on early years. That is a bit difficult in Suffolk, because we are losing more than we currently spend on it, but we provide outstanding education. Please can we also look at rural England? Hon. Members should not assume that we have everything. When we consult—
I will be brief, pithy and to the point, if possible.
I am a school governor of St Andrew’s primary school, which is in a very deprived community. I have to tell the Secretary of State and the Minister that there is an 11 to 12-year difference in life expectancy between the north-east of my constituency and the south-west, around Devonport, so I understand some of the issues of deprivation. Moreover, in the 1980s, I was the agent to the Education Minister who introduced the local management of schools, the national curriculum and other such things.
I am grateful to the Government for taking a fresh look at the funding formula. My constituency has done quite well—we have an increase of about 4% for schools, which is incredibly good news. The one concern is what happens to the grammar schools. I am incredibly grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for Schools Standards for agreeing to meet my grammar schools to talk about how they could improve their position.
My constituency has a very good education offer. We have not only three grammar schools, but a university technical college and a creative arts school. I am grateful to the coalition Government and this Government for delivering on that. Without further ado, I conclude by saying: carry on going, and please do not let anyone down.
I was proud to stand on an election platform representing a Government who had delivered 1.4 million good and outstanding school places over the preceding five years. That that was delivered in the most challenging financial circumstances is to the Government’s credit and that of schoolteachers across the country.
I am conscious that the Government are spending a record amount—£40 billion—on our schools, thereby protecting the schools budget. However, I also recognise that the Government’s laudable policies to invest in our workers and give them a pay rise are eating into a schools budget that is largely spent on employees. I had hoped that the school funding formula would address some of the shortfalls in my constituency, but although my constituency overall gets a 1.5% increase, with 16 schools getting an increase, unfortunately 23 will see their funding drop, which causes me concern. I hope that the consultation will iron out some of those anomalies.
I recognise that it is the Opposition’s job to oppose. It is fine to be long on talk and to say the right things, but it is appalling that Opposition Members have delivered no ideas or policies to make things better during this debate.
On that note, I suggest three things that would help but not affect our wish to eradicate the deficit. First, schools and education have to be the No. 1 priority for increasing productivity. We have set up a £23 billion productivity fund, so is there a way to tap into it to help our schools? Secondly, is there a way of finding room for schools not to be included within the apprenticeship levy? Thirdly, given that our schools are looking after mental health, can we find a way to get some of the funding for that through their doors?
I shall be brief. I fully support funding every school in the same way, creating a level playing field for pupils across the country. In 2010, the Labour Government tried to implement a funding formula. At that time, it was £4,000, and most of it went on private finance initiative schemes, which was why it was never put forward. At a time when more than £40 billion is going into education—the highest amount spent in our history—we should be positive, rather than looking at the policy negatively. We should not have a system in which schools in some areas get less money per pupil, as that makes it harder for them to attract teachers and to put in place the support that students need. For too long, and for no real reason, the disparity of funding throughout the country has been ignored. I was proud to stand on a manifesto that pledged to change that.
I have looked at schoolcuts.org, which is run by the NUT and Association of Teachers and Lecturers unions. Quite frankly, it is irresponsible. Some of the figures on the site have been quoted in the Chamber today, but they have been plucked out of thin air. They are worked out by dividing the money for an area by the maximum money to be claimed per school—it never is—without taking the number of pupils into account. The website published information about areas and schools before the Department even announced any figures. It must have had luminaries and soothsayers like Nostradamus working for it. I am fed up of the unions politicising my children and constituency. There are heads in my area who are unionising the kids to make them strike and stay off school. Surprise, surprise—their schools did the worst in the area, and therefore lowered my area’s results in the national SATs, which is unforgivable.
To wrap up, I think that this is a very good move. I hope that the Government will implement the formula sooner rather than later to give all our children a fair fighting chance.
For the first time in a generation, schools will face spending cuts to their budgets—[Interruption.] Right out of the gate, the Secretary of State is chuntering. In her authority area, that equates to a 15% cut, with £13 million coming out of her schools’ budgets by 2020. I look forward to campaigning in her constituency on this issue.
The Department expects schools to find £3 billion of savings in this Parliament to counteract cumulative cost pressures, including pay rises, the introduction of the national living wage, higher employer national insurance contributions, contributions to the teachers’ pension scheme and the apprenticeship levy, as the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry) and Labour Members said. The hon. Gentleman is happy with the national funding formula, but I have to point out that his schools will receive an overall cut of 12% in this Parliament. We are talking about an 8% real-terms reduction in funding per pupil in this Parliament.
The Department regularly compiles a list of future policy changes that will affect schools, but it has no plans to assess the financial implications for schools of these changes. We have no assurances that the policy is affordable within current spending plans without adversely affecting educational outcomes. The Government are leaving schools and multi-academy trusts to manage the consequences individually. The Department has clearly not communicated to schools the scale and pace of the savings that will be needed to meet the expected cost pressures.
The proportion of maintained secondary schools spending more than their income increased last year from 33% to 59%—[Interruption.] No matter what the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir Hugo Swire) says, this Government have racked up a £1.7 trillion debt on their watch and now want to pass on part of that debt to our school system. The Department expects much of the savings to come from procurement and the introduction of shared services. Changing procurement and shared services requires strong leadership, clear plans for achieving savings, effective risk management and support from stakeholders. That leadership is clearly lacking among the Government Members. The Minister himself has said that he is confident that pages of guidance on the Department’s website will provide enough support for schools—it will not.
I have literally seconds left.
As the National Audit Office has suggested, school leaders who do not have support are likely to make decisions that make the teacher retention crisis worse. The NAO went on to say that the Government’s current
“approach to managing the risks to schools’ financial sustainability cannot be judged to be effective or providing value for money”.
It is important to recognise the impact that the required efficiency savings will have on staff. We expect already unsustainable workload pressures to increase as staff efficiencies eventually start to bite. Moreover, the size of the savings that schools will have to find will lead to worse educational outcomes, and the biggest impact will be felt by those in the most deprived areas and those with special needs.
We know that staff costs represent any school’s largest expenditure—74% of schools’ budgets are spent on staff—so it is not hard to see that to save money over the next few years, schools will inevitably end up cutting back on staff. That will have a knock-on effect on workload, morale, class sizes and the breadth of the curriculum that schools can offer. All this is happening at a time when we are expecting a 3% increase in the number of children entering school.
A bad situation is compounded by the national funding formula. Some Conservative Members, who really missed the point, had been expecting “jam tomorrow” from the formula, which was a manifesto commitment, but now they are waking up to the reality that the schools in their constituency will not benefit from its introduction. Hardly any area is left unscathed. In their excellent speeches, the hon. Members for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) and for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen) said that the funding formula was not the point; the point was the cuts and pressures faced by schools.
I ask the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire to speak to her hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer), who completely missed the point. The House will have been astonished by the slap in the face for northern teachers, who are apparently not ambitious enough for their pupils, and that is from a Government who introduced the Weller report on raising standards.
It was a slap in the face, and the hon. and learned Lady’s authority in Cambridgeshire will face a 4% cut on top of all the other pressures that are going on.
The Tories are failing our children. They are overseeing the first real-terms cut in the schools budget for over two decades—indeed, since the 1970s, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh). By their own preferred measure on standards, we have declined in the world PISA—programme for international student assessment—rankings.
In a moment the Minister will stand up and either talk about synthetic phonics, or say that 1.8 million children are in better schools. That, of course, is because Labour identified those schools in 2010 and Ofsted came back to reassess them, and because there are now more children in the system—the primary system. This dire situation for our schools will only continue to get worse as a result of the Government’s cuts and their new funding formula.
Of course, the PISA students who were tested in 2015 spent their primary school years being educated under a Labour Government, not under the reforms implemented by this Government.
This has been an important debate, featuring excellent contributions from Members in all parts of the House, at a time when the Government are consulting on the details and weightings of the factors that will make up the new national funding formula.
The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) launched our debate today with her joke about robbing Peterborough to pay Poole. Alas, her facts are as weak as her joke, because Peterborough will see a rise of 2.7% under the formula, an increase of £3.7 million, and Poole will also see a rise of some 1.1% under the formula. What we have learnt from Labour today is that it does not support the principle of equal funding on the basis of the same need, and half of Labour Members will see a net gain in funding as a result of the new formula, including the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), where funding will increase by £1.7 million, with an extra £1.2 million for schools in the constituency of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne .[Interruption] I will not give way.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) asked us to look again at the deprivation block. The proportion of the formula that we have applied for deprivation reflects what local authorities are already doing across the country at the moment. The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) asked about high-needs funding; Liverpool is due to gain 14.4% in high-needs funding under the formula, with increases of 3% per year in 2018-19 and again in 2019-20.
My hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins) was right to say that the new national funding formula is resulting in the cake being cut a little more fairly. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson) was right to point out the flaw in Labour’s motion. The Government are not cutting school spending; it is at an all-time high.
I welcome the constructive and supportive speeches from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer), and my hon. Friends the Members for North Dorset (Simon Hoare), for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry), for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham), for Boston and Skegness (Matt Warman), for Newark (Robert Jenrick), for Solihull (Julian Knight), for Rugby (Mark Pawsey), for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill), for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile), for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) and for Morecambe and Lunesdale (David Morris).
In our manifesto, we promised to remedy the unfair and anachronistic funding system that no longer reflects the genuine needs of pupils and schools. It had become atrophied on the basis of factors as they stood in 2005, rather than the make-up of the student population today: an outdated system, fixed in amber where a pupil in Brighton and Hove secured £1,600 more than a pupil in East Sussex, with countless other examples of unfairness up and down the country.
The Government have already consulted on a set of principles that should drive this new formula—a basic unit of funding; one for primary schools, one for key stage 3 secondary pupils and one for key stage 4 secondary pupils. This figure would make up the vast bulk of the formula, and would be the same figure for every school in England.
On top of this, there is a factor for deprivation, ensuring that schools are able to close the educational attainment gap between those from wealthier and poorer backgrounds. There is also a factor for low prior attainment, ensuring that schools are able to help children who start school educationally behind their peers. There is a factor for sparsity, addressing cost pressures unique to rural schools. There is a mobility factor for schools that routinely take pupils part way through the year. There is a lump sum to help address the fixed costs that disproportionately affect small schools. And there is a factor that takes into account higher employment costs in London and some other areas.
These are the right factors, as responses to the first stage of the consultation confirmed. They are the right factors because they will help drive our education reforms to the school curriculum, which are already resulting in higher academic standards and raised expectations. They will further drive our determination that all children, regardless of background or ability, will be well on their way to becoming fluent readers by the age of six, which 81% of six-year-olds are now, compared with just 58% five years ago. They are the factors that will help further drive the introduction of new, more academically demanding, knowledge-based GCSEs, putting our public exams and qualifications on a par with the best in the world.
As part of our consultation, we wanted to be transparent about the effects of the new formula on every school and every local authority on the basis of this year’s figures, and 54% of schools will gain under the new formula. But with any new formula there will be winners and losers. Even within local authority areas that gain overall, some schools with few of the factors that drive the additional funding will see small losses in income. That is the nature of any new formula, built on whatever basis or weightings—unless, of course, the new formula maintains the status quo.
Accepting that a new formula, by definition, produces winners and losers, accepting that we will ensure that the losing schools lose no more than 1.5% per pupil in any year and no more than 3% in total, accepting that the gaining schools will see their gains expedited by up to 3% in 2018-19 and by up to 2.5% in 2019-20, and accepting in principle that the factors of deprivation and low prior attainment are right, what is left is the question whether the weightings are right. These weightings are crafted to drive social mobility. They are calculated to help children who are falling behind at school, and they are motivated by our desire to do more for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The national funding formula is not about the overall level of school funding or the cost pressures that schools are facing over the three years from 2016-17 to 2019-20. The formula is about creating a nationally delivered and fair school funding system. We wanted to grasp the nettle—a nettle that previous Governments have assiduously avoided—and introduce a new national funding formula, ending the postcode lottery and ensuring that over time we have a much fairer funding system.
Despite all the pressures to tackle the budget deficit that we inherited from the last Labour Government—an essential task if we are to continue to deliver the strong economic growth, the high levels of employment and the employment opportunities for young people that we want—we have managed to protect core school spending in real terms. Indeed, in 2015-16 we added a further £390 million, and for 2018-19 and 2019-20 there will be a further £200 million to expedite the gains to those historically underfunded schools that the new formula seeks to address.
Despite this, we know that schools are facing cost pressures as a result of the introduction of the national living wage and of increases to teachers’ salaries, to employer national insurance contributions, to teachers’ pensions and to the apprenticeship levy. Similar pressures are being faced across the public sector—and, indeed, in the private sector—and they are addressed by increased efficiencies and better procurement. It is important to note that some of these cost pressures have already materialised. The 8% that people refer to is not an estimate of pressures still to come. In the current year, 2016-17, schools have dealt with pressures averaging 3.1% per pupil. Over the next three years, per-pupil pressures will average between 1.5% and 1.6% a year. To help to tackle those pressures, the Department is providing high quality advice and guidance to schools about their budget management, and we are helping by introducing national buying schemes for products and services such as energy and IT.
We are consulting, and we are listening to the responses to the consultation and to the concerns raised by my hon. Friends and by Opposition Members. The Secretary of State and I have heard representations from some low-funded authorities about whether there is a de minimis level of funding that their secondary schools need in circumstances where few of their pupils bring with them the additional needs funding. We will look at this, and at all the other concerns that right hon. and hon. Members have raised.
This Government are taking the bold decision, and the right decision. We are acting to right the wrongs of a seemingly arbitrary and deeply unfair funding system. Over the past seven years, while fixing the economy, the Government have transformed the education system. We have ended grade inflation, breathing confidence back into our public exams. Effective teaching methods such as Asian-style maths mastery and systematic synthetic phonics are revolutionising the way in which primary pupils are being taught.
More pupils are being taught the core academic subjects that facilitate study at this country’s world-leading universities. Some 1.8 million more pupils are now in schools judged by Ofsted to be “good” or “outstanding”. The attainment gap between disadvantaged 16-year-olds and their better-off peers has closed by 7%. That is a record to be proud of.
claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).
Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.
Question agreed to.
Question put accordingly (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the original words stand part of the Question.
Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the proposed words be there added.
Question agreed to.
The Deputy Speaker declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to (Standing Order No. 31(2)).
That this House shares the strong commitment of the Government to raising school standards and building a country that works for everyone; and welcomes proposals set out in the Government’s open schools national funding formula stage two consultation to move to a fair and consistent national funding formula for schools to ensure every child is fairly funded, wherever in England they live, to protect funding for deprived pupils and recognise the particular needs of pupils with low prior attainment.