Skip to main content

School Funding: Rural Areas

Volume 621: debated on Monday 6 February 2017

8. What progress the Government are making on ensuring that school funding is fairly distributed in rural areas. (908593)

16. What support the Government plan to provide for small rural schools as a result of the proposed national funding formula. (908601)

Under the proposed formula, small rural schools will gain an average of 1.3% in funding, on the basis of the illustrative figures. We have also confirmed that the national funding formula will include a sparsity factor. That will particularly target funding on small and remote schools, which we know play an important role in our local communities. On average, small schools serving such communities would gain 3.3%, and small primary schools 5.3%.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Under these proposals, some Shrewsbury schools will benefit and others will lose. Overall as a country, we still see the extraordinary situation in which, on average, Shropshire pupils can get as little as half that of inner-city children. How can he justify parts of the United Kingdom continuing to get almost double what we get in Shropshire?

In Shropshire as a whole, school funding rises from £151.7 million to £153.2 million as a result of the national funding formula based on the illustrative figures. That is a rise of some 0.9%. In my hon. Friend’s constituency, schools as a group will see an additional £100,000 of funding.

Given that small rural schools in East Sussex are set to lose funding under the fairer funding formula, will the Minister review the need for those maintained schools to pay the apprenticeship levy, which adds to their costs, especially as fewer than half of the stand-alone academies pay that levy?

The apprenticeship levy is an important policy, as my hon. Friend will know. It is designed to ensure that we have the skills that are needed for our economy. The levy can be used to fund training and professional development in schools, and we will provide schools with detailed information on how the levy will work for them and how they can make the most of available apprenticeships.

Does the help in funding for rural schools not represent the opposite of addressing the need that I raised in a recent debate—disappointingly, the Minister did not even mention it when summing up the debate—for areas that have a high influx of additional pupils during the school year? I estimate that next year something like 600 school places in Slough will get zero funding, because, despite his talking about up-to-date deprivation numbers, he is not working his funding formula on up-to-date pupil numbers.

The formula does contain an element for growth. We also responded to the representations on mobility made by the right hon. Lady’s colleague, the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms). When pupils join a school part way through the year, that will be factored in. I would have expected her to welcome both those changes to the funding formula.

The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) had hastily to delete a tweet this week that showed that the national debt had exploded on this Government’s watch. Therefore, the sparsity formula, which was to save rural schools everywhere, has become the paucity formula. Should the Minister not tell the House that the key issue facing schools up to 2020 is the £3 billion-worth of cuts coming down the line for every school in the country?

Funding is increasing to £42 billion by the end of this spending review period. We are increasing the amount allocated for sparsity from £15 million under the current formula to £27 million. The hon. Gentleman talks about debt, but, since 2010, we have had to face the problem of tackling the historic budget deficit inherited from the last Labour Government because of their poor stewardship of the public finances. Tackling that debt and that deficit has enabled us to have a strong economy with growing employment and greater opportunities for young people when they leave school.