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National Funding Formula

Volume 621: debated on Monday 6 February 2017

Our proposals for funding reform mean that schools and local authority areas would, for the first time, receive a consistent and fair share of the schools budget, so that they can give every child the opportunity to reach their full potential. The consultation on the second stage runs until 22 March. In Gloucestershire, funding would rise from £331.5 million to £334 million because of the national funding formula, on the basis of the 2016-17 figures, which is a rise of 0.8%.

My right hon. Friend is well aware that Gloucestershire has suffered for years under the current system; there is a 61% disparity between the top-funded and the bottom-funded primary schools. Will he look carefully at the unfair proposals he has brought forward in the funding formula, because they double-count items such as deprivation, low attainment and English as a first language, and it is not fair on rural schools?

I have listened very carefully to the representations my hon. Friend makes, both today and in the various meetings we have held. The Government’s proposals for funding reform seek to balance carefully the differing needs of rural and urban schools. Schools in the historically lowest-funded areas would gain, on average, about 3.6% under the national funding formula; 676 small and remote rural schools would also benefit from sparsity funding for the first time; and, nationally, small rural schools, as a group, would gain 1.3% on average, with primary schools in sparse areas gaining some 5.3% on average. In his constituency, 64% of the schools would gain funding under the proposals, based on applying the formula to the current year’s figures.

Under the new funding proposals, Ormiston South Parade academy in my constituency will see a 2.8% reduction in its budget, yet The Times reported last week that Ormiston Academies Trust is seeking to hire a public relations agency for up to £900,000 to deal with reputational management. Does the Minister think that parents will consider that a good use of Government funding or that that money should be spent on the school?

Academies face much greater financial scrutiny than local authority schools. They have to produce annual audited accounts, whereas local authority schools do not, and the Education Funding Agency scrutinises closely, on a quarterly basis, the funding and expenditure of academies and multi-academy trusts.

22. I appreciate the challenge that my right hon. Friend faces in finding a fairer funding formula and I appreciate that this is a consultation period, but does he realise that if these changes were to go ahead as suggested, every school in Southend would lose out? I certainly cannot support that. (908607)

The new funding formula is designed to ensure that funding is properly matched to need. It uses up-to-date data so that children who face entrenched barriers to their education receive the teaching and support that they need. I recognise that my hon. Friend will be disappointed by the impact of the proposals, on the basis of illustrative figures for the 2016-17 year for schools in Southend. As he knows, we are conducting a full consultation on the formula’s details, and I know he will continue to make his views known through that process.

To return to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) about funding for academies, what will the Minister do to help schools such as the Whitehaven academy in Cumbria, which has been left with a crumbling building after his Government axed its capital funding, and where the teachers are now prevented from photocopying to save money? Will the Government help the pupils and parents who need support?

It is nice to hear from the hon. Lady for the third time. We are spending record amounts on capital: £23 billion has been allocated for capital spending over this spending review period. We created 600,000 more school places in the previous Parliament, and we are committed to creating another 600,000 in this Parliament. We are spending £40 billion a year on revenue funding for schools—a record amount that over the next two years will rise, as pupil numbers rise, to £42 billion. None of that would be possible if we relied on the Labour party to oversee the economy. We have a strong economy and we are rescuing it from the fiasco of the previous Labour Government.