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Schools: Capital Funding

Volume 633: debated on Monday 11 December 2017

The Government are making a significant capital investment in the school estate: we have committed over £23 billion in capital funding over the period 2016-21. This will create over 600,000 new school places, rebuild buildings in the worst condition at over 500 schools through the priority school building programme, and deliver thousands of projects to improve the physical condition of school buildings. Since 2010, capital funding has resulted in 735,000 new places and revenue funding is at an all-time high at £41 billion.

Recent research by the National Education Union and Tes found that 94% of teachers pay for essential classroom supplies, including at schools in my constituency where glue-sticks are being brought in by hard-working staff. With this in mind, does the Minister still maintain that Portsmouth’s schools have enough money and resources?

No parent should be expected to pay for the basic needs of their school, although they can, of course, be asked to fund school trips and extra things. We are spending record amounts on our school system: £41 billion this year, rising to £43.5 billion by 2019-20, and standards are rising in our school system, too, in reading, maths and GCSEs, despite a more rigorous curriculum in our secondary and primary schools.

Can the Minister confirm that, despite the additional £1.3 billion announced in July, the schools budget is still facing a £1.5 billion real-terms funding shortfall, which nothing has been done to reverse?

No. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced an additional £1.3 billion in July, as the hon. Gentleman kindly acknowledged. That means that not only have we maintained school funding in real terms, as we did in the last Parliament, but we have maintained school funding in real terms per pupil in this period up to 2020.

Currently, bids for capital spending on maintenance for schools are assessed on the state of the building. Given that there is significant competition for these bids and it is very difficult to assess the state of buildings in different schools across the country, is there not a case for also assessing the historical underfunding in various areas of our country?

We deal with the historical underfunding through a fairer national funding formula. On capital funding, we are spending £10 billion between 2016 and 2021 on school replacements, maintenance and improvement. That must be determined according to the condition of the school, and we have conducted a national survey of all schools in the country so that the system is fair.

Through the Minister, may I thank the Secretary of State and her Parliamentary Private Secretary for their superb response to the question I asked at the last Education questions session? On Friday, I was at Shiphay Learning Academy meeting its headteacher Elaine Gill, to discuss the condition of its building, and particularly the roof. Will the Minister reassure me that there will be an adequacy of funding to seriously consider the bid it is about to put forward to the condition improvement fund?

Obviously I cannot comment on a particular bid, but we are spending £10 billion on ensuring that we have sufficient capital to replace schools and improve the maintenance of schools. I hope that that answer was as superb as the previous answers that my hon. Friend has had.

18. The executive member for children on Leeds City Council wrote to me today after writing to the Secretary of State on 28 September about health and safety issues in local education authority schools, including schools that are trying to become academies. The response from the Department was about the condition improvement fund for academies, so I am going to ask again: what funding and support are available for LEA schools with serious health and safety concerns, including concerns about asbestos and fire safety? What funding is the Secretary of State going to provide for those schools? (902861)

We have allocated £4.2 billion since 2015 to maintain and improve school buildings. Some of that is allocated to local authorities, because they are best placed to know the priorities of the schools in their local authority area.

Sawtry Village Academy in my constituency is in serious financial difficulty, not least because of the activities of its former head, which included building a sex dungeon alongside his office for his private use. That headteacher is now in prison, but the financial difficulties of the school remain. Will the Minister kindly agree to meet me and representatives of the school to discuss the way forward?

Yes, I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the financial and academic future of that school.

Can the Minister confirm that the Budget actually cut education capital funding by £1 billion in this spending review, and that part of that cut involves removing more than three quarters of the healthy pupils capital programme? Perhaps he recalls the Government’s pledge earlier this year that the healthy pupils fund would not fall below £415 million, regardless. Will he now apologise for breaking that promise?

The hon. Lady has misunderstood the budget process. We have not cut £1 billion from the capital spending of schools. What we have done is convert an element of the healthy schools budget into revenue spending, to ensure that schools are properly funded on the frontline, because we believe that schools need to be properly funded and that is how we have managed to allocate an extra £1.3 billion to school funding—something that she and the school system have called for.