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National Funding Formula

Volume 638: debated on Monday 19 March 2018

2. What assessment he has made of the financial effect of the new national funding formula on schools in England. (904425)

13. What assessment he has made of the financial effect of the new national funding formula on schools in England. (904438)

The new national funding formula means that funding will finally be distributed based on the needs and characteristics of every school in the country. It is supported by an additional £1.3 billion, which means that we will maintain school and high-needs funding in real terms per pupil for the next two years.

Twenty-four of the 44 maintained schools in the Bishop Auckland constituency will lose in real terms, taking account of inflation. Many have high levels of deprivation and large free school meal entitlement. How can the Secretary of State justify that?

Of course, the formula rightly takes account of deprivation in the way that the hon. Lady mentions. If the funding formula were implemented in full in the Bishop Auckland constituency, based on the 2017-18 pupil data, funding would increase by £981,000 or 1.9%.

In every single school that I have visited in Bradford South since becoming an MP, the head has raised with me major concerns about funding. Will the Secretary of State confirm that, despite the £1.3 billion that his predecessor announced last July, school funding will still have fallen in real terms by 2020 for the first time in a generation?

No. On the same basis as I answered the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman), if the formula were implemented fully in the Bradford South constituency, it would mean an increase of 1.6% or £1.3 million. Across the system, per pupil real-terms funding is being maintained.

The cost of advertising for teachers and the cost of supply teachers, especially through agencies, are putting strain on school funding and budgets. What action are the Government taking to ensure that more money goes to the education frontline and less on bureaucracy?

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point about one of the cost pressures facing schools. We are working on seeing what we can do to help and developing a new framework to help to bring down recruitment costs, especially on the supply teachers she mentions.

Schools in my constituency welcome the principle of the national funding formula, which will see an increase in funding. Will my right hon. Friend meet me and representatives of primary and secondary schools to ensure it is implemented in the right way?

My hon. Friend is correct to say that the implementation of the national funding formula is a very important step forward. I always happy to meet my hon. Friend.

Taking into account the rising cost pressures on schools, whether on temporary and agency staff or on salaries, virtually every school in my constituency will face real-terms cuts to their funding by 2020. Is that not the truth of the Government’s policy, or does the Secretary of State for Education think he knows more about school budgets than headteachers?

Across the system over the next two years, the total core schools funding budget will be going up from just under £41 billion this year to £43.5 billion. Of course there have been cost pressures on schools. I do not deny that for a moment. It is one of the reasons why we are taking the steps I outlined a moment ago to try to help with those cost pressures, but across the system per pupil real-terms funding is being maintained.

We welcome the changes to the national funding formula and the additional money, but there is still a huge gap between the way schools are funded in West Sussex and in Greater London. Special schools are not included in the national funding formula, so an average 200-place school in West Sussex will receive something like £800,000 less than an equivalent school in Reading and £2 million less than one in London. When will the Secretary of State address this anomaly?

The intention of the national funding formula is not that every pupil throughout the country has exactly the same amount of money spent on them, because it is important that the formula recognises the difference in composition of pupil make-up. We were talking a moment ago about deprivation, but there are other measures of additional need that need to be reflected.

May I first start by congratulating Andria Zafirakou from north London, who won this year’s global teacher prize this weekend. I know the whole House will agree with her on the power of the arts to change young people’s lives.

In the Chancellor’s spring statement last week, he said:

“School budgets are increasing per pupil in real terms.”

He also said that

“every school will receive a cash increase.”—[Official Report, 13 March 2018; Vol. 637, c. 726-735.]

Does the Secretary of State agree with the Chancellor?

First, let me join the hon. Lady in congratulating Andria Zafirakou on her outstanding achievement. It is a particularly striking individual attainment, but it is also a reflection of the incredibly inspirational role that teachers everywhere play.

We have discussed funding at some length. The fact is that across the system the per pupil real-terms funding is being maintained. Over the next couple of years, local authorities will play a role in allocating that money to ensure the final result reflects local circumstances.

I am glad the Secretary of State accepts that point, because the UK Statistics Authority last week refuted both of those claims and he had to retract what he said at our last question time. Last week, he said:

“the mere repetition of a falsehood does not turn it into the truth.”—[Official Report, 13 March 2018; Vol. 637, c. 801.]

Will he now apologise for misleading the House and make clear the truth that there is no increase and that school budgets may face cuts of up to 1.5% per pupil?

Order. Before we proceed further, I must say to the shadow Secretary of State that any accusation of misleading the House must be accompanied by the word “inadvertent”. The hon. Lady cannot accuse a Minister or any Member of deliberately misleading the House, and I am sure she would not wish to do that.

It is true that cash funding per pupil is increasing. It is also true that real-terms funding is increasing. But I could and should have been more precise that when we talk about real-terms per pupil funding, that is being maintained. The core schools budget over the next two years will rise from a little under £41 billion to £43.5 billion.