I beg to move,
That this House notes the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ finding that education spending as a share of national income has fallen from 5.8 per cent to 4.3 per cent since 2010, including funding cuts of over two thirds to Sure Start, of nearly a tenth to schools, of over a fifth to sixth forms, and of £3 billion to further and adult education; further notes the Prime Minister’s statement that austerity is over; endorses the Secretary of State for Education’s recent demand for billions more funding and welcomes his comments that there is a strong case for investment in the spending review but notes that the recent Budget provided only small capital projects; offers its full support to the Secretary of State for Education in persuading the Chancellor of the Exchequer that education urgently needs new investment; and calls on the Government to end austerity, not with little extras but by reversing all cuts to education funding.
I apologise in advance if my throat gets a little hoarse; I seem to have caught the Commons cold that we all have at the moment.
I have shadowed three Education Secretaries, but in the last year it has sometimes felt like two in one. There is the Education Secretary who pledged to do more to support teachers and to end the meddling, acknowledged that funding was tight and said that he was trying to squeeze more funding from No. 11. Then there is the Education Secretary who defends austerity, denies the cuts and spends his time and energy making absurd allegations about our policies, rather than fixing his own.
And then we got to Budget day and the Chancellor’s “little extras”. In the Secretary of State’s recent interview, he visibly winced when asked about those words. Perhaps he can tell us his reaction to the Chancellor’s comments at the Treasury Select Committee, where he said:
“I am sure that for anybody who feels it is not worth having, there will be plenty of other schools that will be willing to receive the cheque on their behalf.”
He has said that schools could buy
“a couple of whiteboards, or some laptop computers or something”.
That is incredible—he has taken billions of pounds from our schools, and now he offers them a whiteboard. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) put it,
“what use is a whiteboard if there is no teacher to use it?”—[Official Report, 31 October 2018; Vol. 648, c. 912.]
No doubt, if we did face Brexit food shortages, his solution would be, “Let them eat cake!”
It is all very well the Education Secretary cringing at the Chancellor—believe me, we all do, and not just at his jokes—but he has to live up to the promises that he has made since. Just a week after the Budget, he demanded billions more in the spending review, saying there was a “special case” for investment in education. If that is the Education Secretary who turns up today, then our motion offers him the full support of the House, and I hope that Conservative Members will join us in the Lobby and demand that Downing Street makes good on the promise that austerity is over.
However, it was the other Education Secretary who turned up at questions yesterday. He thought he was there to ask questions of the Opposition. It is remarkable. Let us look at what is happening in education in this country. Sure Start centres are closing, children’s services are overspending, nurseries are on the brink, schools are begging for donations, teachers are leaving in droves and universities are facing bankruptcy—and what is the Education Secretary’s top priority? The Labour party. I am of course flattered, and if he wants to swap places I can assure him that we are ready.
It is beyond belief that Ministers spend their time and energy desperately smearing and scaremongering about our policy, when the Government’s policy is in tatters—shredded by their own cuts. Let me point out that last week’s annual academy accounts show the sector running with an operating deficit of over £2 billion, the net financial position in decline and a record number of trusts going bust. The real threat to those schools, their pupils and their staff is not accountability, but austerity. Unfortunately, the Education Secretary was in denial yesterday. He has said that school funding is at a record high, yet school spending is £1.7 billion lower in real terms than it was five years ago.
I hope my hon. Friend will not forget the crisis we have across the country in special educational needs funding. In Staffordshire, the county council passes on the bare minimum provided by the Government, which is not enough. It has just announced a consultation that represents a real threat to the future of special schools, and to the excellent education and great staff in our county.
My hon. Friend is of course absolutely right to talk about pupils with special educational needs, because the funding for them has been frozen and local authorities are facing significant funding demands. It is not fair that the children who need such support the most are being failed by this Government.
Schools across the board—whether they are academies or local authority-supported schools—are asked to find the first £6,000 of special educational needs funding from their own budgets. Will the hon. Lady ask the Secretary of State where he thinks schools have this money lying around?
The hon. Lady makes a crucial and important point. As I have said, I really think the Secretary of State needs to listen more to headteachers and to teachers across the board, up and down England, who are desperately trying to ensure that the funding is available to support all children. Under the previous Labour Government, every child mattered; under this Government, segregation matters.
The Secretary of State was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper) if pupil funding was set to fall in real terms, and he simply said, “No”. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that per pupil spending will be falling again next year, so I give him the opportunity now to provide this House with the guarantee he once gave that not a single school will lose a single penny in per pupil funding. Unfortunately, his Government’s guarantees on funding have a habit of unravelling. The Secretary of State seemed bemused by my idea of segregation, and I understand why: the Secretary of State of course dropped the education Bill that would have brought in more grammar schools, but the Government are trying to do that themselves through the back door. The Government said that they would fully fund the pay settlement for teachers, but then offered less than the pay review body, for the first time in its 28-year history.
My hon. Friend raises a very interesting point. The Government are not prepared to fund in full the recommended increase to teacher pay. They are leaving that to the schools to find, which is a further cut in school budgets. That means that schools cannot deal with special needs or assist pupils with special language needs in particular. Schools cannot employ those teachers any more—that is the mess the Government have left.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. Of course, one of the myths that keeps being spread by the Government and Conservative Members is that record funding is going into schools, but they do not talk about the record level of costs on schools, which means that schools are facing real-terms financial pressures, and the Government have done nothing to support schools in that regard.
Despite the Secretary of State’s concerns four months ago, he has left 250,000 teachers—most of the teaching workforce—facing a real-terms pay cut. Meanwhile, teaching assistant wages are pennies above the minimum, even as so many of them have had to dip into their own pockets for basic school supplies. Austerity is not over for teachers or their support staff.
I have visited more than 30 schools in my constituency where teachers are leaving and it is very difficult for the schools to replace them. In a recent survey the National Education Union found that 81% of teachers have considered leaving the profession. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is clear across our constituencies that austerity is far from over?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The Government have, of course, failed to meet their teacher recruitment targets for the past five years and teachers now face a real crisis. The Department for Education told us that the teachers pay grant would cover the cost of the pay rise, but that does not include the first £250 million needed to give staff a 1% pay rise, and the Secretary of State’s own Ministers have admitted that not every school will get the funding it needs through the grant. Will the Secretary of State tell us how many schools are not getting enough to meet the cost? Austerity is not over for our schools.
A few moments ago the hon. Lady said that record levels of funding were going into our schools. Does she accept that that is a fact?
No. The hon. Gentleman misunderstands what has been said. What I said was that his Government have said that record funding is going into schools, but by not recognising the record costs and additional pupils in our schools they have created a deficit and schools face a real-terms cut. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman look not at my figures but at those of the IFS, which will show him that schools have faced significant cuts, and we know the impact they have.
My hon. Friend and neighbour makes a very important and valid point. We know the impact that cuts have. Frankly, I have heard the heartbreaking stories too many times: schools begging for donations; vital support staff lost; children with special educational needs and disability suffering the most; the school week being cut; and subjects dropped, with sports and the arts the first to go. So austerity is not over for our children, either.
The hon. Gentleman needs to look at what the Education Policy Institute and its statistics have to say, because that is absolute nonsense. There are more pupils in schools and he does not take into account the fact that a lot of those schools that are rated outstanding have not been inspected, some for up to 10 years. The hon. Gentleman needs to be very careful about how he uses statistics.
Of course, there is one subject in which Ministers do seem to value creativity—statistics. The Education Secretary said yesterday that he did not recall being slapped down by the statistics watchdog four times in the 11 months he has been in office. I have checked with the UK Statistics Authority and I have to admit that he was right—it was actually five times. Let me remind him. At our very first questions, the Secretary of State claimed that per pupil funding was up in real terms. He had to correct the record. He said that every school would receive a cash increase. He had to admit they would not. He claimed that more pupils were in good schools. He has been told to stop repeating that claim. He said that we had leapfrogged up the international tables. The stats watchdog said that was “not correct” and that his most recent claims on school funding were
“presented in such a way as to misrepresent”.
Perhaps he just objected to the phrase “slapped down”. Fair enough. The Times said he was “rebuked”. The Daily Mirror said he was “blasted”. Schools Week said he was “censored”. The BBC said he was “reprimanded”. And the Daily Mail said all four. Perhaps it is time to open one of his centres for maths in his own Department. [Interruption.]
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Perhaps it is time to open one of the Secretary of State’s centres for maths in his own Department. Even better, he could stop fiddling the facts and start facing the facts. There is one statement he has made that is entirely accurate: education needs billions of pounds more investment. Just look at the services that serve us at the very start of our lives.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Fantastic work is going on in our schools to educate our children, but I am sure hon. Members from across the House cannot go into a school in England today without being told that the cuts have had a detrimental effect on the work they are doing. They are doing tremendously good work, but they are facing real-terms cuts. It is important that the Secretary of State recognises the pressure his Department and the Treasury are placing on our schools.
My hon. Friend has quite rightly concentrated the bulk of her remarks thus far on the crisis in schools funding. Will she spare a word for the devastating situation facing many sixth-form colleges which, according to the IFS, have been hit by a 21% cut in real terms? That needs sorting out too, does it not?
I appreciate what the hon. Lady is saying, but she is pointing towards giving schools a lot more funding. How much more would she put in and how would it be funded in terms of parents of pupils paying greater taxes? Surely we should be transparent. Everyone should know.
At the general election, we had costings in our manifesto. The Conservative party made no costings and said nothing about the bung they were going to give the Democratic Unionist party to prop up their Government. We have said quite clearly that we are at a time when we need to invest in our education system. As we leave the European Union, our constituents expect us to invest in the vital skills we need. We said we would pay for that by reversing the big corporation tax cuts that were given away by the Conservatives. We fully costed it: 95% of UK taxpayers would not pay a penny more, but those at the top would pay a little bit extra. [Interruption.] This is a very important point and Members should listen. Businesses up and down the UK say they need the skills for their workforce. We have to provide a world-class education system that will provide the skills our future economy needs to do well.
I will move on, Madam Deputy Speaker, and make a little bit more progress. Education needs that investment. Just look at the services that serve the very start of our lives. Spending on Sure Start has been cut by two thirds—down by more than £1 billion since the Government took office—and over 1,000 Sure Start centres have been lost.
In Norfolk, the Conservative-led county council is proposing the closure and loss of 46 of 53 of our children’s centres— [Interruption.] It is a shame. And we know that 75% of the most vulnerable families in our county use these centres. It is terming this a “service improvement”. Will my hon. Friend join me in telling Norfolk County Council that this is an absolute disgrace?
My hon. Friend makes a really important point. I hope that Members across the House, including Government Front Benchers, recognise that early years are so vital. If we really care about social mobility and want to help every child to reach their full potential, those early years are so, so crucial, yet the loss of those children’s centres and Sure Start centres is so short-sighted that we will be picking up the cost of it for generations to come.
The Government have refused to give assurances to maintained nursery schools, despite the vital role that they play. Just this month, I, along with my hon. Friends the Members for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) and for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), campaigned to save Salford nurseries. What response did the Salford Mayor get from the Treasury? A letter from the Chief Secretary talking about the NHS. They literally do not even recognise the issue. Perhaps today the Secretary of State can guarantee additional funding when the transitional £55 million ends in 2020 and recognise the valuable work that our maintained nurseries do across England. Perhaps he could use the £600 million returned to the Treasury because parents are not using the tax-free childcare, even as 85% of local authorities take a cut to the funding rate that they receive for the 30 hours of free childcare. Many parents are actually paying more for childcare now, since the so-called free hours were introduced.
The harshest cuts have fallen in the areas that we discuss least in this Chamber. In further and adult education, budgets have been cut by over £3 billion in real terms since 2010. One pound in every four has been cut and we have seen the consequences. The number of adult learners has declined by over 3 million since 2010. Cutting funding for these programmes means cutting people off from a second chance, like the one that I had in my life and which so many of my constituents need, yet there was not a single penny nor a single word about further education in the Budget. Instead, there was the bombshell of £140 million a year of new pension costs from the Treasury, with no guaranteed funding to match.
Last month, we celebrated Love Our Colleges Week, yet they have had neither love nor money from this Government. The spending review offers a chance for the Government to change approach. If the Secretary of State before us today is the one who sincerely wants more investment, he should have no problems voting with us today. But if not, it is time for him to move aside for a Labour Government that will. I commend the motion to the House.
Great schools are all about great teachers, and we have 10,000 more of them in our schools than in 2010. They and their colleagues have achieved quite remarkable things, with our highest ever score in international tests in primary reading, a reformed curriculum and qualifications, more young people doing the subjects that keep their options most open, more young people going on to further study, and more—many more—young people in schools rated good or outstanding.
1.9 million, Mike.
But it is not only about overall attainment, it is also about narrowing the gap and evening the odds between the rich and the poor. Here we have seen substantial improvements since the Labour party left office, with the attainment gap having narrowed by 10% or more at both primary and secondary age and disadvantaged 18-year-olds going on to university at a record rate. This decade, we will have created 1 million new school places—the biggest expansion for at least two generations.
We want all people, whatever their background and whatever extra challenges they face, to be able to benefit from all that education, including higher education, has to offer. That is one reason why the Universities Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah), works closely with universities to ensure that, and why more than £800 million a year is spent on access and participation arrangements to ensure that access to universities is as wide as possible.
I was speaking about the expansion of the school estate. If hon. Members will forgive me, I will repeat myself. By the end of the decade, we will have created 1 million new places—the biggest expansion in school capacity for at least two generations, in contrast with the reductions I am afraid we saw under the Labour party. The latest data show that there is now less school overcrowding than when we came into government in 2010. The remarkable success of schools is of course thanks to the hard work and dedication of teachers and school leaders—and, let me add, of everyone else who plays a key role, such as school staff, parent teacher associations, governors and trustees.
I recognise that the Government and society ask more of schools than ever before, so I want to take the opportunity to set out the record investment we are making in schools. In the Budget, as well as hundreds of millions of pounds for reforms to apprenticeships, T-levels, the national retraining scheme and children’s social care, there was £400 million in additional capital funding for schools this year. That is additional in-year funding for schools to spend on capital projects to support their own priorities. An average-sized primary school will receive £10,000, and an average-sized secondary school will receive £50,000.
It is important that Government Members talk up our record. A fifth secondary school in my constituency has just been rated good—they are now all good or outstanding. That school had a vast injection of money into its capital budget to help make it a good school. We should talk up our record rather than listening to the Opposition.
The Secretary of State briefly mentioned T-levels. T-levels will come into Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College in 2020, when the money follows, but its principal, Mark Kent, tells me that its funding pressures will start next year. What help can he expect from the Government next year? Given that the Chancellor did not mention further education in his Budget speech, what will the Secretary of State do about that?
As the hon. Gentleman no doubt covered in his discussions with the principal of that college, there is also funding for preparation for T-levels and industrial placements, and for staff preparation. There was also confirmation in the Budget of our party conference announcement of extra capital money for facilities and equipment in preparation for T-levels. I will return to technical and vocational education a little later.
Newbridge Primary School in Bath is struggling with the maintenance of its buildings and its big grounds. I met one of the Secretary of State’s colleagues, who said that the £400 million would not be available for the maintenance of buildings or grounds. Will the Secretary of State set out precisely what the £400 million is for and how schools can access it?
There are published criteria governing how this type of capital can be spent, and I will be happy to provide the hon. Lady with a complete copy. We will be issuing a calculator in December so that schools can work out how much their allocations will be. The allocations themselves will follow in January, and the rules that normally apply to capital of this sort will apply to them.
The £400 million is on top of the £1.4 billion of condition allocations that have already been provided this year for the maintenance of school buildings. The Government will also spend £1.4 billion on condition allocations in 2019-20, and schools can now apply for the first tranche.
My hon. Friend asks an important question. There are many ways of comparing spending on education in different countries, and in most cases the UK is shown to be a relatively high spender. If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I will come to some of those figures a little later.
It would be interesting to know what the Government will do to ensure that they get value for money. In my own town they have spent £80 million on a failed university technical college and a failed free school, and since 2012 there have been 16 referrals to the police for financial fraud in academies and free schools.
The free schools and academies programme has overwhelmingly been a success, but when there are issues in our schools, whether in the maintained or the academy system, we must deal with them quickly. The difference with the academy system is that there is that much more transparency, so people know what is going on. However, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we continue to develop the system and ensure that it works as well as it can.
The Secretary of State has made a very good point. Facilities are obviously very important—I recently visited a fabulous new school, West Monkton Primary School, which is already chock-a-block—but is not the quality of the education the most important element? We are getting a lot of barrage from Opposition Members, but under Labour, a third of 11-year-olds left primary school unable to reach the right standards of reading and writing. This Government have completely turned the situation around, and that is thanks to the quality of our teachers.
My hon. Friend is, of course, entirely correct. The quality of our education is all about the person standing at the front of the room. It is all about the 450,000 teachers, and I join my hon. Friend in her commendation of them.
Free schools are among some of the highest-performing state-funded schools, and 442 are now open across the country. That includes 41 alternative provision and 34 special free schools, and a further 69 are in the pipeline. Again, parents are being given more choice in selecting the right provision for their children.
I think I should make some progress. I have given way a number of times.
As I have said before, spending on education is in a different category from the spending of other Departments. It is about investment in our skills base, about bringing on the next generation, about social mobility, and about fulfilling the potential of all children. So it is right that this Government have prioritised education spending, and that our schools are receiving record investment. The total core schools and high needs budget, which was almost £41 billion last year, will reach a record £43.5 billion by 2020. That is thanks to an additional £1.3 billion put into core schools funding in July 2017 over and above the plans set out at the previous spending review.
One of the biggest education funding challenges for areas like Warwickshire is that the last Labour Government left office with a massive gap between funding for metropolitan areas and funding for county areas. What is my right hon. Friend doing to address that, and what will that mean for areas such as Warwickshire?
One of the free schools the Secretary of State mentioned is CAPA College—the Creative and Performing Arts College—which is being built in Wakefield after his Department’s disastrous attempts to move it to Leeds, purchasing a site which it later transpired was on the route of HS2. I am genuinely grateful, but that did overshadow last year’s general election to quite some degree. When I looked at the plans for the new free school, I was dismayed to learn that new schools are not being built to BREEAM—Building Research Establishment environmental assessment method—standards, which are the highest environmental standards. Will the right hon. Gentleman look at why that is, and make sure that all new schools and refurbishment projects meet environmental standards, since kids are going to be taught in them for the next 100 years?
The Education and Skills Funding Agency follows high standards, but I will be happy to follow up with the hon. Lady separately on some of the specific issues she mentions.
As we were discussing, spending on schools is high by historical standards. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, real-terms per-pupil funding for five to 16-year-olds in 2020 will be more than 50% higher than it was in 2000 and more than 70% higher than in 1990.
I ask colleagues for forbearance: I have given way many times and do not want to try your patience too much, Madam Deputy Speaker, on the length of my speech. [Interruption.] Well, I believe we are having a debate.
Funding for the average primary school class of 27 this year is £132,000, which is £8,000 more in real terms than a decade ago. The same children will be funded at an average of £171,000 when they move to secondary school, a real-terms rise of £10,000 compared with a decade ago.
The Secretary of State will be aware that there are pressures on all authorities in providing for children with special needs and disabilities. The cabinet member for education in Durham, Olwyn Gunn, has written to the Secretary of State highlighting the plight of Durham, which had a £4.7 million overspend last year and is projected to spend even more this year. What is the Secretary of State doing to help authorities tackle the demand that many are now facing in providing for special educational needs?
I do recognise that issue; there are additional demands. We are putting in place some extra capital and there are special free schools, but I recognise that this is a wider issue, and I will say a little more about it later.
UK spending is also high by international standards. According to the latest OECD data—from the 2018 “Education at a Glance” report, which refers to data from 2015, the last year for which comparable data for the various countries are available—on state spending on primary and secondary education, in terms of proportion of GDP the UK was the highest spender in the G7. Our spending was higher than that of the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan. We were also higher on that measure than countries outside the G7, including Australia, the Netherlands, Spain and Ireland. On a per pupil level, the UK ranked lower than the US but above or in line with all the other G7 nations.
As well as ensuring record levels of funding for our schools overall, this Government have taken on the historic challenge of introducing a national funding formula to distribute the money more fairly—something that was ducked by previous Governments. For example, Coventry previously received £510 more per pupil than Plymouth, despite having the same proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals. Nottingham similarly attracted £555 more than Halton—
No, I am sorry.
This year, we have given every local authority more money in cash terms for every pupil in every school, while allocating the biggest increases to the schools that have been most underfunded. It is also worth highlighting some of the funding that schools receive on top of what is distributed through the new funding formula. That includes £2.4 billion this year in pupil premium funding and £600 million per year for universal infant free school meals. We have also estimated that, through the roll-out of universal credit, around 50,000 more children will benefit from a free school meal by 2022, compared with under the previous benefits system, and that even more will benefit in the meantime through transitional protections. I regret to have to say that that stands in stark contrast to the scaremongering and wholly misleading accusations made by the Opposition about eligibility.
Through the primary PE and sport premium, we have invested more than £1 billion of ring-fenced funding in primary schools to improve PE and sport since 2013. The soft drinks industry levy is also enabling us to put up to £26 million into breakfast clubs in the most deprived areas. To fund the biggest increase to teachers’ pay since 2011, our teachers pay grant of £508 million over two years will cover the difference between this award and the cost of the 1% award that schools would previously have been planning for. We are also proposing to fund the additional pressure that the increase in pension contributions will place on budgets next September, for the schools as well as the further education and sixth-form colleges that are affected.
Through the funding formula, additional moneys in cash terms are allocated to each local authority for each child. I believe it is right that the local authority is then able to make adjustments—for example, to cope with the pressures on the high-needs budget for children with special educational needs and disabilities. The local authority has the ability to do that, and I think that that is right.
The Secretary of State has just mentioned help for colleges, as well as schools, with pension pressures. Will he extend that help to provide assistance with pay rises, so that there is no discrimination between colleges and schools? Will he also confirm that all colleges, not just sixth-form colleges and schools, will be eligible for the pot provided for the “little extras”, including Newcastle and Stafford College?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there are differences in how colleges are constituted. In particular, independent colleges are not subject to the pay and conditions arrangements of schoolteachers, but they are typically in the teachers’ pension scheme—hence that difference.
I acknowledge the record amount of money that is going into schools, but we came up with that funding in order to have a national funding formula. Does my right hon. Friend not agree that in low-funding authorities such as Gloucestershire, a minimum amount of national funding should mean exactly that? Gloucestershire is about to top-slice its budget by 0.5%, so will he look at this and see what can be done?
I recognise what my hon. Friend says, and he is right. I thank him for acknowledging the additional money that has gone in, the fairer national funding formula and the additional £1.3 billion in resourcing. It is also true, as I was saying in answer to the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali), that local authorities can move money from schools into their high-needs block, which is sometimes the right thing to do. Of course, we also want to ensure that the facilities are always there to help local authorities manage their high-needs budget as effectively as they can.
We have increased opportunities in technical and professional education by doubling the level of cash for apprenticeships through the apprenticeship levy to £2.5 billion over the course of the decade. By 2020, funding available to support adult FE participation is planned to be higher than at any time in England’s history. At the other end of the age range, high-quality childcare supports children’s development and prepares them for school. That is why this Government are investing more than any previous Government in childcare and early years education—around £6 billion by 2020.
This Government have extended the scope and extent of support in multiple ways. As well as higher reimbursement under universal credit—higher than was ever available under tax credits—and tax-free childcare, we have increased the childcare available for three-year-olds and four-year-olds from 12.5 hours to 15 hours, and that funded early education now has a 95% take-up rate among parents of four-year-olds. There are also an additional 15 hours—so 30 hours in total—for working parents. All of that represents greater entitlement than under the Labour Government.
Then, of course, there was the landmark extension of the 15-hour entitlement to—[Interruption.] Let me start that sentence again. Then, of course, there was the landmark extension of the 15-hour entitlement to disadvantaged two-year-olds in 2013, which has since benefited almost 750,000 children at an investment of £2 billion since the policy began—something that was never made available to disadvantaged families by any Labour Government. Looking ahead, funding for the future comes up periodically at spending reviews. We have a spending review next year, and we are already looking at the approach for this period. Of course, we have a review of post-18 education and funding in progress, and £84 million was confirmed in the Budget for children’s social care to help spread best practice.
Turning to school-age education, I am not the first Education Secretary to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that we need a better balance between technical and academic education. While we plan to invest nearly £7 billion during the current academic year to ensure a place in education and training or an apprenticeship for every 16 to 19-year-old who wants one, I am conscious that funding for 16 to 19-year-olds has not been protected in the same way since 2010 as funding for five to 16-year- olds, but we are ensuring a balance through public policy by developing high-quality routes for technical and vocational education through T-levels and apprenticeships.
On the high-needs budget, funding for local authorities has benefited from the same protections in the funding formula that we have been able to provide for mainstream schools, but there have been increasing pressures. There is a balance to be struck between mainstream and special schooling to ensure that most pupils can be supported in mainstream settings when that works best for them. Finally, we need to continue to ensure, as always, that there is the right level of resource to make sure that the quality of education is at the required level for people wherever they live—in a town, the countryside, the north, or the south.
Alongside all that we need to focus on ways to make the system work better for all schools. Ensuring that we invest properly in schools and distribute funding fairly is clearly fundamental, but how that funding is used in practice is just as important. The education system is diverse, operating between various local authorities, dioceses, multi-academy trusts and individual schools. While that is a strength, it does not always work in the system’s favour when it comes to leveraging the benefit of volume in purchasing, for example. That is why I am working hard to ensure that we come together to help schools get the best value, that expertise is available across the system and that resources that do not need to be purchased or created on an individual basis—from lesson plans to energy contracts—are shared. We will also work to bear down on the £60 million to £75 million that schools spend on recruitment with the new teacher vacancy service and the agency supply teacher deal. By creating financial benchmarking, we are helping schools to share good practice and identify ways to use resources more effectively. All of this allows schools to direct the maximum resource into what they do best—teaching.
I am sorry, but I am short of time.
We all want to see standards rise across our schools and across the wider education system and, thanks to this Government’s reforms and the hard work of teachers, this is happening. I say we all want to see standards rise, but every step of the way the Labour party opposed the introduction of phonics checks. In Wales, where Labour runs the education system, PISA rankings for maths, science and reading are lower than those in England.
The Labour party wants to scrap academies and free schools, putting ideology before education and trusting politicians over teachers. In our exchange yesterday, the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) said that Labour’s policy is
“no threat to any new or existing school”—[Official Report, 12 November 2018; Vol. 649, c. 16.]
but she did not, and cannot, reconcile that with her explicit stated policy to stop the free schools programme,
“bring all publicly funded schools back into the mainstream public sector”
and impose the Orwellian-sounding “common rulebook” across the school system.
I have referred to a number of figures in the thousands, millions or billions, but what is clear is that each of those figures would be under threat from the Labour party, because we need a strong economy to invest in our public services. It is a balanced approach to the economy that will mean we can continue to provide our schools and our education system with the resources they need. Labour’s approach of more spending, more borrowing and more debt would take us back to square one and hit ordinary working people, just like last time.
This Government are unapologetic in our ambition for every child and young person in this country. Again, that ambition is backed by more revenue funding going into our schools than ever before—an investment that we are able to provide thanks to our balanced approach to the economy. The benefits of our reforms, backed by that investment, can be seen across the country, thanks to the hard work and dedication of our teachers and education professionals. It is a track record that gives all of us much to be proud of, but the job is not finished. We will always want to do more, and we will continue to do more so that every child, in every classroom and in every part of the country, has the chance to thrive, with none left behind.
I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
The Secretary of State’s first major test was to lead the education sector’s negotiations with the Treasury in the run-up to the Budget. On any basic evidence, he seems to have failed that test spectacularly. Not only did he fail to secure any meaningful increase in funding for our schools and sixth-form colleges, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s complacent language of “little extras” suggests that the Secretary of State was not even able to convince the Treasury of the scale of the funding needs of the school system in England, which is profoundly worrying when the comprehensive spending review negotiations are beginning.
I give credit to the Minister for School Standards and the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, who has responsibility for sixth-form colleges, for being willing to receive deputations of Harrow headteachers, including the principal of St Dominic’s Sixth Form College. I am grateful to both Ministers for the way in which they listened to the concerns of professionals in my constituency.
I have been given information that underlines the concerns of those headteachers, but first I will set out the broader London perspective, which reflects some of the concerns raised in interventions by London colleagues about the financial crisis facing many of our capital’s schools. London Councils’ analysis of the provisional school funding allocations for 2019-20, which were announced in July and appear to follow a similar structure to the 2018-19 formula announcements, shows that London schools will receive a lower proportion of funding across 2018-19 and 2019-20 than those in any other region of the country. Some 70% of schools in London will receive the minimum—a 1% increase per pupil—between 2017-18 and 2019-20, compared with just 39% of schools across the rest of England. Fifteen boroughs in the capital will see more than 90% of their schools receive the floor of a 1% rise per pupil across these two years. In comparison to the 2018-19 allocations, 21 out of London’s 32 boroughs are in the lower half of schools’ block increases, and two of the four local authorities in the country that are expected to see a funding decrease are London boroughs, including, crucially, my own London Borough of Harrow.
Headteachers in the borough report to me that they face significant financial pressures: non-teaching pay awards; rises in non-teaching pension costs; the impact of the apprenticeship levy; and concerns about whether the funding for teaching pay awards and incremental pay rises for teachers will be provided from central Government. These all point to an average annual cost increase in Harrow of more than £70,000 for primary schools and more than £200,000 for secondary schools. At the same time, funding, notably for the pupil premium grant, is reducing for the average school in Harrow, so schools in Harrow are estimated to be losing some £80,000 a year in income and are profoundly worried as a result. Given that, on average, a teacher costs approximately £50,000 per annum, Harrow Council’s analysis suggests that the funding pressures facing each primary school in Harrow amount, on average, to the equivalent cost of one to two primary school teachers. For secondary schools, it is the equivalent of four secondary teachers per annum.
That assumes that, on average, school budgets are cash-flat. In Harrow, some 25% of schools—14 out of the 54—are currently protected by the minimum funding guarantee, which means in practice that they will lose 1.5% of their per-pupil budget per annum. That could equate to a cash reduction of a further £20,000 to £30,000 per annum. The Secretary of State and other Government Members might like to hide behind the idea that there have been record funding increases, but on the ground in Harrow, headteachers and governing bodies report substantial financial pressures. Similarly, local authorities report profound concerns about the rising demand for high-end special needs funding, and it would be good to hear—
My hon. Friend may have seen a piece in The Observer at the weekend about the crisis across the country in special needs education. My county council has just announced a review, and we fear the worst—it is already removing special needs allowances for mainstream schools. Does he agree that it is time that the Government launched a review of how special needs are met across the country in order to inform a coherent policy and provision?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. The key thing is that extra money needs to be found immediately for special needs provision, particularly high-end provision. Like Harrow Council, many local authorities—particularly in London, but clearly around the rest of the country—are profoundly worried about that. I suspect that the Secretary of State knows full well the scale of the pressures facing headteachers in this country. It would be good to hear from the Minister for School Standards in his winding-up speech what his Department will do about that in negotiations with the Treasury.
Everyone will be aware that it is Parliament Week. Schools up and down the country, in west Cornwall and on Scilly are doing an incredible amount of work to raise awareness about what we do here, our amazing democratic system and politics throughout the country. I commend my local schools on their work to raise awareness about such vital issues.
I also commend the schools in my constituency, particularly St Mary’s Church of England School, on how they have engaged in the world war one commemorations. They have done amazing work. In Penzance, we could not get full access to the cenotaph, so instead the school children made a poppy for every person who lost their life in the first world war and named each poppy in remembrance of that individual. Thousands of people are aware of the commemoration and are visiting Penzance this week.
Every week, I make time to visit a local school, where I find great teachers, committed staff and happy and keen pupils. In fact, some 89% of primary schools throughout Cornwall are good or outstanding, and 83% of secondary schools are good or outstanding. I recognise the pressures on funding and know that they are accepted in the Department for Education. As we look towards next year’s strategic spending review, it is imperative that we really understand how funding is distributed so that we can teach our children and give them the best start in life.
Since I was elected in 2015, I have met various Education Secretaries and Ministers on a number of occasions, and I have always found them to be helpful and that they listen. In fact, I was able to bring teachers all the way from my constituency in west Cornwall to meet a Minister so that they could talk through some of the challenges that they face. That opportunity was well received and appreciated. The Minister has visited my constituency several times, and he has listened, engaged, and even opened a new building.
The national funding formula is welcome in west Cornwall and throughout Cornwall, because we have traditionally had low funding for schools. It is right that the money is fairly distributed throughout the country for every child. We look forward to the formula being fully delivered so that our children receive a fair share of the money available for schools. Even today, a large amount—millions of pounds—is being spent on improving buildings throughout my constituency and building a new school.
I listened carefully to the shadow Secretary of State for Education, but I did not hear her set out any ideas about how we could improve the present situation as it is today, so I thought I could help. There are practical measures that the Government could take today to help schools. This is about understanding not only what money schools have, but how they can use their money better and how we can help them with it.
For example, a multi-academy trust in my constituency started 18 months ago and has 19 schools. It has to show in its end-of-year accounts the value of its buildings, even though it is not allowed to realise its assets—the trust is not allowed to do anything with the buildings, which do not belong to it. Were we to look at its accounts, we would think that it was extremely well off, but in fact the money available to spend is a much smaller amount. Will the Minister or the Secretary of State look into how schools’ accounts are presented so that they will truly represent the money available to schools and no one will be confused about the pressures they are under?
My hon. Friend is being helpful with his ideas, so perhaps I might pitch one. When I meet firms in my constituency, they tell me that they are terribly worried about skills shortages. Schools have an even more critical role to play in helping local firms and liaising with them to see what they can do to encourage children’s ambitions to work in those local companies.
I shall address that issue when I talk about the apprenticeship levy, but my hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are real pressures on skills in my rural area, so it is imperative that we work with schools to help teachers to understand the jobs and skills that are available and how we can keep people in the area, because it is extremely important in rural areas that we do not have what we describe as brain drain.
I am looking forward to the strategic spending review, because there is no doubt in my mind that more money is needed. However, as I said, there are things that can help schools today. For example, the apprenticeship levy has been mentioned. My local schools are contributing to it, but find it difficult to access apprenticeships, because although they have apprentices, when they go to college the schools have to cover the work that the apprentices do, and therefore have to spend even more money on supporting people. My local schools’ request to me was that their contribution to the levy be scrapped, which would help their budget.
Another idea is about cash flow. It is really important that the Government understand—I know that they do—that if a child starts school in September, they are registered for funding in October and the funding arrives the following April, but if a child turns up at school after October, the funding for that child comes 18 months later. There are schools in my constituency that have very few children leaving. For example, about six children left one school in July, but 31 joined its reception in September. No money will be given to that school for those 31 children until April next year. It is very difficult for a school that is building up, that is becoming popular and that is a school of choice for parents when the money just does not follow the child. I say to the Government that, rather than putting more money into the system, they could make things much fairer for schools if the money could follow the child, rather than be allocated in the April after the intake.
Another area that is proving to be a problem, which is not unrelated to what I have just said, is support for special educational needs. One school in my constituency supported children with special educational needs to such a great extent that nine children joined it after the October date, which meant that £56,000 had to be found to support those children for 18 months.
My time is running out, but I just want to say that I am so in awe of all the teachers and teaching staff in my constituency. They do a fantastic amount of work, but they face challenges, such as finding money to provide sports facilities such as all-weather pitches. I also wish to make a quick plea. If we remember all that we have just said about post-16 pupils—about making sure that we have the skills that we need and that we do not lose children out of the county—we should probably look at plus-16 funding and make sure that our young people can get the skills they need in their own area.
Investing in our schools and improving education standards should be a priority for any Government. Our schools play a vital role in ensuring that young people are prepared for the world of work, positively contributing to our society and economy. However, the inadequate provision in the recent Budget, not to mention eight years of damaging cuts to our schools, demonstrates that education is not a high enough priority for this Government.
The Chancellor’s promise of £400 million for a few “little extras” when schools are on their knees owing to years of crippling cuts has, understandably, angered teachers and parents around the country. That is the equivalent of the Chancellor chucking a few crumbs to our hard-working teachers who are struggling to cope— so much for the end of austerity. It is as if this Government think that if they keep telling us that austerity is over, they will be believed regardless of the facts. As we have heard, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that headteachers should be preparing for more difficult years ahead—that is despite the fact that cuts that have already been made. For example, the Government have cut £3.5 billion from the education capital budget since 2010, and £1.7 billion in real terms from schools budgets since 2013. There has been a reduction in spending of 8% per pupil in real terms between 2010 and 2017-18, as well as a 21% reduction in funding per sixth-form student since 2010, not to mention the 8% cut in per student funding in further education and sixth-form colleges. Teachers’ pay is down by £4,000 in real terms since 2010, and the funds for special educational needs and disability are also inadequate.
Insufficient funding means that schools cannot pay their teachers properly. It means rising class sizes, with more than half a million children in supersize classes, fewer special support staff, the end of school trips for many children and much else. The Education Policy Institute found that the proportion of local authority secondary schools in deficit has trebled to more than a quarter of all such schools.
A good education will increase opportunity and lift children out of poverty. In my constituency, schools have been transformed thanks to the investment that began under the previous Labour Government. When the Education Secretary starts lecturing us he should remember how appalling the education system was when Labour came into power. If he wants to give us a history lesson, he should go back to the history of his Government and the way that they treated inner-city areas around the country—it was with contempt. It was the investment of funding in teachers, leadership, management and supporting parents that transformed education across London and other parts of the country. This Government are in a race to the bottom. They are not trying to lift kids out of poverty or to improve education. The Secretary of State should learn lessons from what happened in London and not try to decimate schools in our city. Other areas could learn from the London challenge and much else that was a success. This would be better than turning schools and regions against each other, which is not right and will not serve our children well.
Despite record levels of child poverty—the highest in the country—the children in my area have advanced and have had opportunities because of investment in our education system, and that must not be put at risk. But this Government, with their vicious cuts and failure to invest in the future, are putting all that at risk. Our schools are facing cuts amounting to £16 million between 2015 and 2020 alone. As I said earlier, that is an average of £448 per pupil—in the borough with the highest child poverty rate in the country.
The Government are hellbent on decimating our public services, including schools, Sure Start centres, early years education and the police service; the list goes on. When they face a public backlash or political opposition, they grudgingly cave in, having done the damage, with a few crumbs here and a few there. Education is no exception. I call on the Secretary of State to step up and fight for more resources ahead of the next spending review to ensure that our schools get the investment they deserve and need so that the next generation are not held back by the failures of this Government. I appeal to him to step up and make sure that the Chancellor does not just give our kids and schools a few crumbs, but that he puts in serious funding to ensure that the children of our country can survive, thrive and contribute to the economy.
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali). There is a sense of déjà vu in these debates about public services. We have rehearsed these arguments over many years, but I still find it extraordinary that when we try to bring a degree of order and sanity to public finances, the Labour party—which wrecked the economy and completely destroyed the public finances—makes the specious argument that we have somehow wrecked public services. In fact, we have preserved the ability of this country to meet the level of public service requirement that our constituents and the country expect, by having a sound footing on the economy. It is ridiculous that the Labour party should constantly harp on about devastating cuts when we had to save the economy.
My hon, Friend is making a typically robust speech. This debate is about the next generation. Surely the moral point is that it is precisely the people in education today—in our schools and colleges—who will have to repay the national debt that will be accumulated if we are not prudent and careful with public expenditure. Does my hon. Friend agree?
I am delighted that my hon. Friend is talking about public finance, because we also have to talk about education and look at the record of the previous Labour Administration. In the course of effectively destroying the public finances and leaving us with the biggest deficit in our peacetime history, Labour presided over an absolute fall in standards in our schools. This has been well documented by the programme for international student assessment tables and other international records. It was the case—[Interruption.]
Labour Members are shouting because they do not like to hear the truth—it is embarrassing to them.
We looked at reading statistics and we looked at mathematics. The coalition Government that came in in 2010 not only managed to begin to reduce the deficit but drove up standards through the admirable work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove). When he was Secretary of State for four years, he managed to begin to drive up standards in schools. He reorganised a lot of the qualifications. On that note, I am delighted about the introduction of the new T-levels, showing innovation and a new approach. We introduced free schools, which have been very successful.
There have been more than 400, and each of them has been—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman scoffs, but each of them has been extremely successful and is driving up standards in its locality.
I was particularly surprised to hear that the shadow Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), is actually campaigning to try to preserve the free school in his borough because it is a beacon of excellence. This is the kind of hypocrisy—“Do as I say, not as I do”—that we have learned to expect from Labour. It is an absolute scandal that someone like the right hon. Gentleman should be against free schools but actually support one in his own constituency. That school is an excellent initiative. He is being a very good constituency MP, and I am delighted to see that he is supporting a free school in his constituency.
The facts of the matter are very clear. What the coalition Government and the current Conservative Government have managed to do is to bring some degree of order to the public finances while driving standards higher in education. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has suggested that we have 1.9 million more pupils in outstanding schools. [Interruption.] These are facts. I know that Labour Members do not want to hear those facts. We have also heard—[Interruption.] I am surprised that I am eliciting a running commentary from the shadow Secretary of State. It is absolutely extraordinary. She does not like hearing the truth, does she? [Interruption.] She really does not like it, so she will not let me continue my speech.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have never, in my eight years in Parliament, actually had a running commentary on any speech, so clearly I must have hit a nerve. It is absolutely extraordinary, this constant chuntering.
The facts are very clear. We have had higher standards in the past eight years—[Interruption.] I do not think that is particularly funny, if we look at the wreckage of the last Labour Government. We have a comprehensive spending review next year when we will be allocating even more resources to education and to schools than ever before. We have more teachers. We have higher attainment. We have higher standards than ever before. In the context of the disaster that Labour presided over in respect of the public finances, what this Government have done over the past eight years is to be commended.
In my constituency there are six schools in the maintained sector—very good secondary schools. Every single one of them has seen standards improve and has seen additional amounts of money. We have seen, with one exception, additional amounts of money put to pupils’ use for books, attainment and driving up standards. I would just say that we in Spelthorne would like to see some degree of equalisation between the London allowances that London teachers have and the amount that teachers in our borough receive. We are just outside London. Many of our teachers feel that because they do not have London weighting, even though the costs in the borough are level with those in London, we would like some sort of adjustment, if that were possible. Overall, though, while the picture is not perfect—very little is perfect—we are on a much, much better footing than was ever the case, certainly when I started in my role in 2010.
I speak as a former teacher, as someone who has served for 20 years as a school governor, as a parent and, most recently, as a grandparent. I also speak as someone who was a child from a deprived home. I can tell the Secretary of State that I really understand the difference that education makes to life chances, and I understand that education is the key to social mobility, so I was delighted when the Prime Minister said:
“I want Britain to be a place where advantage is based on merit not privilege; where it’s your talent and hard work that matter, not where you were born, who your parents are or what your accent sounds like.”
When the Secretary of State said that social mobility is a “large part” of the reason we have a Department for Education, I thought we had cracked it, but sadly I was wrong, because the reality does not match the rhetoric.
In my constituency, the average reduction in school funding is £300 per child, and Burnley FE college has had its funding cut by 30% since 2010. Those budget cuts have had serious implications for the educational opportunities of children and young people in my constituency. There are serious concerns, but in the limited time available to me, I want to focus on the provision of early years education.
I want to go right back to the beginning, to the crucial early years. It seems, at least on paper, that the Secretary of State agrees with me on that too. He has said that
“the point of greatest leverage for social mobility is the very earliest time in life.”
I absolutely agree, but too many of our children hail from homes where poverty and deprivation limit experience and stifle early learning, and by the time they arrive at school, they are already behind.
Two weeks ago I chatted with an early years teacher, who told me about a home visit she had made to a three-year-old boy who lives with his mum, dad and sister. The family have one room to live and sleep in, and they share a kitchen and bathroom with three other families. The main room is damp, and mould is growing on the walls. Not surprisingly, there is hardly any room to move around the double bed and no room for a child to run or play. Mum works days, so dad looks after the little boy during the day. Sadly he does not engage with the little boy as much as he would like because he works nights, and he has to sleep sometime. Because no one has much time and doing the laundry is difficult with a shared kitchen arrangement, the little boy is still in nappies. The teacher told me that that case is not unusual. I hope the Secretary of State will take the time to outline how that little boy and others like him fit into his plans for social mobility.
Given that sad reality, is it any wonder that so many children in this country start primary school with language and social skills that are below the expected level for their age group, and that more than a quarter of children finish their reception year still without the early communication and reading skills that they need to thrive? Those children cannot wait until primary school for those issues to be addressed.
Independent research has shown that maintained nursery schools provide the highest-quality early years education, meeting higher standards than others. They provide a different service from other early years providers. They close the achievement gap for so many of the most disadvantaged children in the country, provide expert support for children with special needs, provide family support for some of our most vulnerable children and families, and act as system leaders, supporting other early years providers in their locality to raise standards. Of course, the Secretary of State is aware of the excellent provision in maintained nursery schools, not least because of the valiant efforts of hundreds of nursery school teachers who have made the journey from every corner of this country to make their case in this place.
Even though extensive research shows that every single pound spent in the vital early years is worth £15 spent in later years, it is a sad fact that 325,000 children have no access to a nursery school teacher. That number is set to rise significantly unless the Government put nursery schools on a sustainable financial footing, recognising that they are schools and need to be funded as such. If the Secretary of State is serious about driving social mobility and raising educational standards, I ask him to recognise the phenomenal contribution that this sector makes to the life chances of so many children, and I ask that he goes beyond warm words and today makes a firm commitment to fund it for the future and announce the detail without delay.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Burnley (Julie Cooper). The point she made about children going into schools without the requisite level of reading was interesting. The feedback I have had from my schools is quite worrying. There are issues of deprivation and so on, but there are also parents who do not read to their children enough; that is a simple point.
In the case of the family that I cited, when does the hon. Gentleman think the parents were actually able to read to their child, given that one was in work during the child’s waking hours and the parent who had worked nights was asleep during the day or most of it? I assure him that it would have been very difficult.
I was referring to what I have heard in my constituency. That was obviously not specific to the hon. Lady’s case, about which I cannot possibly comment. I am simply saying, given the feedback I have had, that although there are issues of deprivation, there are also parents who are not taking seriously enough their responsibility to read to their children, which is leaving them with lower standards. We have to say that, because it has truth in it, I am afraid.
I do agree with the hon. Lady about social mobility. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is absolutely right about the importance of education spending. It is the one form of public expenditure that can ultimately enable people to better themselves, rise up in life, and go on and make the most of their natural talents. Obviously we all support school funding, and we want to see our schools adequately funded.
It is shocking when we hear a speech from an Opposition Front Bencher that does not mention the way in which the cake is divided. There are schools in counties across England facing this problem and many different political representations have been made, but overwhelmingly the shire counties receive a very poor share of the cake. We can increase the whole thing, but if we want to see more spending in Suffolk, we have to change the formula. That is why I am incredibly grateful to the Government for going through the pain and the difficult calculations to come to a formula, which, when it comes in, will see my schools in South Suffolk receive an average of 5.1% more funding. That is generous, and it will enable us to give more support to the children we have been talking about.
It may be a one hit wonder, but it is sung very well by my hon. Friend. As I always say, we also have a strong employment record. When children come out of school, college or university, they have to get jobs. We want them to thrive, and that means having a strong economy to drive such funding.
The higher spending I have mentioned, which we look forward to receiving in Suffolk when we have changed the formula, is not there for the sake of it. There is a tendency in this debate to talk about spending as an end in itself, but what matters is the outcomes that the funding delivers. I have to say, when we have the statistic that there are 1.9 million more children in schools ranked good or outstanding since 2010, we should be proud of that. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane) says it is because of the higher school population, but the school population has not gone up by 1.9 million in that time. It is because—surprise, surprise—more schools are rated good or outstanding.
Let us take the example of Suffolk. In December 2013, 72% of schools in Suffolk were ranked good or outstanding; this March, it was almost 90%. We are also seeing real improvement in progress 8 and attainment 8, and all those things show that we are adding value, meaning that our pupils are getting about and making more of themselves.
Does my hon. Friend agree that driving up standards is linked, importantly, to the increase in choice? It was choice that my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) introduced in his groundbreaking reform of bringing forward free schools in 2010, and it is the freedom for parents to choose that drives up excellence.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point, and my experience backs that up. A village can have its own school, but if parents think the school a drive away is better, they will send their children there, because they are exercising choice. Such a choice undoubtedly drives up standards, so my hon. Friend makes an excellent point.
In the last few minutes of my speech, I want to join my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas) in suggesting some ideas and adding them into the mix, as one likes to do. The first is about teachers’ pay. It is a great achievement when headteachers in particular show the leadership that enables schools that are in special measures or struggling to improve. In my view, when that happens there should be a financial reward. By the way, that would be paid for, because if more schools become good or outstanding because teachers turn them around, especially from special measures, that will lead to higher productivity, which, after all, is how we pay for higher spending. When teachers put in that sort of effort there should be a financial reward, because the country will benefit and it will pay off.
Another idea concerns school transport. In Suffolk at the moment—no beating about the bush—we are going through very controversial and painful changes to school transport, necessitated by the difficult situation of council funding. I simply remind Opposition Members, before they inevitably start making noises, that they did not protect council budgets in their 2010 manifesto any more than we did, so the situation would have been very similar. Councils have had to make painful decisions. In Suffolk that means that school transport is being reduced. The system is being changed, and I hope that the impact will not be too dramatic.
I find it very difficult to defend this, but I understand why we have decided not to look at pensioner benefits in this Parliament—because of the political situation and the parliamentary arithmetic. However, I have wealthy pensioners in my constituency who get a free bus pass, and we are cutting school transport. I struggle to justify that. To me, that is a good example of the intergenerational problems that are building up in this country, which we have to address. Many constituents of mine who are relatively wealthy pensioners come to me and say it is silly that they get that. That is just a suggestion, and it is funded. I think it would be a brave and good thing to do, because there needs to be more support for those at key stages of life to get school transport and to get to college.
In conclusion, we should be proud of the progress our schools are making. We are seeing genuine improvement, and the best way of measuring that, as other hon. Members have said, is through international comparisons. We are going up the league tables for reading. Our results are far better, and that is because of the leadership shown by a Conservative Government, responsible finances and better standards. That is the right mix for schools policy.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge). He may not know this, but I grew up in Suffolk and went to school there, so I know exactly the impact that the last Labour Government had on the communities he talks about. Under the last Labour Government, the school that I went to had a new sixth-form building; received capital investment into its home economics and technology centres; and had a complete revamp of its maths block. That all happened under the last Labour Government, who invested in the capital elements of schools. The idea that capital is a new device that this Government have found and that they are the only ones who are spending it is nonsense. I am of a generation that a Labour Government created through schools investment, education investment and capital investment.
My hon. Friend makes a prescient comment, because I will come on to that exact point momentarily.
Schools in Stoke-on-Trent are suffering the same problems as those suffered by schools across the country. Their per pupil funding has not been protected, so the costs they have to endure and incur are so significant that their budgets no longer balance. Only on Monday I was at Etruscan Primary School in my constituency where the executive headteacher told me that her school budget’s projected deficit for 2020 was almost £500,000. Through diligent work, she has managed to bring that down to £300,000, but there is still a huge gap between what she will have to spend and the money coming in. She is not the only one. The headteacher of St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Primary School has also written to me to explain that she faced a budget deficit of £100,000 over the past year. Moreover, she does not get sufficient resource from Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which is controlled by the Conservatives and independents, to meet the costs of supporting statemented children in her school who require—and who rightly receive—one-to-one tuition and support. She has to supplement that budget from her general school fund, which was also attacked and top-sliced this year by the Conservative and independent council as it sought to meet its higher needs budget. That budget has been overspent because the council has not got its own house in order with in-house provision and is instead sending children from my constituency and the city of Stoke-on-Trent out of area for the provision of particular educational needs. That is not good for the children, it is not good for school budgets, and it is certainly not good for the economy of Stoke-on-Trent.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) has rightly pointed out the scandal that is the funding for further education and sixth-form colleges in particular. Only last week I was talking to the vice-principal of my city’s sixth-form college who said that the cap of £4,000 per learner means that they have to scale back on the extras—not the “little extras” the Chancellor talked about but: the support they put in place for trips; the support they put in place to allow learners who need additional support, but who do not have a statement; the support they put in place through pastoral care; and the support they put in place for their young learners who cannot access child and adolescent mental health services system in our city because of the underfunding of the NHS. They are having to scale back on every single one of those because their costs are going up. Rises in inflation mean that any reserves they had are being eaten into. As a result, the young people in the college are suffering.
The Chancellor announced in his Budget a tax cut for the wealthiest 10%. Everybody in the Chamber will receive a tax cut as a result of the Budget the Chancellor proposed and is being voted through. I was proud to vote against that, because I do not think it is fair or right. I do not know how I can go into a classroom and justify billions of pounds being spent on tax cuts for the wealthiest 10% when headteachers across my constituency are telling me that they cannot afford to buy textbooks and other provisions for their schools.
No, because that would take up time and I am sure there are plenty of others who wish to speak.
I cannot go into those schools and justify a tax cut for the wealthiest 10%, while at the same time my schools are going short of provisions. The £10,000 the Chancellor announced for little extras will not go towards closing their budget deficits or towards the provisions they need. It is a disgraceful attack on those schools and their resources.
The Education Secretary looks puzzled by that, but that is the policy of the Government he supports. When I speak to headteachers in my constituency I make it very clear that if they want to see real education funding reform they will not get it from this Government. The Government are simply trying to rig the system to support schools in their constituencies, while cities like mine suffer further. [Interruption.] The Education Secretary asks me what I suggest. What I am suggesting is what I have just said. The funding formula is being re-engineered to move provisions away from areas of deprivation, in cities such as Stoke-on-Trent, towards areas with lower levels of deprivation to placate the electorate in those areas. The hon. Member for South Suffolk said that he knows policies change depending on which electorate they need to placate. That is happening with school budgets. That is why Stoke-on-Trent schools will lose money, while schools in other parts of the country will gain money despite the fact that Stoke-on-Trent ranks 14th for deprivation. [Interruption.] The Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), is shaking his head. He is an MP for the city I represent—
It is true: he is an MP for the city I represent. [Laughter.] He will have sat in the same meetings as me, with the Stoke-on-Trent Association of School, College and Academy Leaders and the Stoke Heads and Principals Executive, while headteachers talked about the funding deficits they face. All I would say to the Government and the Secretary of State is this: please take up the baton for schools. Take up the requests from colleges and get more money out of the Treasury. At the moment, he is asleep on the job. The sooner he realises that he needs to stand up for schools the better.
It is a delight to follow the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell). I hope he will encourage his hon. Friend, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard), to put these views on increasing schools funding in his own literature. Perhaps the Government will alter the funding formula to make it fairer for that constituency.
It is a pleasure to be called in this debate and to reflect on the good news and the good work happening in Torbay to improve school standards and invest in our schools. I am particularly proud of the money that Paignton Community and Sports Academy will be getting to sort out some of its school buildings, some of which have been in a poor condition for some time. I want to pay tribute on the Floor of the House to my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening) who, when she was Education Secretary, met me and my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) to discuss the school’s buildings. The school had been knocked back from a couple of bids, but my right hon. Friend was very good and she listened. She took the school’s points on board and now about £4 million will be spent to sort out its buildings and provide the top quality education its pupils need.
In many cases, such debates about Torbay can focus on our grammar schools. I am always very clear that grammar schools should be a choice for those parents who believe it is right for them and their children, but that no one should feel compelled at 11 to take an 11-plus test to get a good education. That is why the improvement of other schools in Torbay has always been so welcome. I look particularly at Torquay Academy, which is now one of the schools with the highest value-added scores in the south-west. Its academy partner is Torquay Boys’ Grammar School and they work very closely together. The academy is excellent in attainment for those of all abilities and a priority in exactly the same way, despite the fact that there is a grammar school down the round. They do not conflict with each other; they complement each other and work very well together.
In terms of aspiration, we are looking ahead to the new £17 million high-tech skills centre that is under construction in Paignton; it will be part of South Devon College. The Paignton Community and Sports Academy sixth form will be provided by the college, taking advantage of many of the fantastic facilities. For me, it is about driving aspiration and giving people opportunities, not just the idea that if someone goes to university, it will be the greatest part of their life—although it is good to see that more people from deprived backgrounds are going to university. Technical skills are as important for driving aspiration and ambition, which is why that investment is so welcome.
Ellacombe Church of England Academy is in one of the most deprived parts of my constituency. After the previous speech, people might think that Torbay is purely palm trees, beaches and retired people, but we have areas with particular challenges, and that does not change just because they happen to be in Torbay rather than another part of the country. The new nursery provision will support a school that has come on in leaps and bounds over the past eight to nine years, partly through the academy process, partly through working with other schools nearby, and party through the work of the superb team of teachers there.
One concern that some schools would want me to raise while I am on the Floor of the House is Torbay Council’s current consultation on its high-needs formula and how the top-slicing might work. I see that the Minister for School Standards is sitting on the Treasury Bench; he will remember meeting the heads of three of my schools to discuss how they have been at the very lowest points of funding and that the top-slicing proposal could push them below the minimum that they have been guaranteed. It would be interesting to hear some thoughts from him either now or in a later meeting on how some of those challenges can be avoided.
There is a lot to be proud of in our schools, not just across the country, but particularly in my constituency. There will be challenges, but to pretend that the challenges are just recent ignores the past. One of my primary schools is a great place to go, but it was saved only due to the election of a Conservative Mayor, because the then Liberal Democrat council, under a Labour Government, wanted to close it as part of a surplus places scheme. That would have been such a short-sighted decision, given that it is now in an area where there is the most demand on school places. Thankfully, Nick Bye, the then Mayor of Torbay, took the decision to keep the school open and looked ahead to a future when numbers would be increasing, so we have not been left in a situation where our area that has the most pressure has even more. I am also pleased to say that a private, independent school that recently closed—it had falling numbers for some years, partly due to the quality of local state schools—has now been acquired to become a new state primary school slap-bang in the middle of Paignton. That would be a positive investment in one of our most deprived communities in Torbay.
It has been interesting to hear this debate. I must say that when it comes to education, point scoring is better on a school sports day than in a political debate. Certainly some of the stuff we have heard is not what people would particularly want in a classroom, and perhaps one or two Opposition Members could do with doing their homework on one or two issues.
No, I will let other people speak. To be honest, the hon. Lady has not been here for much of the debate—[Interruption.] Someone shouting when they have not been here is really not very professional. It has been welcome to have this debate and talk about the schools and what we are doing in Torbay, and to reflect on a few of the issues for my constituents.
It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster).
I want specifically to speak about special educational needs funding. A growing number of parents come to my constituency surgeries in real distress because their children just do not get the support that they need in class. Although parents generally have a good experience of support in primary schools, I am afraid that they really struggle when their children transition to secondary education. They find that support just is not there at secondary schools, and that those schools cannot cope with their children’s extra needs. More and more children suffer with anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges, and there simply is not enough support to help them with those things at such a crucial stage of their life.
I have been contacted by several parents whose children simply do not attend school—they have dropped out—because of their anxiety and because support for their special needs just is not in place. Their parents are fined as a consequence. I believe that has also led to a number of informal expulsions of vulnerable children and to the growing use of home schooling, which I am concerned is used to hide the number of children who drop out because they do not get support for their special educational needs in school. Children are being written off and abandoned, and that concerns me greatly.
I do not for one moment blame schools and teachers. I know they work flat out as they suffer real-terms budget cuts. In fact, challenges with special educational needs are often the biggest issue that teachers themselves raise with me. They work with our children and see those challenges day in, day out. However, we know that councils do not have the financial capacity to provide the specialist mental health support that children need.
Across the country, council overspending on children’s special educational needs and disabilities trebled in just three years, from £61 million in 2015-16 to £195 million in 2017-18, yet, as the Secretary of State probably saw, research in The Observer this weekend identified 40 councils that have either cut special needs funding or are considering doing so next year. I am afraid his warm words are meaningless unless councils are given the funding they need by his colleagues.
We know that support staff are the key to supporting pupils with higher needs. They are always the first to be hit when funding pressures bite. Since 2013, there has been a 10% cut in the number of teaching assistants in secondary schools, despite the number of pupils having risen. Teaching assistants provide more than just educational support. They play a fundamental role in supporting learners with a whole range of emotional and behavioural needs, helping to address difficulties such as lack of self-esteem and confidence, and other hidden mental health challenges. However, when their numbers are cut, their work in this area has to be picked up by teaching staff, who already have to deal with bigger classes.
Between 2015 and 2020, schools in my constituency will have lost more than £4 million in real terms. That is a massive per-pupil loss of £226. Given those funding pressures, it is no surprise that disadvantaged and SEND pupils struggle to receive the support they need in schools. I was shocked by reports in the media that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury was cut out of Budget discussions for having the temerity to ask for an extra £155 million for SEN places for some of our most vulnerable children. That is a damning indictment of the Government’s priorities when making Budget decisions. If the education of all our young people—particularly the most vulnerable—is not at the top of the Government’s priority list, they need to take a long, hard look at their position.
We have only one chance to give our children the best start in life. Support should be available to meet the individual needs of everyone. I urge the Government to take a look at education funding, particularly for children who face the most challenges—please do a fundamental review and commit to investing in the next generation.
It is a pleasure to contribute to this debate. I do my best to ensure that I always contribute to debates on school funding and the success of our schools and education sector.
I make this contribution off the back of spending a week—the same week as my party conference in Birmingham—visiting 20 of the schools in my constituency and giving presentations about what goes on in this place, the role of an MP, democracy and how it has evolved over the years, and some of the campaigns I am focused on, including on school funding. The pupils I met were so full of life. They are like sponges—they want to soak up everything they are taught. They are taught by outstanding teachers who work incredibly hard. The heads and senior leaders of those schools undoubtedly face a lot of pressures, yet still manage to motivate their pupils to be the best they can. I salute not just those 20 schools in my constituency, but all the schools in the country that do exactly the same. I will always have their back by ensuring that we give them the best we possibly can.
Having heard from the Opposition, let me say that we must give credit where credit is due as far as the past eight years are concerned. The fact that 1.9 million more pupils are in good or outstanding schools is testimony to not just the work that the Government are doing, but the schools themselves. It is the schools that have turned themselves around. I am very proud that all my local secondary schools are at that level, and doing incredibly well. Moreover, a record number of pupils are going to university and doing the best that they can.
The statistics are there. UK Government expenditure is 3.8% of GDP. In France the figure is 3.4%, in the United States it is 3.2%, and in Germany it is 2.6%. While there is more to be done, I think that the Opposition would have more credibility if they recognised those statistics and thought about how they could be built on, rather than trying to take them apart.
Funding has risen by record levels—it has increased from £41 billion, and soon it will be £43 billion. I have lobbied strongly for fair funding in my constituency. We were able to receive an extra 5% for our schools, and I am very grateful for that. However, we are still seeing unfairness in the system. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell) spoke of funds being removed, as he put it. I ask him to look at the position from my perspective. Schools in my constituency will receive far less than those in his constituency, just as a starting point. That is before we take account of additional measures such as the pupil premium—before we consider the individual pupil. Why should students be worse off at the starting point just because they happen to go to school in East Sussex? This has been going on for decades, and it is just not fair—[Interruption.] Opposition Members should put themselves in my position, and see the situation as I do. It is not fair at all.
I absolutely support fair funding. Every single pupil, no matter where they go to school, should receive the same level of funding as the starting point, before further amounts are layered on as appropriate. Pupils come from Hastings, the most deprived town in the south-east, to schools in my constituency. They face challenges and difficulties, but they do not take the deprivation issues from Hastings. Of course I expect other Members to stand up for the schools in their constituencies, but they can imagine why I am doing exactly the same. I am pleased that the secondary school allocation for East Sussex is to rise from £4,300 per pupil to £4,800, but I shall continue to speak in this way until we have parity at the starting point.
In the couple of minutes remaining to me, I want to touch on a few issues that I have picked up from my visits to 20 schools a month ago. One is teachers’ pay. I lobbied heavily for extra money to be provided outside the schools budget, and I was delighted that the bulk of the pay rises will be funded outside it. However, I think that if a school spends 80% of its budget on staffing costs, it is fair enough to expect it to contribute something towards that, hence the 1%.
I believe that leaders should be paid to lead. I have talked about the challenges for heads and senior leaders. I do not think that a 2% rise on the upper spine and a 1.5% rise on the leadership spine reward what is a very challenging leadership role, and I think that they should be given more. On this point, I take issue again with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central. I am sure that he would, like me, campaign for those headteachers to get a larger pay rise, but at the same time he is campaigning and voting against their receiving an extra £860 in the form of the increase in the tax allowance. For him to attack my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), who has actually given the headteachers that pay rise—the average headteacher pay is £68,000—strikes me as somewhat perverse. However, I would like the Government to look at pay, particularly at the senior levels.
Pre-school funding is also of great concern to me. I have lost a further two pre-schools in my constituency. Business rates are an issue, as are the national living wage and the fact that the hourly rate is not high enough to meet their costs. I recognise the £6 billion that the Government have provided for pre-schools, but I think they need to go that bit further and fund fully. That would be a successful policy.
Again, I salute my schools, their heads, and, indeed, the ministerial team, who have made my local schools good and outstanding.
Although there are often disagreements in this Chamber, I am sure that one thing we can all agree on is that every child deserves the best opportunities in life. I am sure that we can also all agree that this begins with a quality education, not just an education. That is something that any Government should be proud to support, yet this Government’s record on education is one of cuts, funding pressures and recruitment crises.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, per-pupil spending in England’s schools has fallen by 8% since 2010, and the cuts are having a very real impact on the quality of education across the country, especially in Warrington, where children and young people have suffered for many years thanks to a legacy of low funding for schools.
Earlier this year, I conducted a survey of schools across my constituency of Warrington South. I did so to better understand the impact of underfunding on pupils and frontline staff, and the response was utterly damning. Some 100% of the 31 schools that responded were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their current funding situation, while 81% said that since 2015 they had had to make staffing cuts due to funding pressures. Some 80% had cut spending on books and equipment. Perhaps of even more concern, many schools reported plans to make further cuts in the next two years to cope with forthcoming budget pressures, with a staggering 91% saying they would need to cut spending on books and equipment, too. I would like to take this opportunity to praise the schools in my constituency, which work tirelessly and do all they possibly can to protect pupils from the cuts, but make no mistake—this is getting harder and harder.
In Warrington South and across the country, underfunding means that our schools are under unprecedented pressure, which is resulting in the loss of school staff and leading to cuts to vital classroom resources and support. Our school leaders are doing an excellent job in the most difficult circumstances, but across the country, our teachers, pupils, parents and campaigners have been crying out for the funding that is so desperately needed.
Does my hon. Friend agree that schools are suffering in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland? Will he join me in praising the 40,000 teachers who marched through Glasgow last month to stand up for our kids’ education—and that is just the start of it?
I totally agree.
I passionately believe that in life you get what you pay for, and without adequate investment, we simply will not have a fit-for-purpose education system that provides young people with a quality education, and staff with the resources they need to provide that quality education.
In Warrington South and across the country under- funding means that our schools face unprecedented pressure. My survey and many similar ones carried out by my hon. Friends—if I remember correctly, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Frith) did an excellent survey in his constituency—all tell us loudly and clearly that underfunding is having a real impact on the quality of education that our young people are receiving.
This morning, while I was going through my social media, I came across a video of Alex, who was right here in this Chamber last week as part of the Youth Parliament. He made an excellent and passionate speech. We are taking funding away from such children, but they are the next generation. We are talking about Brexit, and about finding new markets, free trade agreements, manufacturing and so forth, but we must provide quality education to take us forward. If we do not provide those skills and that quality education, we will not have any future. These young people are our future and if this Government are serious about the future of this country being bright, it is high time that they started seriously funding our schools.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Warrington South (Faisal Rashid) and to hear his typically determined championing of his constituency. One of the greatest pleasures of being the Member of Parliament representing Bolton West and Atherton is the school visits, particularly in connection to the events surrounding Parliament Week. I visited Devonshire Road Primary School yesterday and participated in a Q&A session there, and I digitally visited Ladybridge High School last week for a digital surgery that it was holding. That was the first time I had participated in that kind of event, and it was really interesting to see young people engaging in democracy in a way that my classmates and I never did when we were at school.
I also visited Bolton sixth-form college recently to hear its concerns. I understand that the Secretary of State went to a sixth-form college himself, following his studies at St Ambrose College. It is particularly important to represent the needs of those colleges, because that sector of our education system is often overlooked. Let us also remember the contributions that many of our schools made during Armistice Week, including activities by choirs and readings during the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the armistice and the end of the first world war.
It is important that we get the distribution right between the different boroughs around the country. We have heard today about the unfairness of the historical inequalities in funding, and I think everyone would recognise the importance of balancing out those problems. It would be remiss of me not to reflect the concerns that I consistently hear from headmasters and headmistresses across my constituency as they call for more funding. Bolton West needs more schools and more school capacity. Blackrod Primary School and Chorley New Road Primary School have recently been extended to meet increasing demand, but there is a need for new schools as well. We are seeing a substantial amount of house building in and around the constituency, and a demographic bulge has had an impact on primary schools and is now beginning to challenge the capacity of the secondary schools in the constituency to take more children.
There is constant concern about the lack of sufficient school building and of sufficient investment in schools, which ought, to some extent, to be driven by the council’s vision. However, we are consistently not getting the schools, the medical facilities, the GP surgeries or the roads that we need. That is a really consistent message across the constituency, and it is perfectly highlighted by Bolton Council’s lack of vision for the Horwich Loco Works. That is the biggest housing development in Greater Manchester, with 1,700 houses planned, yet not a single primary school is planned for the site. That is extraordinary. These will be family homes, probably with several children in each of them.
Bolton Council had a master plan and a vision for the Horwich Loco Works, but it has been ditched. The council’s plan is now for the schools around Horwich to double in size. Rather than being single intake, many of the primary schools will double in size. In some ways, that is good. We have good and outstanding primary schools that can increase in size and take more children, but let us look at the challenge that those families will face. For example, we want children to be able to walk to school, but if a primary school doubles in size, many of the children who go there will not be able to do that. Their parents will have to ferry them there in a car. We are looking at an area that is already suffering significant levels of congestion, and the lack of vision from the Labour-led Bolton Council will compound the significant problems that the town already faces. The council should be working with the developers to ensure that we have the leisure facilities, the roads, the medical facilities and the schools that we need.
This is part of a wider problem across Greater Manchester. A powerful vision should have been set by the 10 boroughs for the Greater Manchester spatial framework, which is supposed to combine house building with all the other infrastructure that is required. Consistently, however, the 10 borough councils, all of which are now led by Labour, have failed to set and deliver their vision for roads, medical facilities, leisure facilities and schools. The vision must be developed, and if Greater Manchester cannot sort it out and if the Mayor cannot help to deliver a new vision for Greater Manchester, Bolton and Wigan, I am calling on Wigan Council and Bolton Council to go it alone and set out their own visions. Ultimately, this is about education for the next generation, and we have to deliver skills for children in my constituency.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green), although I do not share his view that local government should be blamed for school cuts. It is an even greater pleasure to speak in today’s debate, and I want to give a special mention to the group of female students from Leigh who will be visiting Parliament as part of the RECLAIM project in conjunction with Parliament Week. I am sure that the whole House will welcome them tomorrow. I also pay tribute to all the schools in my constituency. I have had the good fortune to work with them for several years—both in my previous role as a councillor and as an MP—but I have seen the real struggle that they have faced under this Government.
This debate comes just a fortnight after the Budget, which made it clear that austerity is not over for our schools, our teachers and our schoolchildren. Local parents and teachers in Leigh have seen reckless cuts coming from Westminster that will see the per pupil budget fall by £180 for every primary schoolchild and £253 for every secondary school pupil. That is hundreds of pounds per pupil taken away each and every year, with cuts of £3.9 million for primary schools and £4.3 million for secondary schools.
As has been pointed out already, the impact of the situation on our teachers and parents has left them at breaking point. It has somehow become routine in 2018 Britain for schools to set up crowdfunding pages to ask parents for donations or regular direct debits just to fund workbooks and pens. Just last week, a local school sent home a letter asking local companies to sponsor its PE department. Despite that, the Chancellor had the audacity to come to this House and reward our incredible teachers—teachers who are leaving the profession in despair—with some “little extras”. It is insulting to our schools, which deserve nothing less than the funding to give our young people the education and resources they deserve.
Cuts have hit our schools hard, but I want to take a moment to consider the impact on children with special educational needs. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group for attention deficit hyperactive disorder, I recognise not only the enormous potential of and opportunities for those with SEND, but our duty to help harness the incredible educational gifts that they possess. To allow them to thrive, they need the guidance and assistance to draw out their talent and to fit into the archaic educational structures that we still use. To give just one example of where we are letting pupils down, a recent report from the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy looking at our critical cyber skills gap said:
“We even heard that one of BT Security’s best graduate cryptographers was a music graduate whose ability to recognise patterns in music had proven a useful skill in relation to cryptography. Many of those who provided evidence also pointed to the strengths brought to the cyber security field by ‘neuro-divergent’ individuals, who, we were told, often possess ‘a real talent for logic’.”
There we have a profession with a critical shortage in this country—estimated at around 50,000 specialists—that is crying out for the type of talent and skills that those with conditions such as ADHD possess, and we also know that they are vastly underemployed. However, the processes are simply not there in our education system to bring the most out of these young people. With SEND funding frozen, the future hardly looks bright. Quite simply, society is letting these people down.
Our education system is struggling to cope with the cuts imposed by this Government, but the real travesty is that they come at a time when our education system needs a fundamental, transformative overhaul to raise education standards and become one of the most inclusive education systems in the world. As long as we have a Conservative Government, we will never see the kind of transformation that we need. That is why I support the motion and believe it is now crucial, at this important time for our country, that we end the austerity in our schools and begin investing in our future by creating an education system that truly works for all.
Here we are again, talking about school funding two weeks after a Budget, as the hon. Member for Leigh (Jo Platt) rightly mentioned.
Do not get me wrong, as a Lib Dem I love my potholes—believe me I do—but I think schools deserve more money than potholes. It was absolutely not the right priority that schools got only £400 million in the Budget, less than potholes. [Interruption.] Indeed, Lib Dems pointing at potholes—my dear favourite. But I would much rather have been pointing at a new school boiler or putting my arm around a teaching assistant who did not have to be let go.
That is why the “little extras” comment was so badly judged. I assume the Chancellor’s speech was not run past the Secretary of State for Education. If it was, I am shocked that his special adviser did not spot it. When I heard the comment, I tensed up inside, because I could hear the teachers in my constituency shouting, “Well, what about every time I reach into my own pocket to pay for pens and paper for the students in my school?”
I am a primary school governor at Botley School, and school governors are now having to make decisions about staffing—the system is at breaking point. They have already downgraded middle management and had reorganisations. In Botley we had to submit a deficit budget, as part of which we had to say that we were going to have some kind of reorganisation. In the end, all that does is put extra stress on the current teachers.
Forest School training has been cut or pared down in a number of schools in my constituency. People who have been to Forest School, perhaps as children, will know just how extraordinary that experience is—I wish I had had it—but that is being cut.
Ofsted has also pointed out in various studies that there is now a narrowing of the curriculum as a result of the cuts, and it is not just the EBacc. Amanda Spielman made it clear in a letter to the Public Accounts Committee just last week that that narrowing of the curriculum is real, that Ofsted has seen it and is very concerned about it.
Teachers across the country would like to hear from the Government that they are listening. The Government talk about more money than ever for schools. If we go back far enough in history, we will find that there is more money now, but it is also about the pressures on schools, with higher numbers of pupils and extra asks from pensions, national insurance contributions and an apprenticeship levy that really does not work.
There is a local school in Abingdon that is desperate to spend the apprenticeship levy funding. There is a maintenance chap and an IT specialist that the school would love to be able to skill up, but the local college does not provide those particular apprenticeships. Where is the joined-up thinking in this Government? It is just not there.
When I talked to the chair of governors at Larkmead School in Abingdon, he put it most aptly: “Do you know what we need? We do not need stuff. We need staff.” It is staff that schools need. As a former teacher, I can say it is that one-to-one interaction with students that is missing.
This is all happening at a time when local government services have been decimated, and we know that. We are now beginning to see it in schools. I am sure other Members, like me, were shocked by the BBC’s story over the weekend about the number of children being held in isolation rooms for five days or more. This is not happening of its own accord; it is a direct result of the closure of Sure Start centres, of the decimation of youth services and of the fact that children’s services just do not have the resources they need.
Schools are picking up the pieces. I have a school in south Abingdon that has its own food bank, because there are kids who cannot afford to eat when they go home at night. They greatly welcome the meal they get when they are at the food bank, but they cannot get that money.
Oxfordshire County Council is now running a consultation to top-slice some of the core schools budget and feed it into SEND provision—I have heard this from other Members from across the House. I am so sad that it should have to do this—it should not have to. Oxfordshire is one of the f40 areas of the country. As for fairer funding, I simply wish that the Government had gone the whole hog and decided to make it properly fair, because the historical unfairness in the system remains. Interestingly, the amount of money that Larkmead School would lose is about £50,000, which is exactly the sum it would have got from the “little extras”. I felt that irony keenly.
There are a couple of things the Government could help schools with. If schools want to be run as businesses, they need some level of medium-term clarity. The two issues that keep coming up at the moment are the pay award for staff and the administration of teachers’ pensions. By the way, the pay award for support staff has not been announced yet, so when will it be? Schools have to submit three-year budgets, yet they do not know where that money is going to come from. If we are serious about properly funding our schools, where is the clarity on the budget, what is going to come out of the spending review and when will this Government finally put education first? Let’s face it, there is no better investment in this country’s future than investment in education.
It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran). Every child matters—that fundamental idea should unite everybody in this place whenever we discuss education. I start with that point because the belief that every child matters inspired me to go into teaching. My sense of purpose came from supporting each and every child to reach their full potential. I came into politics because I want to help to build a better world than the one we live in today, and I know millions of others share that dream. But the people who will lead that future are in our classrooms today, and if we fail to invest in them, that vision for the future will be little more than a dream. If we want to make it a reality, we have to be prepared to take a long, hard, critical look at the way the Government have directed and, some might say, designed our education system.
I say that because the IFS figures do not tell the full story. Working in classrooms, I have seen at first hand how Government policy strips resources from schools in other ways, too, with one such resource being teachers’ time. As a teacher, I always recognised the value of balancing knowledge with understanding. The real value of teaching is in equipping children with the ability to problem-solve—to make use of what you have taught them and to apply it to new situations—but it is much cheaper to simply test a child’s ability to retain information. The crude use of league tables, combined with the growth of the commercialised testing regime, has helped to make the curriculum far more content-based and less concerned with problem solving, a tendency helped along by snapshot inspections by Ofsted. When we also consider that this shift has happened at a time when schools have seen their budgets shrink in real terms, it is no surprise that the curriculum available to our children has also diminished, both in scope and quality. The result is that we end up with stressed out, overworked, underpaid teachers under more and more pressure to teach for the test.
As a teacher, I also recognised the value of co-operation between schools to improve provision across a local area. That could come in the form of sharing best practice or solutions for particular local problems, but it might also come in the form of pooling resources to achieve the same aim. The academisation of our education system has made that particularly difficult, as the schools in our constituencies now act, in many ways, as businesses in direct competition with each other. In addition, the direct payment of SEND funding to academies and free schools has resulted in the loss of the economies of scale provided by a central fund in a local authority area. I could talk for much longer about the consequences of academisation, but the point I wish to make in this debate is that it has contributed to the financial pressures in our schools, and we should not ignore that fact. So when we talk about school budgets being £1.7 billion lower in real terms than they were five years ago, the truth is actually much worse.
I truly loved my time as a teacher. Many of the children I taught will never know how much of an impact they made on me, but I hope that in the relatively brief time that I spent with them, I had a lasting impact on their development. As time went on and one colleague after another left the profession, I saw the schools that I worked in change—not just physically, but in every sense of the word. As workloads and class sizes grew and grew, morale plummeted. We lost some fantastic people—the kind of people we really want in our children’s schools, and not just teachers but teaching assistants and support staff too. The trend has only got worse since I left the profession. For the second year running, there are more teachers leaving the profession than joining it. Our children deserve to be taught by qualified, happy teachers who are paid properly. Teachers, teaching assistants and support staff are all thousands of pounds worse off in real terms compared with 2010 wages.
By the time I left the classroom, I had seen teaching change. Book scrutinies, lesson observations, data input, results, progress, benchmarking, always being Ofsted-ready—all of that took over every single teaching day. I felt that in the middle of this cycle were a load of kids whose confidence was shaken. The need to achieve and succeed outweighed their development as a whole person. If I was seen to spend five minutes talking to one child, even if it meant that that one child finally grasped fractions, I would fail a lesson observation. Little children were telling me that they were “stressed” and that they were “not good enough”. Parents were saying that their children would cry about homework for hours at the weekend. There is something seriously wrong when seven-year-old children feel like that. Primary school is supposed to be the most carefree time of a person’s life.
My own son was born on 29 August—he is the youngest in his class—and he recently told me that he was the worst in his class at writing and that he will never be smart. As a parent, it makes me feel so angry and so sad that my beautiful little boy, who improves every day, has to put up with a school report that just says he is working towards where he should be. He is working his socks off every day. What does that teach him?
One thing that I suspect everybody who is contributing to this debate has in common is that we are immersed in the lives of our local schools and of our constituency. If Members from all parties are honest, I suspect that like me, when they have visited schools over the past two years, or perhaps slightly longer, whether for the Christmas fair, Parliament Week or the school play, they will have found that the subject of school funding comes up in a way that it did not used to come up on such occasions. Often, it will come up not in terms of cash sums, but in terms of staffing cuts; whether the school can support teaching assistants at all; a lack of teaching material; and in particular additional needs funding. Increasingly, it comes up in respect of anything that is outside the main curriculum and the main school day, whether that is breakfast clubs, homework clubs or after-school activities, which are particularly relevant for schools in deprived areas, like much of my constituency. They are really essentials but often are simply not there.
Despite all that, it was something of a surprise that school funding was such a big issue at last year’s general election. I say that because in a general election it tends to be the universal issues that come up. For example, my borough has one of the largest proportions of EU citizens, we have some of the worst housing inequality because of the cost of housing, and the main hospital is under threat of demolition. Nevertheless, not only at the school gates but when I was knocking on doors, the anger over school funding was something that I have not experienced in 35 years of being active in local politics.
Only today, I replied to a headteacher to address some of these points. Let me identify two or three issues from that letter. One, obviously, is the issue of cuts per se. Each one of the 30 schools in my constituency will be losing money over the period 2015 to 2020 because of the disparity that we have heard about this evening between funding and costs. What that will mean is that schools such as Burlington Danes, which has 56% on free school meals, will face a loss of £614 per pupil over that time; Hammersmith Academy, with 60% on free school meals, will face a loss of £644 per pupil; and Phoenix High School, which, with 67% on free school meals, has the most deprived intake of any school in London—probably in the country—will face a loss of £834 per pupil over that five-year period. Those are really unsustainable figures.
In addition to the pure numbers, there are particular losses in particular areas, as we have heard today in relation to early years provision. In nursery schools—yes, we still have some nursery schools in Hammersmith—budgets are under threat. Post-16 education is another area under threat—I have been a governor of the excellent William Morris Sixth Form for the past 25 years, in fact since it was set up. It has had to cut back on staffing in a way that it has never had to do before. These are incredibly difficult decisions to make.
In addition, we have a lack of planning for places. We still have the temporary classrooms that were put up a few years ago for bulge classes. At the same time, because we became the free school capital of the country, we have primary schools that are half empty. This may make me slightly unpopular with my own party, but I have never minded the investment in capital that we have seen—but at what cost? The cancellation of Building Schools for the Future means that redundant old buildings that are not fit for teaching in are still just about standing up, while brand-new schools, which have been built alongside them, are half empty. How is that sensible planning in the education system?
We have talked about fair funding a lot. I am not here to try to take money from other parts of the country, but inner London increasingly gets the worst deal. The Minister will say, “Yes, but historically there has been a higher level of funding in that area.” There are reasons for that—it is because of mobility, because of English being spoken as a second language and because of the real need that does not occur elsewhere except perhaps in other inner-city areas. All those points are made again and again with increasing frustration by teachers, parents, governors and headteachers. This is also happening against the backdrop of an underfunded salaries budget.
In conclusion, I simply say to the Minister that of course there are good things going on in education, and I am sure that he and his colleagues are committed to education, but unless they actually identify the real and genuine lack of resources in our schools, they will never improve standards and they will never turn the corner in a way that I hope all of us here would like.
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter).
On the top of overarching cuts to education budgets and undue pressure being heaped on local authorities, Bedford Borough Council has just been hit by an additional cut in its allocation of £1.3 million. That is despite the fact that, by the Government’s own assessment, the council’s funding allocation is below what it should be and it was therefore due to gain from the national funding formula. In reality, per-pupil funding in Bedford is actually falling.
The unexpected cut has come as a huge shock to the council and to school leaders who had planned expenditure based on the expected income, not on the reduced budget as worked out by the Education and Skills Funding Agency. Will the Minister look again at the figures to determine whether, as we believe, an error has been made because the Education and Skills Funding Agency has not allowed for in-year changes connected with Bedford Borough Council going from a two-tier to a three-tier system? The agency has reduced per-pupil school funding for Bedford Borough Council by 0.85% for primary schools and 1.55% for secondary schools. If those sums are not rectified, instead of increased funding per pupil, every average-sized primary school class in Bedford will be £1,000 worse off and every average-sized secondary school class will be £1,600 worse off. That is not what the funding formula promised to deliver. This Government promised extra funding, but we cannot see it anywhere.
The last thing that council officers in Bedford want to do is pass on the loss to schools that are already struggling to make ends meet, but with further cuts to local authorities in the pipeline it will be hard for them to avoid doing so. Hard-working teachers and local schoolchildren do not deserve this. After all, it is their education and their futures that are at stake here. We should be investing in the next generation, not compromising the quality of their schools. At the very least, schools deserve the same funding as before, or better still, the extra funding that the Government promised.
Will the Minister confirm how much contingency funding the Department for Education has in its budget for the dedicated schools grant? Will he also agree to meet me and representatives from Bedford Borough Council to urgently address the issue and order funding to be frozen, rather than cut at a cost of £1.3 million?
I am pleased to contribute to this well timed and important debate. There are so many issues that we could be discussing today.
I could talk about some of the challenges that schools have raised with me, including the fact that they are facing more children with additional needs, particularly mental health issues, behaviour disorders, Asperger’s and autism. I could mention the fact that schools have had to make cuts, which have pretty much landed on teaching assistants. I could also talk about the high and increasing number of children experiencing neglect, and the schools that are being expected to pick up the pieces of hungry and unwashed kids—going far beyond the core purpose of schools and what they are expected to provide.
I could mention the challenges faced by my local sixth-form college, Franklin College, which has not had an increase in funding and is not afforded the same financial advantages as academy schools. I could also mention the sixth form that so feared loss of funding that it was unable to make provision for a student who was experiencing significant anxiety issues; it could not make reasonable adjustments to accommodate that student. The Government should look at that matter.
While the Secretary of State was lauding the state of education in this country, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) tells me that her son’s school is shutting at 12 o’clock every Friday to save money, and it is not the only school in her constituency doing so. Things really are not as rosy in the Secretary of State’s garden as he would have us believe.
However, I want to focus my comments on the two state-maintained nurseries in my constituency: Scartho Nursery School and Great Coates Village Nursery School, which are both under threat. They currently provide outstanding early years provision, yet have funding certainty only until 2019-20. There is enormous stress and pressure for the headteachers coping with this uncertainty, trying to reassure parents and keep their staff. In fact, they are more than headteachers as we know them, acting as teaching assistant, playground supervisor, secretary, dinner lady and cleaner to their nursery schools, unable to afford cover staff and told that they must plan to fundraise for the additional £100,000 a year that they will need to keep their doors open.
When I have raised this issue with Ministers previously, they have simply tried to pass the buck and told me that I should go to my local authority to get the additional funding to support the schools. But areas such as my constituency are in significant need. Around 30% of our children are deemed to be in poverty and we have had £80 million cut from our local authority budgets over the past few years. These authorities are so stretched in having to prioritise those who are most in need. When schools are centrally funded, why should state-maintained nurseries be expected to compete in the crowded local authority arena with adult social care, public health and enforcement, given that other schools are not required to do so?
The Secretary of State has referred to a number of outstanding providers, and I have absolutely no doubt that he will have used my nurseries’ outstanding status to reinforce his statistics. So why does he do no more than cherry-pick the benefits rather than giving them the long-term certainty that they deserve? To keep providing this outstanding level of education, they would happily forgo the kind words in exchange for the cold, hard cash. The Government say that they are concerned to give good-quality education to all children regardless of their background, ability or disability. This is precisely what my nurseries do. Children with Down’s syndrome play and learn alongside multilingual children and children with autism—genuinely children of all abilities, with different skills, not segregated but part of a community. My nurseries are the very definition of equality, providing the seeds of social mobility. They deserve far greater consideration than they currently get from this Government.
I know that parents in my constituency value and respect these settings and the excellent start they give their children. They do not want to see quality suffer as attention is lost to fundraising activity. In the social mobility index compiled by the House of Commons Library, on almost every ranking—the school life, youth life and adult life stages—Great Grimsby falls into the bottom 20% in the country. Overall, Great Grimsby is 459th out of 533. On every measure, on every expectation, in every stage of our lives, my constituents are being failed by the Government—except in early years, and that is due in no small part to those state-maintained nurseries.
It is a real pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn), who painted a disturbing picture but one that I very much recognise from my own constituency experience. I want first to pay tribute to Oxfordshire’s headteachers for all the work that they are doing to gather information about the situation facing local schools, which is very similar to the picture painted by the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran).
Time is very short, so I want to focus my remarks specifically on provision for children with social, emotional and mental health needs. The Secretary of State shied away from offering us much detail on provision for children with special educational needs, beyond saying that we need a balance between mainstream and special school provision. Obviously we would all agree with that. He did not say anything about provision for children with social, emotional and mental health needs, so I hope that the Minister will come to that when he winds up.
SEND provision in mainstream schools in Oxford is under enormous pressure. Specialist resources have been cut in the majority of local schools in my city, and many of my constituents are telling me a very similar story to that outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Anna Turley). Many families are having to home educate their children because they have no other choice now that that support is no longer available in mainstream schools.
Special schools are also under strain. That is being exacerbated by the free schools system, not solved by it. The Secretary of State found the time to write a very partisan letter to me—and, I presume, to other Labour MPs—to ask if I supported my local free school. Of course I support local parents, local teachers and local educationists, but what I do not and never will support, and what he should not support, is a situation where our local authorities are not able themselves to assess the need for new educational resources in their areas. The only possibility of getting new provision is by chance: it is all dependent on whether there happens to be a free school sponsor available, and on where they want to put the new school rather than on where the need is.
A very good example of that is what has happened to Northfield School in my constituency—a special school for boys with social, emotional and mental health needs. It is falling apart. Half the boys from that school are now being educated in Portakabins; the other half are being educated at an outdoor education centre while their school is patched up for the short term. In any rational situation, the local authority would be funded so that it could rebuild the school. Instead, we are in limbo, hoping that a free school sponsor might come along and help to provide a new school in Oxford for children who need that support. It is not good enough for those boys, and it is not good enough for the hard-working teachers who are trying to deliver them a decent education.
The Government have got to get a grip on this, otherwise a whole cohort of children with social, emotional and mental health needs will miss the education that they deserve. There are now families in my constituency who cannot find a single school that is willing or able to educate their child who has social, emotional or mental health needs. I am sure that other Members have spoken to similar constituents. The lack of accountability in our education system is massively failing those children, who are among the most vulnerable. This has got to change, and I hope the Minister will deal with it in his remarks.
We have heard today of the impact of Tory austerity on education and of funding being slashed across every area of the Department, with early years, schools and further and higher education all being hit. Education urgently needs new investment right across the board. The Government must finally begin reversing their devastating cuts if they are to implement the Prime Minister’s promise that austerity is over.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Education Secretary have both stated in the House that every school in England will see a cash-terms increase in their funding, yet that flies in the face of what we have heard in the Chamber today and the reality of what parents and teachers are telling us is happening on the ground. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has stated that that is simply not accurate, and the UK Statistics Authority has rebuked the Education Secretary for that inaccuracy. There has been a concerted effort by the Secretary of State and the Minister for School Standards to fudge the figures and deflect attention away from the funding cuts that they have presided over.
To add insult to injury, there was then the one-off £400 million for the Chancellor’s “little extras”—an insult to the teachers, schools and children who have faced year after year of Tory cuts. But we did get one thing today: we got a calculator for every school from the Secretary of State. The whole House should rejoice with me at that.
The fact is that across the whole country, including in the Prime Minister’s own constituency, schools are having to write home to parents to ask for money to buy basic resources. They do not need money for little extras; they need money for the essentials. According to the IFS data, school budgets are £1.7 billion lower in real terms than they were five years ago, which means that 91% of schools are still facing real-terms budget cuts per pupil.
The Minister will again no doubt try to deflect the House’s attention away from the reality of the impact of his Government’s cuts to school funding, but Members in this House—even including Members on the Government Benches—know all too well the impact on the ground already, because headteachers and parents are telling us about it almost daily. An early indication is that the shortfall for 2019-20 will be £3.8 billion. To use the Budget to give potholes more money than schools is a sorry reflection of this Government’s priorities.
Sadly it is clear that austerity is not over for our schools. We are now in the unprecedented situation of unions taking the step of simultaneously consulting their respective members on what action to take next. It beggars belief that the Government have ignored the School Teachers’ Review Body recommendation of a 3.5% increase for all pay and allowance across the board —the first time that that has happened in the body’s 28-year history. To make matters worse, the Government expect schools to meet the costs of the first 1% of the pay award from existing budgets, which have already been cut to the bone.
The picture is no better in early years. Sure Start funding has been cut by two thirds, and more than 1,000 centres have gone since 2010. The Government must honour the commitment to their flagship policy of 30 hours of free childcare with more money from the Treasury. It was recently revealed that most providers are having to increase the fees they charge parents as a consequence of Government’s underfunding, with 85% of local authorities facing even more cuts to their 30-hours funding.
While we have been debating this afternoon, the impacts have got worse. The Secretary of State has slipped out, through a written statement, the announcement that he is sending a commissioner into Northamptonshire County Council, where the children’s services have been found inadequate by Ofsted. He may well take off his glasses and wonder what I am talking about, but this has happened this afternoon. Ofsted has warned that vulnerable children are not being
“effectively assessed, supported or protected.”
As my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Jo Platt) said, austerity is not over for our children. Will the Minister commit to coming back to the House to make an oral statement about this, and urge his colleagues finally to tackle the funding crisis facing children’s services across our country?
TES is reporting, as we speak, that children in residential care are waiting for more than three months for a school place. Labour’s national education service will guarantee the needed investment to deliver 30 hours of high-quality education to all two to four-year-olds.
In further education, the theme continues: austerity is not over in our sixth forms and colleges. Further education has suffered the most vicious of all Tory cuts to education, with budgets slashed by £3 billion in real terms since 2010. This is one quarter of all further education funding. Nothing has been done even to begin reversing this. If the Chancellor really means austerity is ending, he must end the base funding rate system and reinvest in sixth forms and colleges.
They will not come in until 2022, and the Conservatives have already cut billions from the higher education service.
As a direct consequence of the Government scrapping maintenance grants, our poorest students graduate with the highest debts. No one should be put off university due to a lack of money because of a fear of debt. Labour believes that education should be free. We will restore that principle and reintroduce maintenance grants for the most in need.
It is my great honour to thank everybody who has participated in the debate today.
I will not give way now because I want to get through the vote of thanks.
Normally I would thank people on my side of the House—I thank you all; well done, the lot of you—but what I really want to do is to thank some Conservative Members, such as the Secretary of State himself. He fails to stand up and say “little extras” to anyone. Just to let him know: the cuts in Hampshire are £16.8 million, Damian. [Interruption.]
May I concur with the hon. Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas) about how well schools and schoolteachers have done to commemorate the armistice brilliantly this weekend and over the past few months? However, I also tell him that the cuts to his local authority are £14.2 million since 2015.
I now come to the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng)—this is my favourite bit—who makes the same speech every time. Honestly, there is a sparsity of facts, and he does need to mix it up once or twice.
Following a speech that lacked so many facts, I will give the hon. Gentleman one: Surrey, which covers his constituency, has faced £14.2 million of cuts since 2015.
My good friend the hon. Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge) was a great left winger on the parliamentary football team as we beat the military veterans today, but he was no left winger in this Chamber. He needs to mix it up as well, because there was a sparsity of facts. Suffolk is suffering from £7.8 million of cuts.
The hon. Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster) actually spoke quite eloquently and has a good grasp of schools and what is needed in his constituency, but Devon is facing £16.3 million of cuts.
No. I have given way quite enough.
I say to the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) that east Sussex has experienced £7.7 million of cuts. We missed the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) at the football today, but he cannot blame the situation on the Greater Manchester spatial strategy or the Mayor of Greater Manchester—this is down to the fact that Bolton has faced cuts of £10.4 million since 2015.
I will wind up. I speak as a former primary schoolteacher. We go into teaching because we believe in the value of education and its power to create social mobility and ambition for all. That is why Labour has worked with parents, teachers and professionals across the land to introduce a national education service, and it is why that national education service does not promise “little extras”. This is about our children’s future—the future of the country—and little extras simply will not do.
There is nothing more important to the future of a child than a rigorous academic education in an orderly, safe and nurturing environment—an education that allows every child to fulfil their potential and equips them with the knowledge of the world around them so that they can take on the challenges of that world, an education steeped in the achievements of generations of scientists, and the literature, music and art that lies at the heart of our humanity, and an education system that ensures that they have the language, literacy and maths skills that enable them to function and to learn more.
That should be the start of every child’s life, whether that child is from a wealthy family or a family on a low income, whether they are in the north or the south-west, or whether they are in London or in Manchester. That has been the driving force of this Government since 2010: to raise standards in our schools; to improve the curriculum; to put our education system on a par with the best in the world; to close the attainment gap between those from different backgrounds; and to ensure that every child is a fluent reader long before they leave primary school.
Our reform programme has been opposed by the Labour party every step of the way. In office, those complacent, ideological enemies of promise and close-knit friends of the vested interests presided over grade inflation, falling standards and an education system that left too many children starting secondary school still struggling with reading and basic arithmetic, because Labour was too afraid to challenge the status quo.
Labour failed to introduce fairer funding because it was controversial. We have not shirked our responsibility. The new national funding formula ensures that every pupil in the country is funded on the same basis according to need. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell) needs to read up about that.
Labour failed to rise to the challenge of increasing pupil numbers, cutting 200,000 primary school places at a time when the birth rate was rising. One of the first decisions we took after 2010 was to double the funding for new school places to £5 billion. Since then, we have created 825,000 new school places and committed £23 billion of capital funding for 2016 to 2021.
At a time when we are tackling the historically high and unsustainable budget deficit left to us by the last Labour Government, we have none the less protected overall school funding for five to 16-year-olds in real terms, and now spend a record £42.4 billion, which is rising to £43.5 billion next year.
It is our balanced approach to the public finances that allows us to spend record amounts on health and education while at the same time delivering a strong economy with some of the lowest levels of unemployment since the 1970s, unlike in every period of Labour Government, which end with people not working and higher unemployment than when they came into office, as time after time they mismanage our country’s economy.
I listened to the contributions of Labour MPs, but there was almost nothing about standards and, with the notable exception of the hon. Member for Burnley (Julie Cooper), nothing about the importance of children learning to read. Following our focus on phonics and the introduction of the phonics screening check, more children have learned to read more effectively and sooner. England moved from joint 10th in 2011 to joint 8th last year in the PIRLS—Progress in International Reading Literacy Study—international rankings, with our highest ever score in reading.
There was nothing from Labour about the importance of arithmetic, or the reforms to the maths curriculum that have significantly raised standards, with a curriculum on a par with the best in the world to which schools have responded well. We heard nothing from Labour about the importance of children knowing their multiplication tables by heart, nothing about the higher standards following our reforms to GCSEs and A-levels, and nothing about our fairer accountability system, Progress 8, which holds schools to account for the progress of every single child regardless of their ability. There was nothing about the fact that more disadvantaged children are now studying core academic subjects at GCSE with the EBacc. [Interruption.] There was nothing about the fact that under this Conservative Government the attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their more affluent peers has closed by 10% since 2010. We heard nothing from Labour about T-levels or apprenticeships, and nothing from Labour—[Interruption.]
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
We heard nothing from Labour about our investment of half a billion pounds in arts and music education, including £300 million of funding for music hubs. There was nothing about the fact that the proportion of pupils taking history or geography GCSE has risen from 48% in 2010 to 77% in 2017, with the proportion taking at least two science GCSEs rising from 63% in 2010 to 91% in 2017.
The Labour party opposes free schools—state schools established by teachers, education groups and high-performing schools, rather than local councils—which are disproportionately graded as outstanding. Free schools such as Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford would not exist but for this Government. With a third of its pupils from a disadvantaged background, Dixons Trinity was ninth in the country last year for Progress 8, and 82% of its pupils entered for the EBacc, rising to 86% this year. Free schools such as Harris Westminster would not exist but for this Government. It told us that, with 40% of its intake from disadvantaged backgrounds, 18 pupils secured places at Oxbridge this year and one at Harvard. Six of those 18 were from a disadvantaged background. The King’s College London Mathematics School would not exist but for this Government. It takes students from all backgrounds, with last year 59% of its A-level grades being A* and 92% of its maths A-levels being A*. The free schools programme would be abolished by Labour, the enemy of promise and the enemy of social mobility.
My hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas) spoke with sincerity about the exemplary work of the schools in his constituency, which teach about Parliament and the first world war. I enjoyed seeing the high standards and phenomenal work at Alverton Primary School in Penzance and at St Erth Community School in Hayle at his invitation last year. My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng) spoke perceptively about reading standards and mathematics, and about the improvement in standards in his schools and the importance of T-levels. My hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge) spoke knowledgeably about reading and the rise in Progress 8 and Attainment 8 in his schools.
This is a Government who have put education reform at the heart of their programme, who are committed to ensuring every school is a good school, who have delivered fairer funding, who are spending record amounts on education and schools, on a par with the largest economies—
claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).
Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.
Question agreed to.
Main Question put accordingly and agreed to.
That this House notes the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ finding that education spending as a share of national income has fallen from 5.8 per cent to 4.3 per cent since 2010, including funding cuts of over two thirds to Sure Start, of nearly a tenth to schools, of over a fifth to sixth forms, and of £3 billion to further and adult education; further notes the Prime Minister’s statement that austerity is over; endorses the Secretary of State for Education’s recent demand for billions more funding and welcomes his comments that there is a strong case for investment in the spending review but notes that the recent Budget provided only small capital projects; offers its full support to the Secretary of State for Education in persuading the Chancellor of the Exchequer that education urgently needs new investment; and calls on the Government to end austerity, not with little extras but by reversing all cuts to education funding.