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School Funding: Distribution

Volume 656: debated on Monday 11 March 2019

In 2018, we introduced the national funding formula, which distributes funding based on schools’ and pupils’ needs and characteristics, not accidents of location or history. Since 2017, we have given every local authority more money for every pupil in every school, while allocating the biggest increases to the most underfunded schools.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but given that the national funding formula only reduces the funding disparity by some 5%, when does he think his Department is going to fulfil our manifesto promise of creating fair funding for all schoolchildren, and will he meet me and colleagues from Leicestershire to discuss these matters?

I will certainly meet my hon. Friend and his colleagues from Leicestershire. The national funding formula is delivering rapid gains for the most underfunded schools while also ensuring stability for all schools. By 2019-20, schools in Leicestershire will receive 5.5% more funding per pupil compared to 2017-18, or £31.5 million more in total. In 2019-20, 92% of schools in Leicestershire will already be attracting their full gains under the national funding formula.

I am here on behalf of Balham Nursery School and Children’s Centre in my constituency, which knows that it has guaranteed funding until 2020, but is deeply concerned about what will happen going forward. The people there do an incredible job bridging the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, so what assurances can the Minister provide them with today?

Everything about this Government is about closing that attainment gap, and we have closed the attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their more affluent peers by 13.5% in the primary sector—in early years and primary schools. The hon. Lady will know that we have awarded an extra £60 million funding to recognise the higher costs of maintained nursery schools. We are working with the sector as we prepare for the spending review.[Official Report, 19 March 2019, Vol. 656, c. 6MC.]

I was at the Cotswold School in Bourton-on-the-Water in my constituency on Friday. It is not even going to reach the £4,800 per pupil under the national funding formula. How can it be fair that that school gets that sort of funding, yet schools in Hackney—with a range of pupil premium funding on top—get £6,800 per pupil?

The purpose of the national funding formula is not to give every school across the country the same amount of funding per pupil. It must be right that schools with lots of children with additional needs—for example, coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, with English as an additional language or with low prior attainment—do need to receive more money to help to ensure that those children’s needs are met. It is also right that schools in areas of high costs receive extra money to reflect those costs. That is what our fairer funding system delivers, and my hon. Friend’s county will have benefited from the national funding formula.

Tithe Barn Primary School in my constituency is a low-funded school in a low-funded authority with an above average percentage of special educational needs children. The Minister has said that he will be gathering evidence on the adequacy of special educational needs funding. Is he able to give us any more information about when he will start to gather evidence, how he will gather it and who will be invited to contribute?

We understand the pressures on the high-needs budgets of local authorities up and down the country, including medical science and a whole range of other issues such as extending the age range for special educational needs provision up to 25. All those things have added pressure to high-needs budgets, which is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State towards the end of last year announced an extra £250 million between this financial year and the next financial year to recognise the pressures that local authorities are facing.

Figures show that our schools have 66,000 more pupils but 5,400 fewer teachers, 2,800 fewer teaching assistants, 1,400 fewer support staff, and 1,200 fewer auxiliary staff—a total workforce reduction of 10,800 from 2016-17. With weekend reports of headteachers having to clean the toilets, does the Minister still maintain that schools are not experiencing funding cuts from this Government?

As I said, since 2017 we have provided and are providing local authorities with more money for every pupil in every school. There are 10,000 more teachers in our school system today than there were when we came into office in 2010. In the recruitment cycle last year, we recruited 2,600 more teacher trainees into teacher training. It is an attractive and an honourable profession to work in. I wish the hon. Gentleman and Labour Front Benchers would support our schools and talk them up instead of talking them down.