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School Funding

Volume 672: debated on Monday 2 March 2020

19. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that schools receive equitable levels of funding under the national funding formula. (901024)

22. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that schools receive equitable levels of funding under the national funding formula. (901027)

23. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that schools receive equitable levels of funding under the national funding formula. (901028)

We are investing more in schools and high needs over the next three years, starting with an additional £2.6 billion, including £780 million for high needs in 2020-21 and £1.5 billion for the cost of the teacher pension scheme.

While the north-east is home to some of the best performing primary schools in the country, sadly, at secondary level, there are issues with poor outcomes for young people. Rather than reannouncing an initiative from two years ago using existing departmental funding, when will the Secretary of State properly tackle the fact that far too many children in our region are not receiving the education they deserve?

I recently had the great pleasure of visiting schools across the north-east, as well as Opportunity North East, a new programme aimed at raising attainment in the key area of secondary schools. This already seems to be having an impact on schools—that was certainly my impression from conversations I had with school leaders—and we want to continue to build on that across the north-east.

Since 2013, the total schools block grant in my constituency has gone down, whereas funding across London regionally has increased by 4.5%. I know that my right hon. Friend recognises the historical imbalances in favour of metropolitan areas, so what reassurances can he give me and the excellent schools in Orpington that the NFF will rebalance funding?

The Department and the Government are working towards a hard national funding formula to ensure fair funding across the country in every single constituency. I know that my hon. Friend has been campaigning hard to raise the issue facing his schools, and we will listen closely.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his earlier answer. The national funding formula is letting down some of Clacton’s schools financially because of the way Essex County Council is rolling it out. Can the Department not have oversight and work with the council to rebalance the books in favour of our hard-pressed schools in Clacton?

I hope that Essex County Council will move towards the national funding formula as rapidly as possible and will see it as clear guidance on what per pupil funding it should be giving at every school. Part of the reason we have introduced a basic minimum at primary and secondary school level is to ensure that those minimums are delivered to every school across the country, but I would be very happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss this in greater detail.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way he is levelling up spending in schools across England, but teaching unions have identified a significant difference between the funding for schools in England and Wales. My constituency is near the bottom of the league table for schools funding in Wales. Will he use all his influence to encourage the Welsh Government to make more money available to schools for them to spend on pupils as he is doing in England?

It is disappointing to see what the Labour and Liberal Democrat Government in Wales have been doing on education. I hope that every penny of the almost £200 million extra the Welsh Government will receive, which has been as a result of the funding increase for schools in England, will be passported to every school in Wales to start raising standards in Wales for every pupil.

The Times Educational Supplement reported this week that academies in England were putting pressure on older, more experienced and therefore more expensive teachers to leave their jobs in order to save the academies’ money. Teachers in England already earn more than £6,000 less than their counterparts in Scotland. What use is any promise from this Government of pay increases when it comes in tandem with such bullying levelled against some of England’s most experienced teachers?

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the teaching unions and the headteacher unions for the work they have done with the Department on our recruitment and retention policies, which is making sure we work together across the board to make teachers of all ages and experience understand that they can have a fulfilling, rewarding and incredibly important career within education for a generation and more. We will continue that work, recognising the importance to the education of every child of having experienced teachers in our classrooms.