Question for Short Debate
I have met many noble Lords and noble Baronesses in the Corridor who would love to fill these seats, because they were all very excited about the idea of talking about education. Unfortunately, they are not here because they have other things to do. But it is so interesting that everybody, whoever you talk to, is incredibly occupied with our education system. That is because it does not really do very well. It does not reach the parts we expect it to. With a fourth industrial revolution on the way, are we preparing our children and our young for tomorrow, today?
Unfortunately, we are not. The pedagogy offered in schools does not quite fit with the kind of profound shift in thinking necessary to move into this new age. For instance, when Mr Gove was Secretary of State for Education he took a personal dislike and disdain for anybody who studied media studies. Actually, if you go to the City and talk to Schroders and all that, they want people who have picked up those kinds of analytical skills from analysing films and stuff like that. They want people who can imagine a new world in which entertainment and the digital revolution have arrived. People such as Schroders are looking for the opportunity to make money out of the new industrial revolution.
We have this weird world where we are preparing our children for 1972 when we are not in 1972. That is pretty typical of our education system, because when I was at a secondary modern school down the road in Chelsea in the 1950s, they were preparing us ordinary, working-class people who had failed the cherry-picking opportunities presented by the grammar school system, for 1932. They were preparing us back then for work that was gradually disappearing. Margaret Thatcher came along and swept away all these industries, only one of which was post war, which had existed on subsidies—that was the only way they could live—since 1914. So, you had this weird world where our education system never quite fitted in with the occupational requirements of, largely, the uneducated working class, because it was necessary to educate people only to a certain level. Then, it was necessary to hope that some of them would climb on and become managers through cherry-picking.
When the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, raises the question of the fourth industrial revolution, as he did in Oral Questions yesterday, I want to know when we are going to get the intellectual pedagogy that will enable us to embrace the new thinking. Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, there does not seem to be much evidence of that now. I would include the universities in this paucity of new thinking. We need an intellectual revolution now, or sometime. That is my first point.
My second point is on the education system. I am sorry; I have not come here to argue over whether this Government or the next Government or the previous Government are spending the right amount of money. We know darn well—sorry, we know well—that the Treasury will deal only with money and not with the effects of not spending that money. If we do not spend the money at the right time, we have to spend it at the wrong time, when it costs too much. I am an example of one of those who was educated through the present system only because a shedload of money had to be spent later, because it was not spent in the earlier stages of my life.
We know that we are controlled by the Treasury. Perhaps somebody should go along to the Treasury and ask, as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, suggested, if it has worked out the cost of not investing in our prisons and people in poverty. If noble Lords look at the education system they will see that we are failing 37% of our children—one in three. That one in three becomes 80% of the prison population; it becomes people who are caught by mental health problems and all those things. In our local hospitals, lots of people who are depressed are using the A&E department as a place to drop in. A lot of those people will have failed at school—they are part of that 37%.
If noble Lords look at the long-term unemployed they will see that this group is riddled with those who have failed at school. Look at the people on social security, who we pay to go to work—we have to top up their wages with tax credits because they earn £6 an hour. What did they do at school? They did not do very well. I have to say that I cannot get very hyperventilated about the failure of this Government to spend the right amount of money on education, because I know that the last Government failed and that the next Government will fail. I also have to ask: is it not time to alert the world that we need to reinvent the way that we govern, particularly the way that we run the education system? The system needs root-and-branch transformation. We need the intellectual tools to engage in the fourth industrial revolution. At the same time, we must find the methodology and means for a much deeper and more profoundly philosophical move toward education—one that fits the new world we live in.
There is only one way to get a person out of poverty and that is to change their relationship to the market. When you are a person who has no education and, through that lack of education, you also have a problem with how you see yourself in the world and are depressed with those feelings, and when the world looks hostile to you because you have no investment in it, there is only one way—and that is to change your relationship to the market and to ask yourself how you can sell yourself and your skills in the marketplace. This is because in the early stages of their lives such people picked up coping skills and—what is that word?—bounce-back-ability. We need to address those issues.
The reason I came into the House of Lords was to dismantle poverty. I cannot do it on my own. I do not want to be part of a system that is more of the same. I want the House of Lords, the Government and the other place to lead a revolution where we step back and ask what is or is not working. I had a brilliant meeting with the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, yesterday in which he told me about his academies in Norfolk. It was brilliant. All the answers are there. We do not have to reinvent anything, we just have to converge the energies created by all the best things. I am now going to sit down. Thank you and God bless you all.
I have to use a board like this because I suffer from something called an essential tremor. It is very irritating because nothing could be less essential. Anyway, that is why I am using it. I am not shaking in terror. I just have a tremor.
Access to good schools is a goal shared fiercely by all our political parties and indeed the entire population, because it is axiomatic that good schools are the foundation of professional and personal satisfaction in later life. As a part of that, they are also actuators of social mobility; and as we all know, social mobility is the essential adjunct to a free market economy. It is the shared sense of the possible that allows us to live together in peace. While some may jib at the concept of the free market, for most of us it has been the greatest force for social change and improvement in living conditions for the working class since history began. But the question is, are our schools good enough to qualify as “good”?
Certainly over the past 50 years various fashions in teaching have intermittently impeded progress. Unusually, perhaps, for someone of my age, I spent a year in a mixed-ability class when Ampleforth decided to explore this area in the 1960s. It is an idea still much praised by theoreticians but never, in my experience, by anyone who has suffered through it. For me, it was the worst year of my youth—with the able pupils bored to death and the less gifted academically struggling—until finally, in a fit of abject misery, I ran away from school and was only apprehended by the police in Grantham, a town I later gave a measure of fame to in the series “Downton Abbey”.
There is little point in denying that our social mobility was dealt a considerable blow by the condemnation of the grammar schools by Tony Crosland. Those schools did provide a ladder for the talented which has never been effectively replaced. Alan Johnson made the telling comment that his journey from a council estate to the Cabinet by the age of 54 was no longer possible in modern Britain. No doubt David Davis would say much the same. But I am not a fan of the grammar school system. Much of what it offered may have been good, but not the junking of millions of young lives in the process. Personally, I would have abolished the secondary moderns and put all children into grammars, with a setting system to allow them to develop at different speeds so that they might grow up together and no one need suffer the stigma of attending the “stupid school”.
But since the reduction of grammar schools, various Governments have tried everything in their power to re-create ladders and, more than that, to find different ways for children to get in touch with their own gifts and progress their lives. What interests me is how similar their efforts have been. For example, New Vocationalism and the youth opportunities programme, both initiated by the Labour Government of James Callaghan, were vastly expanded under Margaret Thatcher, eventually becoming the youth training scheme. This was in tandem with the changes introduced in the Education Reform Act 1988, bringing the national curriculum, formula funding, and grant-maintained schools with, all the while, extra money being found for apprenticeships based on frameworks devised by the sector skills councils.
Labour came to power in 1997 with the mantra of “Education, Education, Education”, and introduced many similar measures, creating specialist schools with a rather Conservative emphasis on achievement. The beacon schools programme was to identify high performance; a new grade of advanced skills teaching was introduced, and so were city academies, with education action zones designed to encourage a forum of people to drive up the standards of the schools in their area. The education maintenance allowance was to pay young people to stay in school long enough to gain A-levels and a performance threshold arrived, rewarding teachers with higher pay for the standard of their pupils’ attainments. David Cameron’s Government continued in exactly the same vein: the Academies Act 2010 and the Education Act 2011 both concentrated on driving up standards, while the Education and Skills Act 2008 kept students in school for longer.
And yet here’s the rub—in the international league tables, recorded in 2015 and published in 2017, the United Kingdom ranked 27th for maths and 22nd for reading. Overall we are 15th, behind Estonia, Finland, Vietnam and Korea, not that I have anything against any of those places. Scotland, which once had an educational system that was the envy of Europe, is doing even worse than England.
As for the whole issue of the public schools, we seem to suffer from a kind of schizophrenia when dealing with them. In one way they are an unreasonable privilege, but then again, nothing can be worse than to be the product of a private school. We are told that no pupil there can have any understanding of normal life or normal values. A statement made by the present Government cheerfully asserts that there are now few reasons for preferring private education. I would like to believe that all this is true, but the fact remains that a recent study by researchers at Durham University found that the “private school effect” was evident in every subject at GCSE and that private pupils out- performed their state-schooled counterparts at each stage of assessment at the ages of four, nine, 11 and 16.
The truth is that this country offers a choice of state-funded and privately funded education, as does more or less every other country in the developed world. Would it not be better to find a way for every child to benefit from the advantages these schools have to offer? The Labour Government abolished the assisted places scheme, and maybe they were right to do so, but there must be a way to stimulate co-operation instead of hostility between the systems: in teaching, the use of facilities, voluntary activities, drama, art, debating and sport, not only for the academic advantage that this would bring, but for the social benefits of allowing children to mix freely and get to know those who have grown up in different spheres. In short, would not co-operation be a more productive, more attractive and more adult option?
What seems clear to me from all this is that the political parties have a great deal in common when it comes to educational reform. Neither has been anxious, at least until recently, to revive the unforgiving Rubicon of the 11-plus, but both have sought to compensate for the opportunities that have been lost with the grammar schools. Both parties have taken steps not only to improve vocational training, but to improve the standards of academic achievement available to the state-educated child. If I were to generalise, it would appear that the emphasis in Conservative policy has been to provide the opportunity for excellence while the chief goal of Labour Governments has been social justice.
But these are both noble aims, both worthy and honourable goals for the good of the country at large, which begs the question: why can the parties not collaborate in this all-important area? Is it really impossible that a group of sentient men and women whose ambitions in education often seem harmonious and even interchangeable, are incapable of working together to find solutions to the issues that are driving down our standards and holding us back in the international league tables? What could be more inspiring for children to witness than for them to see that when it comes to educating the next generation, we really are capable, for once, of pulling together as a nation?
Follow that! My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for having made this debate possible and for providing the opportunity for us to focus not only on a fair distribution of funding for our schools and the children in their care but on fair access to good teaching in good and imaginative schools.
The Church has, down the centuries, provided a constant yet adaptable force in education. The Church of England recently produced a new vision for education, two pillars of which are dignity and hope. As the ultimate aim of our schools is to promote human flourishing, we are particularly concerned—particularly in our emphasis on supporting schools in areas of disadvantage—to enable every child to fulfil his or her aspirations, and indeed to be given the opportunity to have any aspirations in the first place.
While a “good school” can be defined to a certain extent by its Ofsted results, schools must remember to embrace excellence and academic rigour within a wider framework. A good school must educate the whole person so that one day our school pupils will become successful members of our society as adults in their roles as citizens, neighbours, parents and people committed to the public good, as well as those who are called to be economically productive. One way in which this access to equal education is to be served better than it is at the moment is by thinking about how we allow children and young people to access technical education alongside academic prowess. In the diocese of Ely, we have won a new secondary school where academic and technical education will be provided in parallel on the same campus alongside a special school.
Fundamentally, however, we must seek out areas where there is particular disadvantage and strive to bring children living in these places on to an equal footing with their more advantaged counterparts. The Secretary of State has effectively identified parts of the country where we need focus and change through the means of education. One of these “opportunity areas” happens to be Fenland in east Cambridgeshire in my diocese of Ely. Along with our local MPs, the Church is keen to engage further with the initiative to support local communities and as a means of improving attainment and aspiration in the area. I look forward to seeing how all the elements, such as the life skills programme and work experience opportunities, tie together to ensure that every child receives the best education possible. As these new resources and strategies continue to be developed, we must also ensure that education is funded with future economic and industrial needs in mind, as the noble Lord, Lord Bird, has already said.
In the same vein, I hope that the national funding formula, announced in September, will go some way to ensuring that schools receive what they need in order to cater for the local demographic. Indeed, the formula has resulted in more funding for each of the schools in the diocese of Ely, although there is a slight concern that, due to the increase in pension payments for teaching and non-teaching staff, over 40% of the extra proceeds will go towards addressing funding concerns in the pension schemes as opposed to flowing through to the front line. As such, I emphasise the importance of resources and strategies that allow funding to go directly to solving the issues which the Secretary of State herself has identified.
In the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Bird, said about pedagogy, it is very important that we train our teachers to prepare their pupils for a very different future, and this requires both rigour and imagination. However, I would still like to stick up for our teaching profession and for the imagination and commitment they apply to their vocation. I particularly pay tribute to teachers who commit themselves to working in very difficult schools where there is acute disadvantage and problems with discipline and even violence. These teachers persist in their vocation for the sake of the children and with a vision for the future which those children might have.
To go back to 1811, which is even further back than 1972, this ties in with Joshua Watson, who founded the national society which I now chair. The aim, long before state education was conceived, was to give the poorest children access to education to enable them to flourish, and ultimately to give them worth as citizens.
New resources, strategies and fair funding for school education are components of a much larger drive to improve social mobility. One of the most important things about social mobility is that it is not conceived simply as moving to London. We need to equip and empower young people, through a variety of points of access to education, to be contributors with vigour and energy in the places where they already live, so that those places are also regenerated. By supporting the most disadvantaged children at the earliest stages, we can help to build character and in turn produce generous and adaptable contributors to their communities and to wider society, whatever economic and industrial developments the future may bring.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for initiating this debate and introducing it in his inimitable way. What a wonderful addition he is to your Lordships’ House.
First, we must address the discrepancy between the concepts of fairer funding and sufficient funding. It can only be through sufficient funding that we can hope to ensure for our children the opportunities to attend good schools. Under the fairer funding formula announced by the Government, historic inconsistencies in funding allocations across schools and regions are to be addressed—funding will be more transparent. This sounds fair and, while widely welcomed, it is ensuring a sufficient level of funding for schools and mitigating the damaging consequences of historic funding insufficiencies, which may be the legacy of this Government.
While some schools may benefit from the new formula and see their funding per pupil increase, others will undeniably see their funding per pupil cut—I have seen this in my own area of Cheltenham. Since 2015, those schools have also faced historic budget cuts, with figures reported to be £2.8 billion. This has been in part due to budget freezes as well as increases to national insurance and teachers’ pensions contributions, the national living wage, the pressures of annual pay rises, the impact of inflation and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy. Therefore, there are schools that, on the back of hard-felt cuts since 2015, are facing more cuts still. Although the Government have promised to plug the interim gap with transitional funding, head teachers expecting cuts are anxious about the impact they will feel when this protection barrier is set to run out in April 2020.
This is an intensely nerve-racking time for the teaching profession. The announcement of an extra £1.3 billion for the core school and high-needs budget across 2018-19 and 2019-20 has been declared by heads as insufficient in the face of future and historic losses. Steadily, many schools have reported the long-lasting impact of historic and impending cuts: a narrowing curriculum in which the arts are sidelined; less funding for extracurricular pursuits; non-specialist teachers forced to deliver lessons in core subjects; budget cuts for resources and teacher career progression; inability to replace staff who have left; ever-rising class and tutor-group sizes; inability to offer careers advisers and counsellors; and a reduction in numbers of staff, especially support staff. Teachers are under immense pressure not just to maintain standards but to significantly improve them against tougher assessment criteria, with less and less resource to do so.
The Government, of course, maintain laudable aims. In his Statement in July 2017 on the schools update, the noble Lord, Lord Nash, said that the Government want to give all children an,
“education that unlocks their potential and allows them to go as far as their talent and hard work will take them”.—[Official Report, 17/7/17; col. 1429.]
As the catalyst for social mobility that this Government desire, it is long-term security, rather than short-term fixes, that is needed. To unlock a child’s potential and to enable social mobility what is needed is: manageable class sizes; excellent teaching staff who are trained in their subject area and given the resources to inspire and engage; consistency in teaching staff; a vibrant and innovative curriculum that meets the needs of individuals and is not squeezed by the external pressure of fitting what best aligns with national measurements; an enriching extracurricular programme and access to opportunities outside the school environment; excellent careers and post-16 study advice provision that, when offered early on, instils a sense of determination and drive; superb pastoral and emotional support and access to an in-house counsellor, to avoid the NHS waiting lists; and, of course, a well-resourced school library and ICT provision.
All of these aspects have been, and continue to be, threatened in schools across our country that will not benefit under the fair funding formula. This situation cannot improve unless historic cuts are reversed and future insecurities addressed. The aims of the DfE and the Government are indeed worthy, but the question remains at the bottom line of this debate: can fairer funding also mean sufficient funding?
The Conservative manifesto promised an extra £4 billion in the schools budget by 2022. It seems that this promise is being broken. Only £1.3 billion has been provided so far and none of it is new money. The NAO estimated last year that it would cost £6.7 billion to return all school buildings to a satisfactory condition. The Government, however, are cutting £420 million from the capital budget, partly to fund this new core spending commitment.
My party, the Liberal Democrats, wants to protect per pupil funding in real terms; that must involve new money from the Treasury. Our party’s election manifesto also included calls for additional capital investment in schools to support capacity increases and modernisation.
So here are a few questions for the Minister. In view of the National Audit Office estimate of £6.7 billion to return all school buildings to a satisfactory condition, why are the Government, instead of finding new money from the Treasury, cutting the capital budget to fund this new core budget spending commitment? The Government have ended the pay cap by awarding police and prison officers pay rises of above 1%. Will they now look again at giving teachers a pay rise above 1% too, with the Secretary of State increasing the schools budget accordingly?
The Government have abolished plans to make private schools help neighbouring state schools or lose their charitable status. This comes at a time when many state schools are increasingly unable to afford building repairs and are forced to cut back on resources for their students. Will the Government reconsider these plans?
What impact on children’s health do the Government believe funding the core schools budget by cutting capital funding for PE facilities will have, particularly when childhood obesity rates are continuing to rise?
Per pupil funding for 16 to 19 year-olds in sixth forms and FE colleges has been frozen since the 2015 Spending Review. Now that the Government are pledging that per pupil funding for school pupils will increase with inflation, will this be extended to 16 to 19 year-olds?
Education is about empowering each individual. Schools should be about encouraging each young person to discover something they like—something they can become good at and maybe make a career out of. That is the way to give each individual some self-esteem: to feel good about themselves. I am reminded of the young mother who was concerned that her 10 year-old daughter was not making sufficient progress with maths and English. She went to see the class teacher to explain her worries. The teacher told the girl he was going to show her mother something for a few minutes. The teacher and the mother left the room, but as he left the teacher turned on the radio. He then turned and asked the mother to look through the little glass window in the classroom door. She saw her daughter dancing to the music on the radio. The teacher explained that she was a dancer—perhaps she was not the greatest academic in the world, but she liked dancing. He suggested dancing lessons. That young girl turned into one of the most successful choreographers ever to work in the West End.
A good school is one which enables each child to make that kind of discovery. Thank goodness for the wisdom and vision of that teacher. At the end of the day any school is only as good as its staff. We should treasure them and make them feel valued.
My Lords, I too join in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Bird, on securing this important debate and for focusing on a topic that has been a major concern to anyone with an interest in school education for quite some time now.
A major factor that swayed the way in which many people voted in the general election earlier this year was school funding. At the start of the campaign in April, polling showed that education was the fifth most important issue when people in England were deciding how to vote. By election day, following the campaign work of the Labour Party, the Lib Dems, the Greens and the education trade unions, which produced much positive media coverage, education had risen to be the third most important issue in the minds of voters. I like to think that was in part due to the Labour Party’s manifesto commitment to not just reversing the cuts of the past seven years but properly funding schools in the years ahead. The election outcome meant that a Government shorn of their majority had to confront the force of that argument. Pressure from many of their own MPs led to the announcement by the Secretary of State in July of an additional £1.3 billion, to be redirected within the DfE’s budget for schools for the two years from April next year.
However, the real-terms cuts that I mentioned schools have suffered since 2010 are not being reversed. Far from it because, as the noble Lord, Lord Jones, has just said, there is not a penny of new money being allocated. There has been a tacit acceptance that the current funding settlement is insufficient, which is of course welcome, although that leaves much pain still to be suffered by schools. That is not just a party-political point because the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that all the £1.3 billion will do is reduce what would have been a 6.5% real-terms cut between now and 2020 to one of 4.6%. The National Audit Office and the Education Policy Institute have produced similar figures.
Despite an £8.4 billion DfE underspend in 2016-17 the Government still defend their projected funding levels, saying that more resources than ever are going into schools. But that is a meaningless soundbite; of course more than ever is being spent, because there are more pupils than ever. What matters is the funding per pupil. In her Statements in July and September, the Secretary of State said that the new version of the formula was about fairness. How can funding ever be fair if it is not sufficient? It needs to be emphasised that the Government are not ensuring that all schools are fairly funded, as 88% of schools are facing real-terms budget cuts per pupil between 2015-16 and 2019-20. On average, this equates to £52,500 in cuts to primary schools and £178,000 in cuts to secondary schools.
I had intended asking the Minister for some additional information on the thus far unidentified sources of the £1.3 billion announced as additional investment by the Secretary of State in July. But I will leave that for now because the last two days have graphically demonstrated that the Government’s rose-tinted view of the future funding of our schools is not shared by others. On Tuesday, a delegation of school leaders delivered a letter to the Prime Minister seeking a radical rethink on school funding. On the same day, in her role as chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier MP sent a strongly worded four-page letter to Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary at the DfE. She pulled few punches in deconstructing his defence of the national funding formula. I will select from her comments to give a flavour of the committee’s very real concerns.
In response to the additional £1.3 billion being allocated over the next two years, Ms Hiller said:
“We pointed out that this additional funding when balanced against £3 billion of efficiency savings the Department expects to be delivered by 2019-20 was not a net gain for schools”.
This puts the additional funding in perspective because it means that £1.7 billion is required merely to stand still. Ms Hillier also queried whether the DfE has plans and the capacity to help schools which cannot meet efficiency targets, saying that the Public Accounts Committee was,
“hearing of schools restricting their curricula and teaching hours”,
which of course is not by any description efficiency savings. The Public Accounts Committee’s concerns were summarised by Ms Hillier stating bluntly:
“We remain concerned about the support the department and the ESFA can realistically provide to schools whose budgets cannot stand up to the savings demanded of them”.
Of course, I am sure that I do not need to state to noble Lords that that is a cross-party committee.
The case was further enhanced yesterday with the shocking news from the Prime Minister’s own constituency of a school writing to parents asking for a daily donation of £1 per day to help pay for teaching materials, including books. The head teacher’s letter says that,
“we would like to suggest that parents donate £1 per school day for each child to help the schools through this funding crisis. This equates to £190 per year”.
The head teacher received a response from the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb MP, although it sounded more like a rebuke. We know that Mr Gibb is prone to get rather tetchy on the subject of school funding. Just two weeks ago, he had to be restrained at the end of a debate on school funding in Westminster Hall, when he aimed a tirade at my colleague and shadow Schools Minister, Mike Kane MP. His response to the head teacher’s letter was that the school in question, Robert Piggott Church of England school in Wargrave, Berkshire, would receive around £10,000 a year extra in 2018 under the new funding formula. The parents of children at the school probably chorused in unison, “Big deal!”, because that will go only a fraction of the way towards meeting the shortfall that the head teacher is trying to make up. Robert Piggott school has 311 pupils; if the parents of each were able to pay the annual £190, it would produce a figure in excess of £60,000, which is very close to the average figure that I mentioned earlier. Yet Mr Gibb expects them to be able to make do with a paltry £10,000 extra. What world does he live in? The whole affair was put into sharp context by one parent, who said:
“I've got two children at the school so that’s around £400 a year, but my salary hasn’t gone up to cover that”.
Nor is that an isolated case—would that it were. The Minister will have seen what I thought was a worrying, even depressing, report in the Times Educational Supplement last week. It concerned a survey carried out for the Academies Show by an independent research consultant which showed that nine in 10 school leaders expect their school’s finances to get worse over the next two years, despite the new funding announced, and almost half of school leaders think the quality of education in England will decline during the next four years.
These are the men and women in the top positions, intimately involved day to day in running our schools. It is not just head teachers but chief executives, business managers and vice-principals. They are the experts; they know the situation on the ground far better than anyone—with all due to respect to those in the Box—sitting in the DfE’s Great Smith Street offices. When school leaders speak, they do so with authority and the Government should listen. I hope they will.
Another body that the Government should listen to is the Local Government Association. Again, that is not a partisan body, unless you regard wanting to defend services for local communities as partisan. Noble Lords will have received a chilling briefing for this debate from London Councils, the local government association for the capital. The proposed national funding formula allocations would mean only 27% of London schools receiving funding that adequately meets the cost pressures they are facing, compared to 56% in the rest of England. London Councils’ analysis of the provisional allocations show that London’s schools will receive a significantly lower proportion of the new money than any other region in the country. Fourteen London boroughs will see more than 90% of their schools receive just the floor of 0.5% per pupil in 2018-19.
Local authorities should be seen by the DfE as improvement partners in ensuring that every child has access to a place in a good school. Research undertaken on behalf of the Local Government Association highlights the strong role of councils in providing good school places, with 91% of maintained schools rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted compared with 85% of academies and 84% of free schools. In case the Minister or his officials deem the research—which was undertaken by independent education consultants called Angel Solutions—biased, it should be noted that they used Ofsted’s methodology and published data to assess the performance of both maintained schools and academies.
With next week’s Budget Statement in mind, I hope that the Secretary of State has impressed on the Chancellor the need to allocate new money for the education budget in general. Can the Minister reveal to noble Lords whether the Secretary of State has specifically asked for new money for schools funding? This is more than justified in order to take account of the fact that impartial organisations such as the National Audit Office and the Institute for Fiscal Studies have highlighted the need for at least £2 billion more each year just to maintain funding in real terms in the face of inflation, additional costs such as national insurance contributions and staff pensions, plus the apprenticeship levy—which is another issue that should not even apply to schools—and of course rising pupil numbers.
The Minister comes into government with a clear understanding of how the Department for Education works, having been an executive board member, and of the need for real-terms increased school funding, not just recycled resources, having established and chaired a multi-academy trust. He needs to fuse those two and ensure that he fights education’s corner to end the constant uphill struggle being faced by our underfunded state schools.
My Lords, I am pleased to answer this Question for Short Debate, and thank the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for initiating it. We want fair access to a good school place for every pupil, regardless of their background. Over the past seven years, we have made significant progress: more schools than ever are rated good or outstanding and, since 2011, the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils has decreased by approximately 7%. However, that progress has been made against a backdrop of unfair and arbitrary funding which has, for too long, acted as a brake on the progress. That is why we are delivering on our promise to reform the unfair and opaque school and high-needs funding systems.
At the heart of the Government’s ambition to provide good school places is the aim to drive up social mobility, as referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Fellowes and Lord Bird. This is the route out of poverty. We want to lift up those areas that have historically been left behind and ensure that pupils can reach their full potential. Beyond the core schools budget and the national funding formula, the Government will invest a total of £72 million in 12 opportunity areas over the next three years. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely recognises the importance of helping some of the most disadvantaged areas in the country, which is what we are trying to do. Opportunity areas will also receive a share of the £75 million teaching and leadership innovation fund to support high-quality professional development for teachers and leaders, and a share of the £280 million strategic school improvement fund for schools most in need of support.
The noble Lord, Lord Bird, refers to the dismantling of poverty. We recognise the impact that living in poverty has on a child’s start in life and that education plays a key role in ensuring that every child can access the same opportunities. That is why this Government are focused on tackling the root causes of poverty by building a strong economy and getting people into work. The noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, used a term for which I am grateful, saying that education is an actuator of social mobility. That is better written than what I have written down here, and I could not agree more. That is why we are dramatically increasing access to childcare at the early stages of a child’s life and driving higher standards in further and technical education at the other end of childhood.
The noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, also refers to technical education. We know that education goes beyond our schools. Post-16 education plays a crucial part in supporting future economic growth. We will protect the national base rate of £4,000 per student for the duration of the Parliament, and have announced an additional investment in technical education rising to a further £500 million. In October, we set out our plans on how we will implement T-levels, the 15 new technical education routes to skilled employment for 16 to 19 year-olds. These reforms will build on the changes already made to secure a streamlined and sustainable technical education system which, importantly, is supported by employers.
The noble Lord, Lord Jones, and the right reverend Prelate referred to fair funding. As announced in the Queen’s Speech, the Government have recently responded to the consultation on the national funding formula. This represents the biggest improvement to our system for funding schools in over a decade. Together with the additional £1.3 billion of schools revenue funding across the next two years, announced in July, this will help to ensure that schools get the resources needed. To address the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, the new formula will allocate a cash increase of at least 1% per pupil to every school by 2019-20, with higher gains for some of the underfunded schools.
We recently published full details of both the school and high-needs national funding formulae, and the impact that they will have for every local authority. This includes notional school-level allocations, showing what each school would attract through the formula. I can send the link to the noble Lord, Lord Jones, if he would like more information on that.
Responses to our consultation stressed the importance of funding for children with additional needs, such as those suffering deprivation and low prior attainment. Nationally, the formula will allocate £5.9 billion in additional needs funding, with a further £2.5 billion delivered through the pupil premium, which was introduced in 2011. The intention of the pupil premium was to encourage schools to recruit pupils from less well-off backgrounds and to then create an added-value learning environment for less advantaged pupils to benefit from.
The noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Jones, referred to proper funding. The department has been working hard to identify efficiency savings, which will ultimately result in the £1.3 billion cash boost for schools. Making savings and efficiencies allows us to maximise the funding directly allocated to head teachers. I hope that that goes some way towards addressing the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Watson. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed that the additional investment of £1.3 billion will mean that funding per pupil across the country is maintained in real terms over the next two years. I know that it is unfashionable to say it but the IFS has also shown that per pupil spending in schools in 2020 is set to be at least 70% higher in real terms than it was in 1990.
To remain slightly unfashionable, we have to look at school efficiencies. We are clear that overall funding for schools and the distribution of that funding is important, but how the funding is used in practice is also vital. School efficiency must start with, and be led by, schools and school leaders. The department will continue to provide practical support, deals and tools. For example, the risk protection arrangement has already saved over £150 million as of August this year.
I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, about remoteness in the department compared with the front line. I have come from the front line. I know that it is difficult but I will bring the expertise that I have gained on the front line to help the department to do more.
The noble Lord also asked whether we have identified the savings. I think that noble Lords are probably aware of most of them, but we will save £420 million on the department’s capital budget, which includes £315 million from the healthy pupils capital funding. We will also save £280 million on the free schools programme and £600 million from the Department for Education’s resource budget.
With respect, those are the figures that were given by the Secretary of State in July. I was asking for some of the gaps to be filled in. We knew that much; I was asking about the shortfall between those accumulated figures and the £1.3 billion.
I will write to the noble Lord after the debate.
The noble Lord, Lord Jones, raised the issue of capital funding. Between 2010 and 2016, we invested over £28 billion in schools capital programmes, including £6 billion on basic need, £8 billion on condition and £1.4 billion on the priority schools building programme, dealing with some of the oldest schools on the estate. Since then, the Government have committed to invest over £23 billion in the school estate between 2016-17 and 2020-21.
The noble Lords, Lord Jones and Lord Fellowes, asked about our relationship with independent schools. We know that different parts of our education system can work in partnership to help deliver more good school places. We are close to reaching an agreement with the Independent Schools Council on what we can expect independent schools to do and how we can help them overcome the barriers that can get in the way of cross-sector working.
The noble Lord, Lord Jones, raised the issue of teacher pay. Of course we recognise that good schools are about good teaching as well as fair and proper funding. Decisions about teachers’ pay are based on recommendations from the independent School Teachers’ Review Body, and last year we accepted the recommendation of a 2% rise to the main pay range for teachers.
The noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, talked about cross-party collaboration. I certainly give credit to the previous Labour Government for the initiation of the academies programme, which is something that we have tried to build on, and for the London Challenge. I think that we agree on much. I accept that we will agree on some things but it is clear to me that we have things to learn from one another.
The noble Lord, Lord Bird, raised the question of pedagogy and the relevance of the existing curriculum for the modern world; the fourth industrial revolution, as he described it. We are making progress, certainly in two areas. Take maths, which is an essential underpinning if one hopes to go into any technology-based career. In 2010, only 22% of children in the state system were studying maths at GCSE, and that has increased to 38%. We also now have 62,000 pupils entering computer science GCSE, which has gone up year on year.
I again thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. Many important points have been raised and I will write to address those that I have not had the time to respond to fully. I want to emphasise that for this Government social mobility and good education are high priorities. I met the noble Lord, Lord Bird, yesterday and he said that he sees the approach to poverty as being based on four categories: prevention, emergency, coping and care. His assertion is that not enough emphasis is placed on prevention. I wholeheartedly agree with him and believe that education is the best form of effective prevention against the mire of poverty.
I warmly congratulate the Minister on his appointment. Is he aware that in Blackpool, one of the opportunity areas to which he referred, there is a pupil referral unit with almost 400 pupils? That is by far the largest concentration of excluded pupils in any pupil referral unit in the country. Does he agree that this is a social crisis? Would he be happy to meet me to discuss how this urgent situation can be addressed?