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School Funding Formula

Volume 623: debated on Monday 20 March 2017

9. What assessment she has made of the potential effect of the new national funding formula on the capacity of schools to provide high-quality education for all. (909327)

My national funding formula proposals will mean that we will have a clear, relatively simple and transparent funding system that matches funding to children’s needs and to the schools they attend to ensure that all pupils reach their full potential regardless of where they live. We recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, which is why we will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in cost-effective ways without affecting educational outcomes.

The National Audit Office and the Education Policy Institute have both highlighted the risk of standards falling because of an 8% real-terms cut. In London, 70% of schools face cuts, yet we have the highest child poverty in the country. This is dangerous and divisive, and a cap on aspiration. Is it not time we had another U-turn this week?

The EPI has said that the national funding formula is broadly welcome. David Laws, its executive chairman, said that

“the department is right to pursue a formula which targets a significant proportion of funding to disadvantaged pupils”.

The hon. Lady will know that inner London remains the highest-funded part of the country; it is 30% better funded on a per-pupil basis than the national average.

It might be International Happiness Day, but I can tell my right hon. Friend that parents in Staffordshire are pretty unhappy, actually, because they are in a county that is in the bottom 15 of funding throughout the UK. Fairer funding must not just be open; it needs to be fair, too, and Staffordshire schools are losing out. That is unacceptable.

I am sure that my hon. Friend will be making representations through the consultation process. The consultation closes on Wednesday, and we will listen to and read very carefully all the contributions. Funding in his constituency rises by about 1.2%, equal to about £600,000, and 65% of his schools will see an increase.

Order. I am keen to get through some more questions, but we do need shorter questions and shorter answers.

17. Heads in my constituency have told me that they are already having to cut teachers, teaching assistants, key courses and even school hours, and from Friday’s EPI report we find that there are unlikely to be any schools in England that will avoid per-pupil funding cuts. Does the Minister recognise that the Government are breaking yet another manifesto promise? (909336)

No; 54% of schools in this country will gain funding under the national funding formula. The hon. Lady will be aware that her local authority, Hounslow, will see overall funding for schools rise from £170.7 million to £171.2 million as a result of the national funding formula.

My right hon. Friend will know that I am the only Member of Parliament in England and Wales who can say that every school in their constituency will either hold steady or see a rise. May I thank him for looking at a funding formula that has for too many years disadvantaged some schools? This goes to show how extraordinarily hard it has been for some of our schools to deliver quality education.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her support for the national funding formula. It is a fair funding formula that gives priority to disadvantage and to low prior attainment. For too long, too many parts of the country have been underfunded, and this will remedy that.

20. How will the new national funding formula help students at Paxton Primary Academy in Thornton Heath, which is now in its third year in portakabins piled up in the back yard of a rugby club? Because work still has not started on its permanent school, it is now looking at its fourth, and possibly even fifth, year in portakabins. It is unacceptable that this should continue. Will the Minister meet me and parents to discuss how to resolve the situation? (909339)

Yes, I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman. Ninety-six per cent. of schools in temporary accommodation have a permanent site, and in the vast majority of cases they are on temporary sites for just one year. These are exceptional circumstances where it is more than four years.

A group of parents I met on Friday asked whether the funds that were saved as a result of the Government’s change of heart on forced academisation could be used to support schools currently facing funding pressures.

My right hon. Friend knows how dealings with the Treasury work; one has to justify every penny. We managed to secure a very good deal with the Treasury, and we have the highest level of school funding— £40 billion, rising to £42 billion by 2019-20, as pupil numbers rise—at a time when we seek to continue to tackle the public sector deficit that we inherited from the Labour party.

We will have two questions from the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner). They need to be extremely brief, otherwise we will just have to move on.

Earlier, I set the Secretary of State a simple maths question on free schools, but I do not think we had a clear answer. So let me set her one on verbal reasoning. If David promised to protect school spending per pupil and Justine’s new funding formula cuts spending per pupil in more than 9,000 schools, what does that make Theresa?

In our manifesto, we said that we would protect school funding in real terms. We have protected school funding in real terms. It is at £40 billion—the highest level on record—and it will rise to £42 billion by 2019-20, as school pupil numbers rise. Given the way in which the Labour party managed our economy in the past and the way in which it intends to do so in future, I do not believe that if the party ever got into power, it would be able to match that level of funding.

I do not think I heard an answer about the promise that the Conservative party made. At this rate, the Conservative manifesto will turn out to be the greatest work of fiction since Paul Nuttall last did his CV. We are in favour of fairer funding, but this is not fair and it is not funded, either. Will the Secretary of State finally tell us whether the Conservatives are going to keep the promise made by the last Prime Minister that not one pupil would lose one penny in school funding throughout this Parliament?

We made it clear that we would maintain the funding of schools, in real terms, and that is precisely what we are doing. At a time of fiscal constraint, when we have to tackle a £150 billion public sector budget deficit inherited from the Labour party, we have still protected school funding in real terms. At the same time, we are introducing a fairer funding system—something that the Labour party failed to do in all the years that it was in office.