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Education Funding

Volume 664: debated on Tuesday 3 September 2019

With permission Mr Speaker, I am delighted to make a statement today confirming the Prime Minister’s weekend announcement. The Government have committed an extra £14 billion to our schools across England over the next three years, ensuring that funding for all schools can rise at least in line with inflation next year. I take this opportunity to thank my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), for all the groundwork he did ahead of this settlement.

The funding announcement includes a cash increase, compared with 2019-20, of £2.6 billion to core schools funding next year, with increases of £4.8 billion and £7.1 billion in 2021-22 and 2022-23. That is in addition to the £1.5 billion per year that we will continue to provide to fund additional pension costs for teachers over the next three years. The additional investment delivers on the Prime Minister’s pledge to ensure every secondary school will be allocated at least £5,000 per pupil next year and that every primary school will be allocated at least £3,750, putting primary schools on the path to receiving at least £4,000 per pupil the following year.

We are allocating funding so that every school’s per pupil funding can rise at least in line with inflation and to accelerate gains for areas of the country that have been historically underfunded, with most areas seeing significant gains above inflation. We will ensure that all schools are allocated their gains under the formula in full next year by removing the cap on gains that underfunded schools have seen over the past two years. This underpins our historic reforms to the overall schools funding system, so that a child with the same needs benefits from the same funding, wherever they live in the country.

I can reaffirm our intention to move to a hard national funding formula, where schools’ budgets are set on the basis of a single national formula, as soon as possible. We recognise that this will represent a significant change and we will work closely with local authorities, schools and others to make the transition as smooth as possible. We are determined that no pupil will be held back from reaching their full potential. This additional investment includes over £700 million to support children with special educational needs and disabilities, so that they can access the education that is right for them and the education they need. That is an increase of over 11% on the funding available this year.

Since 2010, education standards in this country have been transformed, but we are determined to go further still. On top of this funding investment, we have announced a package of measures that will intensify our efforts to support all schools in delivering consistently high standards to every single pupil in this country. We will begin a consultation to lift the inspection exemption for outstanding schools, so that parents have up-to-date information and reassurance about the education in their child’s school. We will also provide additional funding to allow strong academy trusts to expand, building on the success of the academy programme as a powerful vehicle to deliver excellence and school improvement in every school. We will increase the level of support available to some of the most challenging schools that require improvement —those that have not been judged good by Ofsted in over a decade—by giving them more support from experienced school leaders so they can deliver for the children that turn to them and expect the very best in their education. To ensure the extra funding for schools delivers better outcomes and improves efficiency, we will continue to expand the school resource management programme, supporting schools in making every single pound count. We will also work closely with Ofsted and others to make sure that parents have the information they need about how schools are utilising their funding.

There are no great schools without great teachers and this settlement underlines our determination to recognise teaching as the high-value, prestigious profession that it is. The £14 billion investment announced last week will ensure that pay can be increased for all teachers. Subject to the school teachers’ review body process, the investment will make it possible to increase teachers starting salaries by up to £6,000, with the aim of reaching a £30,000 starting salary by 2022-23. This would make starting salaries for teachers among the most competitive in the graduate labour market. That sits alongside reforms to ensure that our teachers have the highest-quality training, not only supporting those already in the profession but attracting even more brilliant graduates into the classroom to make a difference to children’s lives. We will make sure that teaching continues to be attractive throughout a teacher’s career, launching a group of ambassador schools to champion flexible working and share good practice.

A key element in supporting our teachers and leaders is to ensure that they have the tools and support to create safe and disciplined school environments. That is why we have made £10 million available to establish national behaviour hubs. The hubs programme will be led by Tom Bennett and will enable schools that have already achieved an excellent behaviour culture to work with other schools that have struggled to drive improvement. In addition to that investment, we will consult on revised behaviour and exclusions guidance to provide clarity and consistency to headteachers on the action that they can take when pupils do not follow rules. It is vital that we ensure that every child succeeds in their school environment and make sure that schools are a safe place for pupils to study.

We will also be investing an extra £400 million in 16-to-19 education. This total includes £190 million to raise the base rate of funding, from £4,000 at present to £4,188 next year. The additional investment is a 7% increase in overall 16-to-19 funding. The total also includes £120 million for colleges and school sixth forms so that they can deliver crucial subjects, such as engineering, that are so vital to our nation’s future. Colleges and further education providers will receive an extra £25 million to deliver T-levels and an extra £10 million through the advanced maths premium.

A new £20 million investment will also help the sector to continue to recruit and retain brilliant teachers and leaders and provide more support to ensure high-quality teaching of T-levels. There will be £35 million more for targeted interventions to support students on level 3— A-level equivalent—courses who failed their GCSE maths and English. Together, this package will ensure that we are building the skills that our country needs to thrive in the future.

I am sure that many in the House will be eager to know what this announcement means for their local area and constituents. When the information is ready, I will write to Members with further details on the impact on schools in their local areas. Now more than ever is the time to invest in the next generation. That is what this party and this Government are doing, making sure that our children get the very best. I commend this statement to the House.

Let me welcome the new Secretary of State to his place and thank him for advance sight of the statement. Of course, we already had some advance sight of it thanks to the norm now being that the press get the information before this House, but unfortunately today’s announcements do not quite live up to their billing. The new Prime Minister said, “I will reverse the education cuts.” Judging from his performance today, he has a tendency to over-promise.

Perhaps the Secretary of State can confirm just how much funding has been cut since 2010 and how many of those cuts are left in place. As welcome as it is that the Government have finally accepted the failures of austerity, they will not fool anyone into thinking that it is over. As teachers and parents start term this week, too many will be in schools that are facing an immediate financial crisis. Will he tell the House why there is nothing for this year and why next year’s funding falls a full £1 billion short of reversing the cuts to school budgets? Is it not the case that this commitment will benefit the most affluent areas while disadvantaged schools get less? The Education Policy Institute found that a pupil eligible for free school meals would receive less than half the funding of their affluent peers. How fair is that? How can the Secretary of State start his tenure by refusing resources for those who need it most? Perhaps it is about starting as they mean to go on—no more nice Conservatives, but the same old nasty party, trying to hoodwink the public.

On teachers’ pay, I am glad that, after six years running of missed recruitment targets, the Government have finally recognised the damage done by austerity, but the devil is in the detail. Will the Secretary of State assure us that this will not be funded by flattening or cutting the pay of more experienced teachers—the very people, I am sure he will agree, we need to keep in the classroom? Will he increase the teachers’ pay grant or will schools have to fund it? Are academies still exempt or does he now accept that national pay must apply to all schools?

Above all, will the Secretary of State reassure us that support staff will not pay the price? The leaked document in the media was rather revealing. It admitted that

“No 10 and…the Treasury… have been keen to…express concerns about the rising number”

of teaching assistants. Let me say that I join parents, teachers, heads and those who care for our children with special educational needs and disabilities—I, too, value teaching assistants—and I declare a direct interest because my son started a mainstream secondary school today. With the help of valued teaching assistants, he was able to do that. The question is: do the Government value them, too? Will the Education Secretary promise us now that he will defend school support staff who do such a vital job? That is all the more important, given the work that they do with children with SEND. He has promised £700 million next year, but that is the shortfall that councils already face. The Local Government Association has put next year’s deficit at £1.2 billion, so will he tell us whether he accepts that estimate and whether there will be any further funding on top of that amount in future years?

The Government have finally admitted that there is a crisis in further education, but we know that the Education Secretary came back from the Treasury with just half of what he thought was needed. Will he confirm that there is less than £200 million for increasing the base rate, little more than a real-terms freeze? Other funding is ring-fenced for certain courses—will he tell us which subjects and how that will be distributed? The Secretary of State has made welcome commitments on teachers’ pension costs, but will those commitments extend to further and higher education? Is there any sign of an increase in pay for further education staff, or will they continue to fall behind teachers in schools?

Why was there not a single penny for adult education? The same goes for early years. The hourly rate for providers has not increased since 2017. Sure Start funding has collapsed and the additional funding for maintained nursery schools runs out at the end of the next financial year. Will that be addressed tomorrow, or have the youngest children been forgotten? It is the same story with this Prime Minister: empty promises, hollow words and numbers so dodgy he would probably put them on the side of a bus. If he thinks he will fool anyone, he better think again.

I thank the hon. Lady for such a kind and warm welcome to me in my new role; it was very generous of her. She raises a number of important points. We are talking about cash and a total settlement—including pensions— for schools that is worth £18.9 billion over three years. That does not even touch upon the Barnett consequentials for the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The issue of 16-to-19 education is one close to my heart, and the hon. Lady was right to highlight the fact that we are delivering an extra half a billion pounds—the £400 million plus £100 million to deal with pension pressures. I think most people would welcome such an announcement. She is right to highlight the important issue of children with special educational needs and making sure they get the right level of support and everything they need in the classroom, which is why, in the next financial year, we will deliver more than £700 million extra for those children. Even Opposition Members should recognise that is a significant increase, and those increases will continue over the following three years.

We have set out a three-year settlement for schools to give them the confidence to plan for and invest in their future. The hon. Lady raises the important issue of teaching assistants. I absolutely agree with her: they are incredibly important. My wife, who is a teaching assistant, tells me repeatedly how important they are, and I would never disagree with my wife.

I might have to declare an interest.

I have seen the impact that teaching assistants have had on so many children’s lives. We all know that teachers can transform what a child can achieve in a classroom, and teaching assistants are an important part of that. I hoped the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) would welcome the new £30,000 starting salary for those coming into teaching. It is an important and bold move that shows the value we put on the teaching profession, as we value all those who teach—not just those just joining the profession, but those who have been in it for many years, which is why in my statement I made it clear that part of that money was to ensure they benefit from pay rises as well. As the hon. Lady will know, 85% of the spend of a school is on its workforce, which is why we have ensured such an important and large financial settlement over the next three years.

Let us look at what the Opposition have done. They have opposed every reform that has driven up standards, driven up attainment, driven up the life chances of children in this country. What will they do in the future? They will oppose every reform and change that we introduce to drive up the life chances of children in this country. Even when we bring forward the largest funding announcement for schools in a generation, they do not have the good grace to welcome it.

I strongly welcome this spending settlement. We should celebrate it, not denigrate it. It is incredibly important. The Education Committee did some work on school funding. My right hon. Friend mentioned the excellent three-year funding settlement. The Department of Health and Social Care has a 10-year strategic plan. Does he not agree that, as we suggested in our report, there should be a 10-year strategic plan for education to give further stability to the education system? Will he also please support more funding for apprenticeships for people from disadvantaged backgrounds?

My right hon. Friend makes a very important point—the Education Committee’s report was an important reference point for me when I came into this role—and is right that setting out as long a term education strategy as possible gives the best chance for everyone in the education sector to plan in the best possible way. That is why I was so keen to land a three-year funding deal. We will certainly strive to give as much certainty as possible. He also raises the important point of apprenticeships, especially for those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. We need to see what more we can do to encourage those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds to take up this brilliant route into work and success, and I look forward to meeting him to discuss in greater detail how we can achieve this as swiftly as possible.

While I welcome the Secretary of State to his new position, I find it extraordinary that he is standing at the Dispatch Box as Secretary of State once again.

The announcement of any additional funding for schools is welcome, but there has to be more clarity and detail about the money. Teachers in England have been undervalued and underpaid for far too long, and while the Government’s announcement on teachers’ pay is positive, far more could be done. In Scotland, the starting salary for teachers is already £26,700, rising to £32,000 after one year, which is £7,000 more than for their counterparts in England. When will the Secretary of State match that level of funding? Moreover, rather than in 2022-23, will he give teachers in England the uplift they deserve now?

Academies in England are not bound by nationally agreed pay scales, and teachers are often paid at far lower levels, so will the Secretary of State now ensure that academy teachers in England are paid at the nationally negotiated pay levels, at a bare minimum? While increased primary funding is welcome—it is rising to £4,000, I think—it is still £1,000 less than the average funding in Scotland. It is simply not good enough. Scotland has the highest rates of positive destinations for young people anywhere in the UK—a sign of the success of Scottish education. Will the Secretary of State commit to looking at good practice in Scotland?

Finally, the impact of a no-deal exit on schools cannot be underestimated. The leaked document from the Department for Education in August outlined that rising food costs could mean free school meals costing £40 million to £85 million more than at present. Will the Secretary of State detail the contingency planning he has done to ensure that schools can provide free school meals?

I thank the hon. Lady for her characteristically warm welcome to me at the Dispatch Box. A lot of people in Scotland will be very interested to know whether the £1.9 billion extra that the Scottish Government will get will go directly to schools, or whether it will go to more pet projects of the SNP. Teachers and parents will be fascinated to know whether the SNP will guarantee that.

Order. A considerable number of right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye, but I point out to the House that there is important business of various kinds to follow erelong, and there is, as a result, a premium on brevity from Back and Front Benchers alike. Moreover, unusually, I cannot guarantee that everybody who wishes to take part in the statement will be able to do so.

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement on education funding. It is really good news. We must ensure that our young people have the skills they need to succeed in our modern economy. Does he agree that investing in further education is the best way to achieve this?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is a critical point and the reason we were so keen to secure such a significant increase in funding for the 16-to-19 sector. The FE sector provides us with many opportunities to look at how we can invest more, create more opportunities for young people and ensure that people understand that pursuing a vocational career is just as important as pursuing academic interests.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has described the Education Secretary‘s figure of £14 billion extra for schools as

“somewhere between meaningless and misleading.”

It calculates that the real-terms increase will be more like £4.3 billion by 2022-3. That is just enough to reverse the cuts that have been made since 2015, so eight years later schools will, in essence, receive nothing. Given the importance of numeracy to the national curriculum, does the Secretary of State regret not doing his sums properly?

I know that the hon. Lady has long campaigned in the f40 group for changes in school funding, and I thought that my statement might give her an opportunity to welcome the changes that we have implemented, which will benefit her constituents so much. We have been very clear about the amount of money that we are providing: a total of £18.9 billion for schools, of which £4.5 billion will cover pension costs, with the additional half a billion pounds going to 16-to-19 education. We will of course work closely with the Institute for Fiscal Studies in explaining our figures.

Extra money for our schools would ordinarily be welcomed, but I suppose we are in quite unusual times.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to his post and thank him for his announcement on behalf of the schools in Stockport, but may I ask him a slightly technical question? Would he consider increasing the minimum per pupil funding block as a proportion of the national funding formula?

We always keep that issue under review, and I will come back to my hon. Friend when we have made further decisions on it. Let me take this opportunity to thank him for being such a doughty campaigner for the schools in his constituency, fighting to ensure that they receive extra funds and continue the brilliant work that they are doing.

We need to beware the smoke and mirrors. There has been an 8% cut in per pupil funding, and it will take a while for an inflation-linked increase year on year to catch up with that. The Secretary of State said that Ofsted might have a role in looking into how schools spent the money. Is he giving Ofsted new powers and new funding to enable it to investigate the way in which schools spend their funds, which is currently not its responsibility?

We will update the House in due course on how we will work with Ofsted in that regard, but I think that one of our most important reforms has been ensuring that Ofsted can inspect outstanding schools, because I had picked up some concern among unions, parents and teachers about the fact that a number of schools had not been inspected for a long time.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many good schools, such as William de Ferrers School in my constituency, had made heroic efforts to find savings in recent years, to eliminate budget deficits, and were now, very reluctantly, having to consider increasing class sizes and dropping subjects? May I therefore thank him for recognising the need for extra funds? Will he confirm that in areas such as mine where substantial development is taking place, these funds will allow pupils who are moving into the constituency to enjoy a good education?

An important element of the funding settlement that we have agreed with the Treasury is a recognition of demographic change that different parts of the country are experiencing, so that we can ensure that enough school places are provided. More than 1 million places have been created in the last nine years, and there is no doubt that more will be needed in the future.

The hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) is invariably the winner of the “biggest smile” competition.

I do try, Mr Speaker.

I welcome the Secretary of State to his post. We in the Education Committee look forward to giving him a good grilling, hopefully fairly soon. I also welcome his announcement, which is long overdue, but may I ask him about the crucial early years and, in particular, about our maintained nursery schools, about which he has said nothing? Their funds will run out very soon, but they are the jewel in the crown of social mobility, and the amount that they need is a tiny fraction of what he has announced today.

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind words. She has raised an important point. I took the opportunity to visit a maintained nursery school in Sheffield to gain a proper understanding of the value that those schools bring and their impact on children in the early years. Obviously, my statement concerned school funding for 16 to 19-year-olds, but we constantly keep that issue under review, and I am examining it very closely.

I welcome the investment and the package to support schools and further education colleges in Cornwall, but how much will each of our schools and colleges receive over the next three years? The three-year multi-year settlement is very important.

I know that my hon. Friend has been a doughty campaigner for schools and further education colleges in her constituency. One of the first pieces of correspondence I received was from her, demanding more for Cornwall, as we would expect of her. I shall write to the Members of Parliament who are affected, including my hon. Friend, and explain in detail the impact on the funding settlement in October, when we have finalised the figures. We received the broad settlement from the Treasury only last week.

The £200 uplift in 16-to-18 funding is welcome—but it is only a start; it is for only one year; and it falls short of the £760 per student for which Raise the Rate campaigners asked. Will the Secretary of State take an early opportunity to put that right?

This is a 4.7% increase. I know that the hon. Gentleman is a distinguished lecturer, and that he inspired many pupils in the course of his career before entering the House. I look forward to discussing with him how we make the best possible investment to deliver the best possible outcomes for all those children in further education.

The Secretary of State’s announcement of additional funds is very welcome, but as governors and head teachers need to plan in advance does he agree that what he said about the predictability and understandability of the funding system is almost as significant? Will he ensure that as the system is designed in detail he keeps an eye on ensuring that it stays so?

My right hon. and learned Friend makes an important point. I know that he represents a county that has historically faced funding challenges and that he has always campaigned for them to be addressed, and I am pleased to be able to do that. I will take his words very much to heart and ensure that we retain clarity and simplicity, as well as always ensuring that schools have a view as long-term as the funds that they will be receiving.

We in Barnsley have lost nearly a third of our teaching assistants and school support staff. As a former teacher, I am aware of the vital job that they do, but the Secretary of State did not mention them once in his statement, and, despite his warm words in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), we have still not been given any firm commitments. Will he rule out funding his plans by cutting school support staff further?

We are giving schools the largest funding package in a generation. I know how much all schools value the amazing work that teaching assistants do every single day throughout the year. They have always made that a key part of their investment, and I am sure that they will continue to do so. However, as the hon. Lady may know, I do not determine staffing levels, how schools spend their money, or on which staff they spend that money.

I welcome the additional school funding announced by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary, which will benefit 17 schools in Crawley, but will my right hon. Friend say a little more about support for children with special educational needs?

I know that my hon. Friend has been campaigning with many other colleagues who have been affected by historic lower levels of school funding in certain counties, and the result of his campaigning is the settlement that we have announced today. Special educational needs are a vital issue for every school in every part of the country, and it is vital for us to ensure that the level of funding is right. The £700 million that will be provided in the first year will have a direct impact in ensuring that those children have the level of provision and support that is required.

Some of the consequences of the chronic underfunding of special educational needs have been a huge rise in the number of exclusions and an increase in the number of parents forced to home-educate their children because they cannot find school places for them. What measures will the Secretary of State attach to this funding to ensure that there are enough specialist places and enough support in mainstream education to keep children with special educational needs in schools?

It is always vitally important that we do everything we can to support children with special educational needs in mainstream schools, but I would point out that the numbers of exclusions from schools are lower today than they were when there was last a Labour Government.

May I begin by congratulating Goole academy on going from being in special measures a few years ago to this year achieving the best results ever in the school’s history?

I know from my time in the classroom that no teacher likes to see a child excluded, but on some occasions it is appropriate, for the child and the wellbeing of other pupils, for children not to be in classroom. Will the Secretary of State therefore turn his attention to ensuring we have better and proper alternative provision for children who cannot be dealt with in mainstream school?

I join my hon. Friend in congratulating Goole college on the turnaround it has been able to achieve. I know my hon. Friend has a lot of experience in this field, having taught for many years himself, and I will take on board his point, because it is absolutely vital that we ensure that every child in school is able to get the type of education that we want them to get and not be disrupted by others, so ensuring we have the right provision for those children to go to is vital.

The question is whether parents have the information they need for utilising school funding. In Bristol South, as few as a quarter of primary schools and no secondary schools will receive any of this money, so what is the Secretary of State’s message to the other 75% of schools and their parents?

I can assure the hon. Lady that provision has been made for local authorities to deliver more money for every school in England.

I warmly welcome this huge investment and the decisive action to undo the historically unfair underfunding of areas such as Leicestershire, but if we are to have a hard formula will my right hon. Friend look closely at the position of small schools, on which I led a debate before the summer? Will he look at the lump sum so we that can have not just more funding for our schools but support for small schools, too?

Having had the great opportunity to visit Beauchamp college and Saint George’s primary school in my hon. Friend’s constituency, I know that they have been delivering the very best education for the children in Leicestershire, but it is also important to recognise the challenge that small schools face, and we keep that constantly under review.

Special needs education is, we know, in crisis across the country, but in the county the right hon. Gentleman and I share—Staffordshire—there are woeful discrepancies between different areas. In the last academic year, no education, health and care plan was completed within the statutory time limit in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Staffordshire Moorlands, compared with 75% elsewhere, while in the Secretary of State’s own area the proportion was only 24%. When is he going to step in and act in the interests of children with special needs in our county?

What we always take with great seriousness is how we can enhance and support all those with special educational needs. I am looking at this very closely, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mrs Badenoch), the Minister for children, to ensure that children who have that need for support get it as swiftly as possible, and that is why we are delivering an extra £700 million in the next financial year.

As a member of the f40 campaign, may I warmly welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement today, and particularly the extra funding for further education? In St Austell, we face particular challenges in maintaining A-level provision, so will the Secretary of State or the appropriate Minister meet me to see how this extra money can be used to secure A-level provision?

My hon. Friend has long campaigned for a better and fairer funding settlement for Cornwall, and it is a great pleasure to be able to deliver that. I would be delighted to meet him and his colleagues in Cornwall regarding how best we can improve A-level provision in Cornwall.

We have seen a 53% increase in school exclusions over the last few years—a 53% increase—and half of all those children have special educational needs and are not getting the support. The anger about that is a sign of distress. How on earth is a renewed emphasis on exclusion going to help those children when we need more money spent on special educational needs?

It is absolutely vital to ensure proper discipline in every single school, but it is also vitally important that those children who need the most support have that provided either within their school setting or, if they are excluded, by ensuring proper provision is provided for them outside.