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School and College Funding: The Midlands

Volume 732: debated on Tuesday 9 May 2023

[Mark Pritchard in the Chair]

I beg to move,

That this House has considered school and college funding in the Midlands.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I am pleased to have secured this important debate and grateful to the House authorities for granting it. I welcome to Westminster schoolteachers from across the midlands who have come down to listen to the debate and to hear what the Government have to say about how they will fix the crisis in our schools and colleges. I hope their journey will not have been wasted.

Before I go on, I put on record my huge admiration for our teachers, teaching assistants, lecturers and everyone who dedicates themselves to education in our schools and colleges in the midlands and beyond. They deserve so much better than their treatment by successive Conservative Governments. I also put on record my absolute support for and solidarity with the teachers and education staff in the National Education Union as they fight for fair pay and for the future of our schools and colleges. Teachers do not take action lightly; they take it as a last resort, and only because they have been pushed to breaking point while watching their pupils be failed by Ministers. They are taking action because of their commitment to education, not in spite of it. Polling shows that the public know this too—the majority back striking teachers.

I sought this debate because I want to address a simple fact: our schools and colleges are in crisis. The reason why they are in this state is no mystery. Between 2010 and 2020, school spending per pupil in England fell by 9% in real terms, funding per student aged 16 to 18 in further education and sixth-form colleges fell by 14%, and funding per school student in sixth forms fell by a whopping 28%. The consequences are all too clear: secondary school class sizes are the highest they have been in over 40 years, and primary class sizes are the highest in Europe. At the same time as pay was cut, year on year, teachers have worked more unpaid overtime than any other profession in the UK.

The impact on students and staff is hard to overstate. Teachers who went into the profession because they love education and teaching are finding it harder and harder to go on. One teacher from the west midlands told me

“the expectations are huge…the pressure unmanageable…and the rewards diminishing in every sense.

It is becoming harder and harder to find the positive every day.”

Another told me of the vicious cycle that develops: underfunding results in bigger classes and less support for students with special needs, which leads to more pressure on teachers and more staff absence.

The demands on teachers go way beyond what we should expect. While teachers’ pay has been cut, Government underfunding means that teachers increasingly have to dip into their own pockets to buy supplies. One in five are now estimated to buy everything from books and pens to rulers and glue sticks, and nearly half even buy food, clothes and soap for poorer pupils—stepping in where the state has catastrophically failed.

All of that has a predictable result. Staff recruitment and retention is in crisis and set to get worse: a quarter of all teachers and school leaders say they are considering leaving the profession for reasons other than retirement. That is backed up by the Government’s own statistics, which show that retention rates have declined since 2011 and that fewer than 60% of teachers are still in the profession after 10 years. Recruitment is in dire straits, too. The Government are now reaching less than 60% of their own target for secondary recruitment, and for some subjects the figures are even worse—just 36% for modern foreign languages, 30% for computing and an astonishing 17% for physics. That impacts learning, with a rising proportion of lessons being taught by teachers who do not have a relevant qualification. The problem has got so bad that one Coventry teacher told me of a student who by Wednesday had 10 out of their 15 lessons taught by cover staff. Perhaps nowhere in Coventry is the crisis in staff recruitment and retention felt more severely than at Coventry College.

I thank my hon. Friend for securing this debate. She is making an incredibly important point about recruitment. We recently saw the Prime Minister out with his strategy for getting more maths taught, but the Government are already failing to hit their own targets for maths teachers. Does it not say everything about this Government that we have, on the one hand, a big announcement about what is going to happen in schools and, on the other, abject failure to recruit maths teachers?

I completely agree. It is a slogan without substance, and the Government have had to accept that those targets will not be met.

Coventry College recently announced that it would cease offering apprenticeship provision from August, citing the extreme difficulty in recruiting and retaining teaching staff. This will have a severe impact on young people in the city, depriving them of opportunities, and it runs contrary to the Government’s own skills mission as set out in the levelling-up policy agenda.

Again, there is no mystery about what is happening with recruitment and retention: educators are voting with their feet after working harder and harder for less and less. Alongside rising workloads, teachers have seen their pay cut year after year—by around 13% in real terms since 2010. The Government’s pay offer would only make things worse. In September, they offered a “pay rise” of 5%, when inflation was, of course, running at 12.6%—that so-called pay rise was really a 7% pay cut. The Government’s latest offer of an additional one-off cash payment of £1,000 would not even be consolidated into pay next year, and is dwarfed by the average energy bill alone. What makes it even worse is that, according to NEU calculations, these proposals are not even fully funded; instead, they would require most schools to make further cuts to pay for them.

It is therefore little wonder that the latest pay offer was rejected by a staggering 98% of voting NEU members. This decisive rejection must surely make the Government come back to the negotiating table with an above-inflation pay rise. That would only start to undo the damage of a decade of falling pay, as the Government must also restore pay for further education teachers and help to address the severe challenges faced by colleges across the country, including Coventry College.

It is not just staff recruitment and retention that have been impacted by Government underfunding. Just last month, a Conservative Member secured a debate in this very Chamber to highlight that inadequate school funding had resulted in a severe decline in the quality and quantity of free school meals, impacting children’s health and education. The Member cited a school in his constituency that pays £2.80 a meal, but receives just £2.41 a meal in funding. I am an active campaigner for free school meals to be extended to all children, guaranteeing every child a hot, healthy meal each day. However, those meals must be just that—healthy and nutritious—and that requires funding. Just like funding our schools and colleges more broadly, this is an investment from which we all benefit, with studies showing that healthy free school meals improve children’s learning and health, helping with concentration and behaviour.

Just as the meals that children eat at school are affected by underfunding, so too are the buildings in which they are supposed to learn. The latest annual report published by the Department for Education says:

“There is a risk of collapse of one or more blocks in some schools”,

with the Department escalating the risk of incident from “critical—likely” to “critical—very likely”. Again, there is no mystery as to why this is happening. The House of Commons Library calculates that, between 2010 and 2022, overall capital spending in schools declined by half in real terms. There have been reports of minor collapses in recent years, but it surely should not take a more serious incident, injuring staff and children—or worse—before action is finally taken.

Staff, students, parents and the public deserve so much better than crumbling school buildings and paltry school lunches. They deserve so much better than their dedicated teachers working overtime but barely making ends meet. They deserve better than record class sizes and dwindling opportunities. That means having a Government who show they care about education by putting their money where their mouth is and investing in the future of our young people and the professionals who dedicate themselves to their education. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s plans on how to address those fundamental challenges.

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I congratulate the hon. Member for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana) on securing today’s important debate.

As MP for Stafford in the west midlands, I am delighted to speak on school and college funding in the midlands. I strongly welcome today’s debate, especially as fairer funding for schools and colleges has been one of my top five pledges as MP for Stafford. I am delighted that the Government recently announced that Stafford College would secure £28 million of new funding. That is for our new skills and innovation centre, which I recently visited and which will officially open later this year. That brand-new centre will develop construction and engineering workshops and hybrid vehicle technology facilities. It also has a 300-seat auditorium. I am confident that those new, state-of-the-art facilities will do much to foster and encourage digital and manufacturing skills across the midlands.

I am particularly grateful that Stafford College was chosen out of 16 colleges in England to receive that funding as part of the Government’s £1.5 billion further education capital transformation fund, which was launched to rebuild and transform colleges into fit-for-purpose spaces that meet the needs of today and the future. I was delighted that the Secretary of State for Education, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan), visited me in my constituency a few weeks ago to see this fantastic site and the progress it has been making over the past few months.

The Secretary of State told me that nothing demonstrates the Government’s commitment more than equipping young people with the skills they need by investing in this new building. I would also like to thank Craig Hodgson, the principal of the college, for hosting us and Councillor Jeremy Pert from Stafford Borough Council for all the work he has done to support me on this project.

During her visit, the Secretary of State took time to speak to a group of students who are studying for apprenticeships, A-levels and T-levels. She spoke about her experiences of studying for an apprenticeship course, which inspired my local students. She listened to what they had to say about what they wanted the Government to invest in, the courses they were studying, the skills they hope to gain and their plans for the future. I thank her for her visit to my constituency, which was a fantastic example of the Government listening to what residents have asked for—investment in our further education.

In addition to supporting Stafford College, I have invested a lot of time over the past three years as MP for Stafford in visiting local schools, including Barnfields, St Patrick’s, St Pauls, Flash Ley, Marshlands and, just a few weeks ago, Wolgarston High School in Penkridge. There I met the headteacher to discuss funding needs for the school and to understand the struggles she faces when teachers go on strike without notice. I also spoke to the school’s mental health and wellbeing officer, who provides important support to the students. I am a long-term advocate for mental health in Stafford, and I call on the Government for more support in schools for mental health. It is not mandatory in every school. Wolgarston is a fantastic example of a headteacher taking the issue very seriously and choosing to invest time and money. I hope the Government roll that out in other schools. I also met very ambitious A-level politics students, whose questions were more aggressive than those on “Question Time”, and I enjoyed being kept on my toes by those local students.

Lastly, I want to touch on another area of education that I strongly support: special educational needs and disabilities. I welcome the Government’s SEND and alternative provision improvement plan published in March. I recently met the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Claire Coutinho), who understands the importance to families of knowing the level of support they can expect for their child.

We discussed some of the casework on autism and mental health that has come up in my recent surgeries. The improvement plan will provide more consistent provision across the country. We know that some students do best in mainstream schools, but the Government have now recognised that some need that additional support, and I welcome the thousands of extra specialist school places. The Government have also announced a plan to invest in 400 educational psychologists to speed up assessments, and I am pleased that that plan is backed by real funding.

We all know that education is critical, and I thank the Government for investing in Stafford and taking seriously the needs of my constituents.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana) on securing this important debate. I, too, echo her words and thank all the fantastic teachers, support staff, lecturers and many others who work in the education profession, from nursery through primary and secondary school to college and university, across the great city of Stoke-on-Trent and wider north Staffordshire, including Kidsgrove, Talke and Newchapel. It is an absolutely fantastic profession, and one that I was proud to spend nearly nine years in on the frontline, working day in, day out with our fantastic young people, who we were looking to make sure excelled into the future.

I am therefore proud to declare my interest as a paid-up member of the NASUWT and as someone whose partner works as an employee of Teach First, a fantastic teacher training organisation. She was also a secondary school teacher at a number of schools in Birmingham and London. I hope all those declarations are now on the books.

The reality is that school funding has increased by 44% per pupil since 2010-11, to £7,460 per pupil. The educational budget in 2023-24 is £57.3 billion, up 64% on 2010-11. In the 2021 spending review, it was a remarkable achievement of the Department for Education to secure £7 billion in additional spending. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor then came in to add another £4 billion on top of that over the next two years—2023-24 and 2024-25—which even the Institute for Fiscal Studies says is an 8% increase in real terms for England and Wales. The IFS also noted that spending in England kept pace with the 13% rise in pupil numbers between 2010 and 2023.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for quoting the IFS, because that same IFS report said that the loss of funding in the further education sector was the biggest of any education sector, and that even the extra funding in 2020 and 2021 had been eroded by the rapid growth in student numbers. He needs to provide a much fuller description of that IFS report if he wants to refer to it, as I shall be doing when I make my contribution.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me the opportunity to repeat the fact from the IFS that, in England, spending kept pace with the 13% rise in pupil numbers between 2010 and 2023. That is in answer to his specific question. It is positive that we are in a place where the IFS has recognised the investment that has gone into the education sector.

Ultimately, for levelling up to be achieved fully and to be delivered in places such as Mansfield or Stoke-on-Trent, we must create young people with the knowledge and skills they need to access the higher-skilled and high-wage jobs that we are so proudly bringing to our local area, such as the 9,000 jobs created since 2015 under Conservative rule of both the city council and the Government, including 2,000 linked to the Ceramic Valley enterprise zone and 500 thanks to brand-new Home Office jobs. We are tapping into the talent pool through colleges, local jobcentres and our university to ensure that we have local people in local jobs, which will be fantastic for our local area. That is exactly what we want to see.

In fact, we had a 5.1% increase in per-pupil funding at Kidsgrove Primary School. That is an astonishing increase. It will make a massive difference to the school, which absolutely needs that support.

I give way to my hon. Friend and then I will happily come on to the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Helen Morgan).

In my hon. Friend’s wonderful speech, will he talk about T-levels, for example, and how we are putting some fantastic skills into local communities, as we are doing at Loughborough College?

At the Conservative party conference last year, I sat next to my hon. Friend, who is a fantastic champion of the T-level programme. The Minister—I served on the Education Committee when he was in the Chair—was also a fantastic advocate. T-levels such as the digital T-level offered by the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College will truly transform people’s lives with that access to on-the-job training as well as the in-classroom opportunity. It is a fantastic scheme. I fully support the Department in all its efforts and success to date in rolling this out. As I promised, I give way to the hon. Member for North Shropshire.

The hon. Gentleman is making a passionate speech. I have met the headteachers of all my secondary schools in North Shropshire, and they tell me that last year’s pay rise was unfunded and that they are really struggling to recruit teachers in the key areas of languages, maths and science. Does he find that the teachers in his area are reporting the same kinds of difficulties and concerns about educating their young people going forward?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her fantastic intervention. Of course, her area faces challenges different from those faced by the city of Stoke-on-Trent, given that hers is a much more rural constituency with, I assume, higher rents and house prices in some areas than the average of Stoke-on-Trent.

When I was at the Department for Education, albeit for only 51 days under a certain former Prime Minister, I was delighted that one of the briefs was the recruitment and retention of teachers. In my very brief time there, I signed off on the 5% pay increase, as put forward by the independent pay body review, which was accepted in full—the highest increase in teacher salaries in 30 years—as well as on the manifesto commitment to deliver a £30,000-a-year starting salary, which is so important if we are to drive recruitment.

Of course, recruitment and retention have been an issue for many years, particularly in science, maths and certain other subjects. One of the challenges is that, rather than getting into the game of “Who’s going to give more grants, and to which subjects?”, we need to have a frank and honest conversation.

Ultimately, the Labour party says that it has a plan to recruit and retain more teachers. I would be delighted if Labour Members could reveal the specific details. They have told me where they will get the money from: they are going to remove the non-dom status—that is fine; that is their entitlement. What they have not said is what they will do differently. Are they going to increase salaries, including starting salaries? Are they going to increase the grants? Are they going to give more grants to more subjects? Are they going to nick talent from around the world by paying people to come here from other countries? That is their prerogative if they so wish, but the detail has yet to be supplied, despite the fact that I have repeatedly asked for it on the Floor of the House and been given some brush-off answers designed to get some Twitter clip—I seem to trend on Twitter quite successfully, almost as successfully as the hon. Member for Coventry South.

The devil is always in the detail, and I look forward to hearing from the shadow Minister about what the non-dom-status money is specifically going to do. If that money drops year on year, how will the funding be covered by any loss incurred by people moving outside the country? These are harsh realities that we have to address and accept.

I go back to the issue of the midlands area. It sometimes feels as if Stoke-on-Trent is rather unfairly treated as the ugly duckling of the west midlands, but we are the gatekeepers to the northern powerhouse, based on where we are located geographically. In the midlands, £6 billion has been allocated for in-forecast schools with higher needs funding—a 7.4% increase from 2022-23. There has been a 5.7% per pupil increase in the west midlands, but the city of Stoke-on-Trent is getting 6.8%, so we are getting 1.1 percentage points more than other parts of the region. That is great news for our schools and, most importantly, for our pupils, because local authorities will have the teachers and resources they need to invest in their local communities and schools, and to deliver the world-class education that, ultimately, is so important.

Of course, it is important to remember that there is a £5 billion education recovery fund, which includes £400 million for teacher training, £1.5 billion for tutoring and, thanks to the Education Endowment Foundation, £2 billion for evidence-based interventions that we know make a difference on the ground. The tutoring was indeed a problem. When I was on the Education Committee, I was as critical as anyone else about the fact that the Government needed to introduce reform and give the money directly to headteachers, who could either bring in their own tutors or pay teachers additional money to work beyond their normal hours.

When I was the Minister for School Standards and spoke to teachers on the ground in Sandwell, Wolverhampton, London and elsewhere about why they had put themselves forward, I heard that it was because they knew the pupils, their background and the support needed. They felt that they were able to deliver the best. The Government legacy has to be a long-term plan for tutoring. If we do not get that right, the gap between advantage and disadvantage will, sadly, continue to grow after all the hard work that the Government did between 2010 and 2019, when the attainment gap narrowed drastically. That is something I was certainly proud of when I was in the classroom and working day in, day out on the frontline.

It is also important to remember that we have to look at teacher numbers. We know that there are 465,500 full-time teachers in the workforce—up 24,200 since 2010. That is more teachers in the classroom, which is a good thing for us all. As I say, there are all the grants that we are handing out, including around £28,000 for some science-based subjects, in order to bring in more people. There is also the new starting salary and, in education investment areas, the levelling-up premium: an additional, tax-free, bonus salary given to the subject areas where we struggle most, so that someone in Stoke-on-Trent and possibly Mansfield—I am guessing that Mansfield is an education investment area.

It is—fantastic! I am glad to know I got the right place. Those are the types of areas that can offer something unique—something to put on the job advert that says to people why they should come to our area.

Of course, there is also the PE and sport premium for primary schools. I keep referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield because I enjoyed watching him from 2017 being a doughty champion for education when I was in the classroom. That £600 million, two-year funding settlement means that more primary schools can better plan for what they are going to do to invest in young people. I thank the Lionesses and Baroness Sue Campbell for their incredible diligence in leading that campaign. I thank the fantastic local companies in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, such as Bee Active, which delivers the high-quality PE lessons that young people truly deserve—not just in Stoke-on-Trent, but across Staffordshire. That is fantastic, and it again shows that the further investment going into our schools is creating healthier bodies and minds.

There is also the holiday activity food programme, which has been excellently led by the Hubb Foundation. Former Port Vale football player, Adam Yates, has been leading the charge, ensuring that nearly a million meals have been provided across the city to those who need them. In nearly every single school holiday, that programme has been providing thousands of opportunities for young people, working with local schools to target the pupil premium and the free-school-meal students who most deserve those opportunities. That is education at its finest, which is why we should be using the school building more. We should use the building when it is holiday time. We should see the building used to its full potential.

The hon. Member made a point about free school meals. Scotland, Wales and even London have a policy of extending those to all primary school pupils. Can I count on the hon. Member’s support for my campaign to extend that provision to all primary school pupils in England?

It is important to remember that there are far fewer young people in those areas than there are in England. I do not support the hon. Lady’s campaign, and I will say clearly why. Ultimately, why should my children, who are currently aged one and two—it is not long before they could be receiving infant free school meals—get a free school meal given that their father is earning around £85,000 a year and their mother is earning around half that? Why should they be entitled to a free school meal?

I would rather my money went to getting a free school breakfast and a free school meal to people legitimately in need. By targeting the support to those who need it most, we can help the most. Blanket giving people something does not help those most in need; it helps the middle and upper classes, ultimately. That is where it is wrong. I want to see those on lower incomes get the help and support that they need.

One of the things we need to do in our schools is tackle the fact that we have corner shops all too ready to sell big bags of Doritos and Pringles, massive chocolate bars and 1.5 litre bottles of pop to young people. I used to confiscate them by the boatload. I was able to throw parties at the end of every term for year groups because of the amount of confiscated stuff. Corner shops are profiteering from unhealthy junk food targeted at those young people; parents are working hard to give children their hard-earned cash, but those young people are not putting that cash on to their fingerprints, which is how people pay for their meal in most schools now. That is not right; that is wrong.

I want young people to get the support and help they need—those who truly deserve and need it. The vast majority of my constituents will absolutely deserve a free school meal in most cases. Sadly, the average wage is still well below where it should be in Stoke-on-Trent, despite the fact that it increased by 11.8% between 2015 and 2018—outperforming the west midlands and UK averages. I am working hard to bring in those high-skilled jobs. Of course, someone like me has absolutely no right to have their child get a free school meal. I would be embarrassed for a school to give its hard-earned money to my children, when I can afford to put food on their plates. If I cannot, I have failed as a father, frankly, in the position I am fortunate enough to be in and with the money that I earn.

Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that universal free school meals help to remove the stigma for those pupils who need to receive them?

I must tell the hon. Lady that in all my time in the teaching profession—and I was a head of year, so I dealt with behaviour and attendance—I never once had an incident where a pupil came to me to say that they had been singled out because they were on free school meals. Ultimately, that was never publicised. Unless the pupil shared that information, other pupils in the classroom were unaware of it. The pupil went up to the till, put their fingerprint on, and no one else knew what was going on; there was money in the account as far as the other students were aware. There was no stigma attached, and there should be no stigma attached.

Everyone needs help and support in their lives at some stage. During the covid pandemic, my own father had to rely for the very first time on the welfare state to prop him up; he had been working as a music teacher contracted out to teach individuals and could not do face-to-face teaching. As he is caring for my stepmother as we speak—she has had quite serious surgery—the welfare state is propping him up after the years he has paid into it. Those are appropriate moments to use the welfare state, and the welfare state should support those most in need, but of course I accept the importance of ensuring that a child has food in their belly in the morning. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about that.

The Education Endowment Foundation fully backs up what the hon. Member for Coventry South, the hon. Member for North Shropshire and I want to achieve. If students have food in their stomachs, their concentration levels, attendance, behaviour and ability to achieve are better. As I say, free school meals should not be given to those who can afford to put food on their children’s tables. That money should be used to provide breakfast and lunch for those most in need, because those children deserve it.

Does the hon. Gentleman not see a contradiction between his saying, “I would be embarrassed as a parent if my children needed free school meals,” and on the other hand saying, “There is no stigma attached to having free school meals”? The reality is that there are many parents who do not apply for free school meals and might not consider that they are in poverty but who may well be eligible for them. Do the hon. Gentleman’s comments not rather miss the point?

I am sure that the hon. Member would never want to mislead this Chamber, and I accept that there was probably a mistake there. I think that I was perfectly clear when I said that, with the money that I earn, I would be embarrassed if I was unable to put food on my children’s table, day in, day out. I think that that was perfectly clear and the transcript will show it. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reflect on his words. If I were to see my words misconstrued in any way, I would have to contact Mr Speaker’s office to get remediation, because it would be wrong to politically twist what was said abundantly clearly. Hansard will pick up my words. I would be embarrassed, personally, if I was unable to put food on the table, based on the salary that I earn. That would be taking a meal out of the mouth of a child in my constituency of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, who rightfully would deserve that meal. That is why I would be embarrassed: it would mean that those who need it most would not get the level of help that they truly deserve.

My mother was on a council estate in London, and she got off it thanks to grammar school—something that the hon. Member for Coventry South herself will know well about, having been such a beneficiary of that world-class education, which I hope to bring to Stoke-on-Trent. My father, who failed his O-levels, went back to being a cleaner at his school during the day and did night school in the evening. He went all the way through to becoming a council worker while doing night school for his A-levels, and then he went to the Open University and became the first ever in my family to get a degree.

My grandfather spent 93 hours a week driving lorries, my grandmother worked in hotels, my other grandmother was a teaching assistant, and my other grandfather, sadly, passed away when my mother was 17 years old. That is exactly why I am proud of my legacy—of what my family have done to give me every advantage that I have had in life. I am aware of the privilege that I have had, and I want to ensure that the pupils I am proud to represent in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke get everything that they deserve.

I want Stoke-on-Trent to be great. It is a small but mighty city, and levelling up will be achieved only by getting the education in our sector right. That is why I am so damning of the “Not Education Union” spending its time convincing teachers to walk on picket lines rather than being in classrooms and helping pupils to recover from the pandemic. We have accepted that the gravest mistake was that pupils were not in the classroom during the pandemic. Face-to-face learning is so critical, and the quality of provision was a postcode lottery for some pupils—whether they were given virtual lessons immediately or months down the line. That was no fault of the hard-working teachers. Sadly, it was the fault of Ministers who decided not to let pupils and teachers into the classroom together. I hope that we will never again see a day when face-to-face teaching is brought into disrepute.

I hope that Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted can put their bias and political game-playing to one side. They are living out their socialist utopian fantasy that they are so desperate for—

Order. May I remind the hon. Gentleman that the scope of this debate is quite narrow? I am sure that he would like to pursue what he is discussing, but I am afraid that today is not the time. We need to stay within the scope of the motion. I am sure that he wants to get back to funding for his midlands constituency.

Thank you very much, Mr Pritchard; yes, I am happy to go back to the funding that has been so important to our local area. We are lucky that the schools in Stoke-on-Trent are quite new, so we are not in the desperate situation that, I accept, other areas are in. I believe that £1.8 billion of additional funding is now going into improving the school estate, which is important to improving our local areas. In Stoke-on-Trent, I want that funding to look at the challenge of the day, which is workload.

Money is going into schools. We now know that there has been an increase, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies itself has said, of above 8% in real terms. We know that that is keeping pace with a 13% rise in pupil numbers. Stoke-on-Trent has seen a 6.8% increase. The money is in the system. Now I want to see that money go where it is needed most. Schools obviously got support through the energy bill relief scheme; up to potentially 40% per month in the case of some schools was the saving from the cap on energy costs, which was a huge intervention. The total figure was about £500 million, if I remember correctly.

I want the money now to be used to think about workload. How can we drive down workload to free up teacher time—to ensure that teachers are spending more time in the classroom and more time doing interventions, rather than getting caught up in unnecessary, bureaucratic meetings? This is where I challenge the Minister to go to the DFE, print off every single piece of guidance issued and have a challenge to halve it. I asked the Department to do that when I was there. People laughed and said that it would fill up my office. It is a concern if schools have to deal with that level of guidance. That means that they cannot spend their time or money focusing on what really matters, which is why we need to ensure that we get the guidance halved.

Of course, there is also the issue of behaviour. Investing in behaviour hubs and behaviour specialisms is massively important to improving outcomes, because it is what is driving teachers out of the classroom and preventing people from coming into the profession. Sadly, they hear too often from Opposition Members how bad teaching is, how terrible teaching is. Talk about a negative advert for the teaching profession—talk about an advert to say why people should not go into teaching! When you are telling everyone how bad it is, do not be shocked that no one wants to go into it. What we need to do is to invest in behaviour hubs, so that we can ensure that young people have good law and order in their classroom, the teacher feels safe and secure and, ultimately, every single pupil has a right to learn, rather than one pupil having a right to disrupt and disregard the ambitions of everyone else.

Thank you, Mr Pritchard, for my time.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I congratulate the hon. Member for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana) on securing this really important debate. It is a pleasure also to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis), whose constituency includes Kidsgrove and Talke—we have to ensure we get all of them in or he tells us off. His passion for this subject is visible for us all to see. I thank him for his kind words about my advocacy around education. You will be pleased to hear, though, Mr Pritchard, that I will be significantly briefer than he was. He managed to talk for 20 minutes, and still I agree with every single thing that he said, so I am grateful that he did.

The first thing for me to say is that I never intended to be in this place. If anyone has ever listened to any after-dinner speech that I have given, they will know that I never wanted to be an MP. I always wanted to be a teacher—that was my intention all the way from primary school, in fact. It is only by pure accident that I have ended up in this place instead. Therefore it is absolutely clear to me that education should be the biggest priority of any Government. I have always said that if I had just £1, I would put it into schools; that would be my first priority. I had the privilege of serving on the Education Committee when it was under the chairmanship of the Minister and I know his passion for education, too.

I have been in this Chamber many times advocating around teacher recruitment and retention in particular. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North is absolutely right when he says that teacher workload is so important and often overlooked. We always talk about pay, but actually most of the teachers I speak to recognise that we have some of the shortest school days in Europe but some of the longest teacher working hours. That cannot be right. There must be something that we can do to reduce that workload and give teachers back autonomy and the ability to be in the classroom and to teach, instead of dealing with paperwork and data. That must be an absolute priority for the Minister.

I want to highlight some of the positive progress in my constituency, because there has been positive progress. There has been a particularly positive trajectory in the number of schools that are rated good. Certainly we could count the number of those secondary schools on one hand prior to my election in 2017, but we have made good progress. We have had a Government agenda on education that benefits constituencies such as mine—not least the shift towards technical and vocational qualifications and towards what I often call cultural capital, as opposed to just the academic. It will take time to embed it in our schools and our education systems, but so often it is the most disadvantaged children who just do not have that life experience to be able to achieve more, to be ambitious and to understand all their options and opportunities in life. I am grateful that Ofsted has started to shift slowly in that direction as well.

I am grateful also for the early years funding budget, which was increased in the Budget earlier this year, because our education system is not just schools and colleges; it starts right from day one of a child’s life. Thinking of some of the most disadvantaged estates in my Mansfield constituency, I know that our early years provision in particular is the key to ensuring that children have a fair shot in life.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed in the autumn statement that schools will receive an extra £2 billion over the next two years. School budgets will rise by £3.5 billion next year, which is absolutely massive. That is why this Labour rhetoric around school cuts winds me up. The language of “school cuts, school cuts”, the websites with misleading figures, and all the rest of it suggest that somebody in Government has taken a decision and said, “No, we’re not going to give money to schools anymore,” but that could not be further from the truth. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North listed the figures: since 2010 education budgets have been increased by about 60%. There has never been more money in our education system.

It is not fair to suggest that Ministers have decided to cut schools. Saying, “We can’t keep up with 12% inflation when our public services are massively squeezed,” is not a school cut. Ministers have not decided to take money away from schools. Highlighting that difference in intention is really important to our public conversation. It is just not true to suggest that Conservative Ministers are not willing to invest in our schools.

As my hon. Friend pointed out, Ashfield and Mansfield are education investment areas. The aim is to improve outcomes in parts of the country where, unfortunately, literacy and numeracy are poor. Eleven local authorities in the midlands are part of that programme. More local funding is good, but I say to the Minister—I want to drive the Government to do this—is that it is always best when there is local autonomy in how funding is spent. In my constituency, some of the funding has been spent on structures, supporting the governance of academy trusts and things such as that, but I would love it go to classrooms. I would love it to be given to schools so that teachers and heads can use it at their own discretion, as that is the most effective way to spend schools funding.

I am pleased, therefore, that there is local autonomy when it comes to the new budget uplifts. Mansfield is getting just over £3 million in extra funding for schools in the next academic year, as part of the £2 billion uplift. I think the first payments are landing this week, which is excellent news. Schools will have the freedom to choose whether to spend the money on extra staff, better pay or whatever else they decide. It has always been my view that it should be for schools to decide.

In my part of the world, there has also been significant capital investment in school buildings and facilities. Over £13 billion has been invested since 2015, but we are always playing catch-up, because the schools estate in much of the country is very old. I have always found it very frustrating that when I when I take some of the most difficult examples to the DFE, I am told, “You think that’s bad? Go have a look at X down the road. There are so many examples.” That is frustrating, but there has been significant capital investment in the schools estate around the country.

I was delighted when, in December, three Mansfield schools—the Meden School, the Garibaldi School and All Saints’ Catholic Academy—were selected to be among the 239 to be rebuilt or substantially refurbished. That was brilliant news, but I urge the Government and the DFE to help us accelerate that programme, because the sooner that investment is visible on the ground, the better. I have spoken to the schools about their plans and they are good to go; they are ready. They are applying for planning permission, and as soon as they get the word from the DFE, they will start to build.

That programme is so important for students and communities, not just because of the state of school buildings and because they will get new classrooms, but because of the feeling it generates that somebody is investing in the community, particularly in areas of significant disadvantage. There are levelling-up outcomes when people can say, “Somebody has put millions of pounds into my community, and invested in my children’s futures.” That is so meaningful and powerful for communities. It demonstrates a commitment to Mansfield and communities like it.

In the recent local elections, I spoke to a lot of people on the doorstep who said, “Look, there are lots of conversations about this stuff and I hear about the figures, but show me the buildings and the outcomes.” That is what we need to achieve by the next election. We need to grow our communities’ confidence so that they support us for another term. Let us get those schools built.

Across Nottinghamshire, two new primary schools are opening in September, and new extensions and secondary places in existing schools have been funded in no small part by central Government. I am also grateful for the energy price support provided to help us to face this difficult economic challenge: £500 million has been shared out for energy efficiency measures.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North mentioned facilities, and in particular sports facilities. I am a huge advocate of opening up school facilities to our communities. Our schools are not just education providers; they are hubs of our communities. That is particularly true of primary schools. Engaging parents in education when their children are of primary age is so important. For many estates in my constituency, the school and school fields are the only sports provision and community buildings, so let us get them open for as many hours as possible. Let us get partners, councils, community groups in there, delivering more on evenings and weekends. Let us use those taxpayer-funded facilities to their maximum. I am grateful for the additional funding for that.

I mentioned the direction of travel on skills and technical and vocational education. I am a massive believer in work-based learning. For many people, technical and vocational qualifications—apprenticeships and similar such qualifications—will provide far better outcomes and life opportunities than university. The key thing for many students in my constituency is choice and having the right information to help them get the best outcome. The Skills and Post-16 Education Act 2022 has started to drive things in the right direction, getting more careers advice and third-party organisations into schools. That is hugely important.

I want to highlight the good work of West Nottinghamshire College in Mansfield. When I became a Member of Parliament six years ago, the college was in financial trouble and was really struggling. Under new leadership it has grown and developed into an incredible asset for our community. It is important to recognise the good work of the principal, Andrew Cropley, who has turned a failing college into a huge asset by opening the facilities for the community. It is not just about our young people, their learning and what can they deliver; it is about wider investment and regeneration work. Andrew leads the place board, delivering on levelling-up fund and towns fund outcomes.

The college has become a centre for growth and change in our community. It has also become a university campus, which is game changing for the young people in my constituency. These figures are a few years out of date now—they are pre-covid—but used to be that only 11% of people in Mansfield went to university, and typically they went to university somewhere else and never returned to Mansfield. That is hugely damaging to our economy, our culture and our fabric, and has massive, wide-reaching implications. I lead the council, so I know this means that there is nobody to look after older people, which is hugely problematic.

We are providing education locally, not by setting up a “University of North West Mansfield” and delivering junk qualifications that will not get people anywhere, but by working with the award-winning Nottingham Trent University via a local campus, where people can earn and learn and get on with their higher education while staying in Mansfield. We are building pathways from school through college into higher education, so people can get their qualifications and then go to work at the hospital next door. These opportunities are amazing and game changing for young people in my community. Both Andrew Cropley and Edward Peck at Nottingham Trent University deserve a lot of credit for their commitment and investment in Mansfield. It is hugely important.

The colleges get significant capital investment as well as the NTU presence, which means better access to higher education. We are delivering new centres for advanced manufacturing and automation and training for aerospace roles in Newark, just down the road. There is a Mansfield knowledge exchange, which provides training opportunities for science, technology, engineering and maths and innovation through the levelling-up and towns funds. It is not just Department for Education funding that is going towards these outcomes; there is a wider range of Government support through the levelling-up agenda.

I have not even had a chance to talk about lifelong learning, the change it will deliver for many people in Mansfield and the opportunities it will bring for jobs and growth. There is also the STEP fusion energy programme, which is a £20 billion investment in creating jobs in clean energy in my constituency. Those kinds of jobs and opportunities have not existed for decades—since the pits shut, quite frankly. It means that I am confident that young people in primary school in Mansfield now will have better opportunities than their parents and their grandparents. That is hugely important in the wider levelling-up agenda.

We all recognise that there are significant economic challenges right now. I am sure everybody in this room would agree that our pounds should be put into schools and our young people. They are the future, and we need to deliver opportunities for them. It is not always easy. We have to balance all the other services we deliver. I am a local authority leader, and I see that we are trying to deliver children’s services, which is my passion and the area I want to work on and deliver in, as well as adult social care and trying to sort out the roads and everything else. These are not easy equations to balance, but it is clear from the figures that the Government have sought to support and invest in schools.

I hope I have highlighted some examples of positive things going on in my constituency. I know the Minister agrees that education and schools and colleges should be a huge priority for the Government. I look forward to working with him to deliver on that. For some of these projects, capital builds in particular, the money has been announced and we have 18 months or so to get things built in our constituency. I hope the DFE will drive forward those outcomes and help to accelerate things like the school rebuilding fund, not put barriers in the way of schools delivering. That will be hugely important as we get into the second half of this Government’s Administration.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana) for securing this really important debate. She has neatly separated out the views from across the House on the issues facing our schools and the funding they receive. I respond to the debate in not only as the shadow Minister for further education and skills, but as the Member of Parliament for Chesterfield in the east midlands. Funding for schools and colleges in the midlands is an issue I feel passionately about and am very much aware of.

I will reflect first on some of the contributions made by hon. Members. My hon. Friend spoke about a number of issues that together show the scale of the challenge facing our schools. She spoke about the 9% reduction in school spending per pupil, the 14% fall in college spending per pupil and the even bigger spending cut of 28% in our sixth-form colleges. She reflected on the reality facing many of our teachers: one in five routinely buy equipment for their pupils. We all see that when we go into our schools and speak to teachers or they come to our surgeries. We see the extent to which people who were originally trained as educationalists are increasingly taking on that social work function and are expected to be the last line of resort for pupils in poverty. Pupils turn up unable to study because they are hungry or because of the social issues they face. Her speech was powerful in that regard.

My hon. Friend spoke about teachers being on strike, and there were differing views. There is a strange contradiction I hear from Conservative Members between their lauding of teachers when they are teaching pupils and their sense that these same hugely impressive people are somehow being persuaded by trade union leaders to rush out and strike with no idea of what they are doing, despite their education and their knowledge of the schools. The Government think school teachers are so weak as to rush out to strike because a trade union tells them, but what we are actually seeing is a powerful balance.

My hon. Friend hit the nail on the head on this and it was something I read recently in a letter from one of my constituents. If the pay offer was fully funded and teachers were not being told, “Your pay offer will be based on us taking money being used to educate children out of the school,” that would be an entirely different thing, but they can see every day that their school is struggling to get by, being told that it will have even less money because the pay offer will come out of the money that would previously have been spent on equipment, teaching assistants, special needs or other aspects. The offer is unacceptable in the extreme and teachers are turning it down because they recognise the impact it will have on schools. That reflects their commitment to their students.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the teaching unions and to teachers. Does he agree it was wrong of the leadership of the National Education Union to instruct teachers not to assess or mark work during the pandemic?

Order. I apologise to the shadow Minister. I know he was replying to the intervention by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis), but I called him to order because the intervention was outside the scope of the debate. It is incumbent on all Members to reflect on their contributions. They should be in the context of the motion drawn up by the mover who applied to the Speaker for the debate. The debate is about funding for schools and colleges in the midlands. I encourage everybody to focus on that out of respect to the shadow Minister.

I understand your point entirely, Mr Pritchard, and I will of course stick to your strictures.

My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South also spoke about Coventry College being in a position where it can no longer offer apprenticeships. That is so powerful and so damaging. We recognise the incredible importance of apprenticeships. We also recognise that in many areas there are huge difficulties in accessing apprenticeships, particularly for small businesses. Oftenm it is the colleges that are best at getting those small businesses—the non-levy payers—in to do apprenticeships. [Interruption.] I am sure I am not the only Member with a post-election cold, so please excuse me. My hon. Friend’s point on Coventry College ceasing to provide apprenticeships was incredibly powerful.

Moving on to the contribution of the hon. Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke), I was delighted to hear about the new facilities at Stafford College. The hon. Lady is absolutely right that new facilities make a huge difference, so it is good to hear about the progress being made on new capital spending at that college. I thought the comment she attributed to the Secretary of State for Education—that nothing demonstrates the Government’s commitment to young people like the amount they spend on capital equipment for colleges—was incredibly powerful. For precisely that reason, it is appalling that we have had a massive reduction in capital equipment spend on both our schools and our colleges under this Government. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) referred to the IFS report in November 2021, according to which funding for students aged 16-18 saw the biggest fall of any sector, and the increases only reversed a fraction of the cuts we have had. The hon. Member for Stafford is absolutely right; I will join her in holding this Government to account on their capital spending and use that to demonstrate the extent to which they have let a generation of young people down.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North gave a memorable speech. It was, frankly, most misleading of him to suggest that schools are being generously funded. Schoolteachers in his area will have listened to his contribution aghast at his argument that there has been generous funding under this Government. It is one thing for the Government to say it was an economic decision to introduce austerity and that they had to do it; it is quite another to actually suggest that all these schoolteachers are going on strike and leaving the profession at a time that the sector is being generously funded.

The hon. Gentleman asked about additional funding for schoolteachers. Removing the tax perk on private schools would actually fund an extra 6,500 schoolteachers. Look at the record of the last Labour Government: the reality is that we did not see losses in the sector on the scale we have seen under this Government. There has been a massive reduction in the number of teaching assistants and pressure is increasing on schoolteachers. All that has an impact. Look at the massive expansion in social problems in our schools—again, that creates pressure on schools. The idea that this is simply about providing a little bit more money and then schoolteachers’ lives will be better is just missing the point entirely.

The hon. Gentleman has outlined, fairly so, that if Labour was in government, it would recruit an extra 6,500 teachers, having put VAT on private school fees. I mentioned non-doms earlier; I apologise for the mistake in the policy idea. Can the hon. Gentleman say what specifically Labour would do with the money it raised that is not already being done?

I was in the process of answering precisely that question. As I was saying, it is not that if there were simply a little bit more money and we had these extra teachers, everything would be resolved. The entire approach that this Government have taken to schools has led to a massive decrease in morale that has meant lots of teachers leaving the profession and has led to a reduction in the number of teaching assistants, while the Government’s social policies have led to far more children turning up hungry than there were 13 years ago. All those additional pressures end up diminishing the morale and experience of schoolteachers—they all add to the problem. Frankly, if the hon. Member does not mind my saying so, the very transactional approach that he suggests misses the point about this Government’s failure on schools.

It is a great pleasure, however, to say that there was something I agreed with in the hon. Member’s contribution, which was about the use of buildings in school time—a really important point. In the all-academy world that we largely inhabit in terms of secondary schools, there are pressures that make that different when they are run by local government. None the less, he made that point well.

I will return to the point on which we had a debate. The hon. Member rather missed the point with the tone of his rhetoric on free school meals. I checked again what he said: he said that he would be “embarrassed” if he could not put food on the table with his salary, then created the straw man that his family receiving a free school meal would take it out of the mouth of another child. That is not what universal free school meals do at all. The hon. Member needs to reflect on his language if he genuinely does not want parents and children to feel that free school meals are something to be embarrassed about.

The hon. Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley) spoke about teachers he had met who recognised that they had short days and long holidays. It almost beggars belief to suggest that the reason that lots of teachers leave the profession is that they think they do not work hard enough and their holidays are too long. That does not bear any relationship to the schoolteachers I have met, who suggest that the huge workload outside their teaching time is one of the reasons that they are leaving the profession.

I will seek to correct the hon. Gentleman on what I said. I do not wish to chastise the hon. Gentleman, who I like very much, but in a similar way to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North, I am afraid that he has inadvertently misrepresented what I said. I said that it was a travesty that schools in our country have the shortest days while teachers work the longest hours in Europe, that that is not right, and that we should seek to reduce that bureaucratic burden on teachers to allow them to spend more time in the classroom with our children. I do not know many teachers who would disagree with that point, but it is not what the hon. Gentleman said my comments were.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman was able to set the record straight on that.

There can be no doubt that 13 years of Tory Government have left England’s school and college buildings crumbling, left many teachers and their support staff demoralised and left our schools robbed of the funding needed to support the opportunities that all our children deserve. I see that in the facilities every time I attend a school in my constituency. One of the very first things I recall from when I came to this place as a new MP in 2010 is the chaotic announcement from the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) about the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future projects.

Every single month at Education questions, it seems that there is another Conservative MP coming to their feet to reflect on how appalling the school building is in one of their schools, and saying, “If only the Minister could take the time to address that,” without recognising that it is the entire system of capital funding, not the individual case, that is a failure under this Government. There is a stark difference between the facilities that children have at Outwood Academy Newbold and Springwell Community College in my constituency, with brand-new buildings secured under the last Labour Government, and the 13 years without a single new secondary school building in my constituency, which have meant schools such as Brookfield Community School and Parkside Community School soldiering on in inadequate facilities despite the best efforts of their staff.

It is not just school buildings that have been left to rot. The Conservatives also cut off the fledgling Building Colleges for the Future programme on their arrival in government. Both statistically and anecdotally, the failure under this Government is there for all to see. The attainment gap between disadvantaged secondary school pupils and their better-off peers has widened to its largest level in years. Under the Conservatives, teacher vacancies have risen by 246%, with the Government missing their teacher recruitment target again this year, recruiting just 59% of their target for secondary schools.

In late 2021, research published by the headteachers’ union, the National Association of Head Teachers, found that schools across the west midlands have been forced to cut staff or activities because of a lack of funding. One in three schools said that they had made cuts to balance their budget, while 38% expected to make cuts in the following year. Last November, similarly, a Unison report revealed that councils across the east midlands faced a collective funding gap of £181 million in the next financial year, forcing them to cut essential services including early education. The extent to which schools have felt totally unsupported with the increase in energy prices is just one example.

Inasmuch as there has been any recovery in funding in recent years, it does not begin to address the shortfall over which the Government presided in the previous 11 years, and it comes in the context of huge cost of living crisis pressures, which mean that it has been swallowed up. Only last week, the Sutton Trust found that essential school staff and activities are being cut as a result of funding pressures inflicted by central Government. Such measures can only have a detrimental effect on our children’s futures. The IFS analysis to which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North referred showed that schools in England still face a significant budget squeeze.

Order. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to sit to finish the remainder of his speech, he may do so, because his cold is severe. It is entirely up to him.

You are very generous, Mr Pritchard. I am not sure that sitting down will make it much better, but we are approaching the end, you will be glad to know.

What would a future Labour Government do? An incoming Labour Government will end tax breaks for private schools and invest that money in more teachers and excellent state education for all. We are committed to recruiting more than 6,500 new teachers to fill vacancies and skills gaps across the profession; to ongoing training for school staff, including in support for children with special educational needs; and, as I say, to an entirely different approach to schools, which we hope will support teacher morale and mean fewer teachers leaving the profession, as that has been one of the major issues over the past 13 years. In addition, we will recruit more than 1,000 careers advisers to give every young person in our schools and colleges professional careers advice, as well as two weeks of work experience. We will give every child access to a qualified mental health counsellor at school. Labour wants every parent to feel confident that they can send their child to a great local state school where they are supported to achieve and to thrive.

As last week’s election results demonstrated, 13 years of Conservative mismanagement have taken our schools to the brink. Only a change of Government will bring about the improvement in education that the midlands and many schools across our country so desperately need.

It is an honour to serve under you today, Mr Pritchard. I congratulate the hon. Member for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana) on her impassioned speech, and I look forward to responding to her debate.

I will go through the details of what is going on, but it is important to talk not only about funding, but about how educational standards are improving. As of December last year, 88% of schools were rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, which is up from 68% in 2010. In the west midlands, 86% of schools are now rated good or outstanding, up from 60% in 2010. I am delighted to report that in Coventry, 86% of schools are rated good or outstanding, up from 55% in 2010. The hon. Lady will know Hereward College, which is not in her constituency but is in the Coventry local authority area and is rated good.

I was surprised that the hon. Lady did not mention that Coventry was an education investment area. She talked about encouraging more teachers, and 36 secondary schools in Coventry benefit from the levelling-up premium, which is available in maths, physics, chemistry and computing to teachers in the first five years of their career. Payments are worth up to £3,000 tax-free each year from academic year 2022-23 right up to 2025. Connect the Classroom has 17 schools upgrading their wi-fi access, and the trust capacity fund is helping trusts to develop their capacity to grow. Furthermore, the Thrive Education Partnership was awarded funding of more than £290,000 for Corley Academy.

The hon. Lady also mentioned Coventry College. Sadly, as she knows, it received an inadequate grade for apprenticeships, which is why it is no longer offering that provision. Apprentices accounted for 4% of its overall provision, and learners have been transferred to other local colleges and providers. I should, however, congratulate the principal and CEO, Carol Thomas, who has overseen the improvement of finances at her college from an inadequate health grade in July 2020 to a good health grade in July 2022. The college was also nominated by Barclays bank for a financial turnaround award, which is important news.

I will respond to the hon. Member for Coventry South further, but I just want to respond to some of the other hon. Members who spoke. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke) made an impassioned speech. She is a champion for schools and education in her constituency—she is well known for it across the House. She mentioned the £28 million for Stafford College that she personally lobbied for. The Secretary of State recently visited the new site following her invitation, which is a credit to what she has achieved for her constituency. My hon. Friend will also know about the additional capital funding for schools in her constituency of over £800,000.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) made an impassioned speech. I absolutely agree with him that free school meals need to go to those who most need them. The hon. Member for Coventry South mentioned free school meals, and I understand her campaign, but we are spending over £1.6 billion on free school meals, and 1.9 million pupils, or 22.5%, are claiming them, which is more than in 2021. We introduced free school meals under the universal infant free school meals policy. That happened under a Conservative Government. When I was a Back Bencher in the last Parliament, I personally campaigned for free school meals for disadvantaged FE college pupils, which we introduced as a Conservative coalition Government. It is also important to mention the multimillion-pound package for breakfast clubs, especially in disadvantaged areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North is right about workload—I am absolutely convinced that my colleague the Minister for Schools will be getting a printer in his office to print out all the examples of bureaucracy that he talked about. I congratulate him on his speech.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley) knows that he and I agree—I think there is a card separating us—about skills and FE. He knows that I am an honorary professor of Nottingham Trent University, and I am particularly impressed with its brilliant work with Mansfield College. He talked about West Notts College, which has also done impressive work in offering T-levels in business, construction, digital education, engineering and manufacturing. He made some wise points about schools and skills, and I thank him for his speech.

To return to the hon. Member for Coventry South, she will know that in the autumn statement we announced £2 billion of additional investment for schools in 2023-24 and 2024-25, over and above the increases already announced for schools at the 2021 review. That means that total funding across mainstream schools and high needs will be £3.5 billion higher in 2023-24 than in 2022-23, and that is on top of the £4 billion year-on-year increase provided in 2022-23. Together, that is an increase of £7.5 billion, or over 15%, in just two years, and school funding will increase further next year, so that by 2024-25, funding per pupil will be higher than ever in real terms. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has been quoted, but its independent analysis shows that total school funding is growing faster than costs for schools nationally this year and next.

I thank the Minister for giving way; I recognise that he speaks on this topic with a great deal of experience. I also particularly thank my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana) for securing this important debate. In the midlands, four in five schools are set to have to cut their education provision to cover costs this coming year. In 2020 in Nottingham, secondary school teachers left schools at a rate of 33%, which was one of the highest in England. Does the Minister accept that the situation is completely unsustainable and is damaging children’s education? Will he look again at funding for schools and teachers’ pay?

I thank the hon. Lady, who has listened very carefully to the debate. I will be setting out the extra funding going into the midlands. She will know that schools in Nottingham East are attracting over £69.7 million through the schools national funding formula. On top of that, schools will see £2.3 million through the grant. Also, 90% of schools are rated good or outstanding, up from 77% in 2010. I should add that I was pleased to work with the hon. Lady as a Back Bencher on green skills in school, which I know she cares about deeply.

We are levelling up school funding and delivering resources where they are needed most. Nationally, per-pupil funding for mainstream schools is increasing by 5.6% in 2023-24 compared with last year, and the east midlands and west midlands are both attracting above-average increases of 5.7% per pupil. Alongside those increases to revenue funding, we are investing significantly in schools’ capital. We provide funding to support local authorities with their responsibility to provide enough school places in their area. We have announced £2 billion for the creation of places needed in the next four academic years. The east and west midlands regions are receiving over £500 million of that funding.

We are also investing £2.6 billion between 2022 and 2025 to support the delivery of new and improved high needs provision for children and young people with special educational needs. We have allocated over £15 billion since 2015, including £1.8 billion committed for financial year 2023-24, to improve the condition of the school estate. As part of that investment, Coventry City Council has been provisionally allocated £3.5 million for financial year 2023-24 to invest across its maintained schools. We expect to publish final allocations shortly.

The school rebuilding programme is transforming buildings at 500 schools, prioritising those in poor condition and with potential safety issues. We have announced 400 schools to date, including Bishop Ullathorne Catholic School in Coventry South, which is one of 91 schools in the programme across the east and west midlands. We also allocated £500 million of additional capital funding for schools and FE colleges to help improve buildings and facilities and so to help them with energy costs. Schools in Coventry South were allocated over £900,000 of that funding.

On post-16 education, the further education capital transformation programme is delivering the Government’s £1.5 billion commitment to upgrade and transform the FE college estate. The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins) obviously knows that his college in Chesterfield has had £18 million, which I am sure he is delighted with. The FE reclassification and energy efficiency allocations have committed over £200 million in new capital funding to the sector. That has meant a £2 million capital investment in the FE college estate in Coventry, with Coventry College and Hereward College benefiting from that investment.

We also want to ensure that every young person has access to an excellent post-16 education. The 2021 spending review made available an extra £1.6 billion for 16-to-19 education in 2024-25 compared with 2021-22. That is the biggest increase in a decade, and we have made significant increases in funding rates. The national funding rate, which was £4,000 in 2019-20, will rise to £4,642 in academic year 2023-24. Over £1.3 billion has been allocated for 16-to-19 education in the midlands area for the current academic year, and £43 million of that has been allocated to institutions in Coventry.

The hon. Member for Coventry South rightly always champions social justice. In 2023-24, we have targeted a greater proportion of the schools national funding formula towards deprived pupils than ever before: 9.8%—over £4 billion—of the formula has been allocated according to deprivation. That means that over the coming year of 2023-24, schools with the highest level of deprivation have, on average, attracted the largest per-pupil funding increases. That is not even including the pupil premium funding, which has increased by 5% in 2023-24, a £180 million increase that takes total pupil premium funding to £2.9 billion. High needs funding for children with special educational needs and disabilities is rising to £10.1 billion nationally in this financial year, an increase of over 50% from the 2019-20 allocations. This year, Coventry is receiving an 11.5% per-head increase in its high needs funding compared with 2022-23.

The Minister is being very generous with his time. On SEN funding, local authorities in England are facing a £2.4 billion black hole in special educational needs. I had the pleasure of visiting a SEN school recently, Rosehill School in my constituency, which had the same story to tell. What will the Minister do to improve that situation?

As the hon. Lady knows, we are spending many millions more on special educational needs funding. She will have heard the statement by the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Claire Coutinho); that will help significantly in dealing with special educational needs.

In 16-to-19 funding, we include factors in the funding formula to help institutions recruit, retain and support disadvantaged students. That includes an uplift for those from disadvantaged localities and those with low prior attainment. The 16-to-19 bursary fund targets financial support at disadvantaged young people. In the academic year 2022-23, £152 million in bursary funding was allocated to institutions. That includes £33 million for the east and west midlands, of which just under £1 million has been allocated to institutions in Coventry. The amount has been further increased for the academic year 2023-24, with a 10% rise in the rates per instance of travel, disadvantage and industry placements compared to the 2022-23 academic year, to help with rising costs.

We briefly discussed T-levels. We are currently working with the FE sector and others to roll out T-levels. There are 42 colleges, schools and independent training providers across the west midlands that are planning to deliver T-levels in the next academic year. Coventry College will offer T-levels in digital and education, and the WMG Academy for Young Engineers will offer T-levels in engineering and manufacturing. I also mention Mansfield College for my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield.

We have invested over £500,000 for providers in Coventry South to purchase industry-standard equipment for teaching T-levels. We have also funded nine T-level projects in the west midlands to help create state-of-the-art buildings and facilities. Overall, T-levels are backed by revenue funding of up to £500 million a year, and we have also announced a 10% uplift in T-level funding rates over the coming year to support providers as they scale up delivery.

We are backing institutes of technology, with over £300 million in capital funding going to 21 institutes across the country, including £9 million to the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Institute of Technology and £18 million on the Black Country & Marches Institute of Technology. We plan to spend £13 million on the East Midlands Institute of Technology.

We talked about apprenticeships. It is brilliant to see that there have been 9,000 apprenticeship starts in Coventry South since 2010, and over 1 million starts in the east and west midlands in that time. We want to support even more apprentices and employers to benefit from high-quality apprenticeships, which is why we are increasing funding for apprenticeships to £2.7 billion by 2024-25.

We have also removed the limit on the number of apprenticeships that small and medium-sized enterprises and small businesses can take on, making it easier for them to grow their businesses with skilled apprentices. That will benefit the small businesses and apprentices in Coventry South. We continue to provide a £1,000 payment to employers when they take on apprentices aged 16 to 18, and we are increasing the care leavers’ bursary from £1,000 to £3,000, so that they have the chance to do an apprenticeship.

I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to discuss these important issues. Despite the narrative set out by the hon. Member for Coventry South, we are investing huge sums of money in her constituency and across the midlands for school funding, which will be at its highest ever level by 2024-25. Funding for 16 to 19-year-olds will see the biggest increase for a decade, and we are investing in capital funding for schools and colleges. I have carefully highlighted the huge investment we are making in the hon. Member’s constituency and across the midlands so that we have high-quality places, and I believe that the investment we are putting into schools and skills will have a transformative effect for children and young people in the hon. Lady’s constituency, the midlands and across the country.

I will keep it brief. I thank you, Mr Pritchard, for chairing this debate, and colleagues who took part. I began my speech by saying that I hope the teachers who came down from the midlands would find hope, and I appreciate the tone of the Minister’s remarks, which provided a contrast to some of the other contributions we have heard. The Minister listed several funding arrangements, and the Government boast that real-terms education funding will match 2010 levels by 2025, but I do not think that 13 years of decline and wasted potential is much of a boast. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins) said, our schools are struggling and teachers have felt abandoned by the Government. At the heart of this, our young people’s potential and opportunities are being stifled.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East (Nadia Whittome), who is a tireless champion of her constituents. She highlighted the unsustainable situation around teacher retention and investing in SEN for the most vulnerable in our constituencies.

I hope that the Minister will hear the calls of teachers and parents; acknowledge what has happened over the past 13 years, where underfunding in real terms has affected educators and children alike, selling them short; and commit not just to investing in our education, but to putting learning and teachers at the heart of everything the Government do. Hopefully, when a Labour Government come into power, that will be our aim too.

Before we conclude, I am sure that hon. Members will join me in wishing the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins) a speedy recovery. It was a great performance—bless you.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered school and college funding in the Midlands.