Primary School Places
Oral Answers to Questions — Education
2:30 pm

Photo of Alec Shelbrooke

Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell, Conservative)

What estimate he has made of the number of additional primary school places needed in the next decade.

Photo of Michael Gove

Michael Gove (The Secretary of State for Education; Surrey Heath, Conservative)

Most local authorities are forecasting an increase in primary pupil numbers over the next five years. Based on data published by the Office for National Statistics, the school-age population is expected to rise during the rest of the decade. My Department will continue to provide capital funding to meet that need.

Photo of Alec Shelbrooke

Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell, Conservative)

Will my right hon. Friend outline to my constituents in Elmet and Rothwell the proposals that are in place for the excellent primary schools in the area, should they need to expand to meet the predicted increase in school numbers?

Photo of Michael Gove

Michael Gove (The Secretary of State for Education; Surrey Heath, Conservative)

My hon. Friend is fortunate to have many outstanding primary and secondary schools serving his constituents, and those will be able to expand under the changes that we have made to the admissions code. We have also increased the amount of money available to meet what is called basic need—the growth in primary school places—and we have done so by making efficiencies from the old Building Schools for the Future programme, which, while nobly conceived, was often poorly executed.

Photo of Heidi Alexander

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East, Labour)

The Secretary of State will know that in London the demand for extra primary classes is acute—64% of all the additional places required across the country are in London. How can it therefore be right that in the basic needs allocation London got only a third of the funding available when it has two thirds of the need?

Photo of Michael Gove

Michael Gove (The Secretary of State for Education; Surrey Heath, Conservative)

The hon. Lady, as ever, makes an effective case on behalf of her constituents. We looked at the original formula that we inherited for the allocation of money to areas where population growth was forcing schools to expand. We changed it, in consultation with London Councils and the Mayor of London. The new formula that we used was fairer to London, and it was welcomed by Jules Pipe, the mayor of Hackney, on behalf of London Councils, and by the Mayor of London, but no formula is ever perfect, and we continue to look to ensure that Lewisham students can continue to benefit.

Photo of Stewart Jackson

Stewart Jackson (Peterborough, Conservative)

The Secretary of State will know, I hope, that the vast bulk of the new entrants for primary school allocations in Peterborough for September 2012 are foreign children whose first language is not English. In his ongoing review of funding, will he concede the resource implications of that and assist a small number of local authorities, such as Peterborough, that face serious teaching and resource allocation issues for children whose first language is not English?

Photo of Michael Gove

Michael Gove (The Secretary of State for Education; Surrey Heath, Conservative)

My hon. Friend has bravely and rightly drawn attention to the fact that inward migration flows have had a particularly strong effect on his constituents. On the current changes to education funding, upon which we are consulting, we propose to include additional funding for those schools that have a significant number of students who have English as an additional language.

Photo of Stephen Twigg

Stephen Twigg (Shadow Secretary of State for Education; Liverpool, West Derby, Labour)

How many primary school places could the Government fund with the money that the Secretary of State has

proposed be spent on a new royal yacht? Does he regret his rushed decision in 2010 to abolish the Labour Government’s primary capital programme and would it not have been better to have reformed that programme to focus on the serious shortage of primary school places?

Photo of Michael Gove

Michael Gove (The Secretary of State for Education; Surrey Heath, Conservative)

The hon. Gentleman should have been careful to look at the charts and to navigate out of rocky waters, because the letter that I wrote to the Prime Minister on 12 September clearly stated that I agreed, of course, that the project for a royal yacht—the Future Ship Project 21st Century—was one where no public funding should be provided. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has once again allowed himself to be misled. I support that project because it would provide opportunities for disadvantaged youth from across the country to learn new skills and to take part in exciting new adventures. It is typical of the unreformed elements—

Photo of John Bercow

John Bercow (Speaker)

Order. I am extremely grateful to be educated by the Secretary of State, but I do not think that the yacht will provide additional primary school places, which is the subject matter under discussion.

Photo of Stephen Twigg

Stephen Twigg (Shadow Secretary of State for Education; Liverpool, West Derby, Labour)

Indeed, Mr Speaker. The Government have found £1.2 billion for new places, half of which is being spent on new free schools. Although 90% of the extra places that are needed by 2015 are in primary schools, the majority of the new free schools announced late last year are secondary schools. Instead of his dogmatic and ideological preference for his pet project, would it not make more sense to allocate the whole of that £1.2 billion to meet the serious shortfall in primary school places?

Photo of Michael Gove

Michael Gove (The Secretary of State for Education; Surrey Heath, Conservative)

I am grateful for your advice, Mr Speaker, but I always try to answer the questions that I am asked by the hon. Gentleman—I know that that is sometimes a novel approach, but I believe it to be right.

It is also right to remind the hon. Gentleman, as he reminded the readers of The Observer on Sunday, that the last Labour Government wasted money on Building Schools for the Future. As a result of eliminating that waste, we have made £500 million available this year, and £600 million next year, for primary school places for which they never provided. They failed to look ahead and navigate a way through hard times, and now that there is a captain at the helm who knows in which direction to take this ship, I am afraid that we need less rumbling from the ratings who want to mutiny below deck.