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Funding

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Skills – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 18th March 2004.

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Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central 11:30 am, 18th March 2004

What proposals he has to improve the means of allocation of funding to metropolitan local education authorities.

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Minister of State (School Standards), Department for Education and Skills

Local government funding was last reviewed in 2003–04 to deliver a fairer funding system. We will consider what changes might need to be made to the system for 2006–07.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

As my hon. Friend is aware, there are some historic discrepancies between the funding of metropolitan authorities and other authorities. For example, there is a difference of something like £100 per pupil between metropolitan authorities and London, given equivalent or even greater need. Given that the Department now controls about 55 per cent. of a local authority's formula standard share, will he look again at the position of metropolitan authorities to achieve a fairer distribution of resources based on need?

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Minister of State (School Standards), Department for Education and Skills

My hon. Friend has done a tremendous job in campaigning for extra resources for constituencies such as his. I know that he welcomes the fact that an extra £940 per pupil per year is being spent on students in Barnsley—a higher rise than the national average. We believe that we have a fair system. We do not propose to make changes this year or next because we need the new system to bed down. We will look at it again in 2006–07.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Conservative, Altrincham and Sale West

In response to last year's funding crisis in schools, the Minister urged schools to spend their capital funding and their reserves. Schools across my constituency, especially primary schools, now face making redundancies in September. Woodheys primary school has said that it will have to make all its classroom support staff redundant in September. What does the Minister intend to do this year to prevent those redundancies from being necessary?

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Minister of State (School Standards), Department for Education and Skills

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has not mentioned the £820 per pupil per year increase in funding for education in his constituency. I will certainly look at the individual case of Woodheys—whether it has the same number or fewer pupils than last year—but the hon. Gentleman should know that the increase of at least 5 per cent. in every LEA's budget and of at least 4 per cent. per pupil in every school's budget gives a guarantee that has never existed before for every school in the country.

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Minister will share my concern about the number of schools that have been forced to cut classroom teaching assistants this year because of budgetary pressures. That is of particular concern in special schools such as Dycorts in my constituency, where maintaining the adult-pupil ratio is essential to enable special needs pupils to flourish. How will he ensure that the additional funding promised yesterday will reach classrooms?

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Minister of State (School Standards), Department for Education and Skills

The hon. Lady raises an important point about special schools. She will know that the special needs plan set out recently by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State speaks directly to some of the teaching needs in special schools. In relation to funding itself, the funding guarantee per pupil for next year and the year after gives a guarantee that has never existed before in this country. The contribution of special schools to education in the nation is vital; we see them as resources for the whole school system, not as separate from it, and the funding guarantee applies as much to them as to any other school.

Photo of Bob Blizzard Bob Blizzard Labour, Waveney

Is not the allocation of capital funding also important? May I take this opportunity to welcome the £5 million that my hon. Friend has just awarded to three schools in my constituency—Kirkley middle school, Meadow primary and Fen Park primary? That will make an enormous difference to those schools, which are in a deprived area of Lowestoft, and it compares well with what happened during the 19 years that I spent in the classroom under the previous Government, when I saw children educated in ill-equipped, rotting portakabins because there was not the political will to do something about it.

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Minister of State (School Standards), Department for Education and Skills

It is always a pleasure to give out capital money when one receives such thanks as that. It is striking that in 1996–97, in the nation as a whole, capital spending on schools was £700 million, less than £30,000 for each school. That figure is now more than £4 billion and will rise to £5 billion in 2005–06. Many more schools can look forward to that sort of investment, as long as this Government continue to put it in.