School Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:52 pm on 25th January 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough 4:52 pm, 25th January 2017

I am sure that, in her characterisation of different education authorities, the Secretary of State would say that Slough is unfairly generously funded. I want to speak about the hundreds of pupils in Slough who get no funding at all for their education. You might think, “How can that be?” and that is a very serious issue, which is not properly addressed by the Secretary of State’s proposed fair funding formula.

There is swift growth in areas such as Slough. For years, we have been in the top 10 authorities for growth in pupil numbers, and we do not get paid until 18 months later for extra children who arrive after the October census date. Locally, that is dealt with by taking a top slice of the dedicated schools grant of £1 million or £1.5 million to fund bulge classes in existing schools.

Obviously, other authorities face churn and growth in pupil numbers, but in most places the number of additional pupils is not particularly significant, and new arrivals after October tend to be balanced by departures. Also, most of the extra children are born in families who are already there, so they apply at the usual time for schools.

That does not happen in Slough. When I asked schools about the numbers, the results were stark. One primary school had 13 children leave, but it had 23 new starters: one was completely new to English, others had English as a second language, and two more from overseas start next week. One secondary school estimates that the pupil formula for the 13 extra pupils who arrived after the census date in 2015-16 would have been worth £49,937; in the current year, the figure is £39,595. Those figures have gone down partly because the school has been subject to the minimum income formula, which I call the maximum cut formula, because that is the case for the secondary schools in Slough.

A primary school that opened two extra classes in November 2015 to accommodate children new to the town now has 63 pupils above its standard number. The bulge classes are funded by the top-slicing of the dedicated schools grant, but that money only lasts for a year, and the extra pupils will not be funded by the DFE until next year, so this year two whole classes are being educated in one primary school with no capitation funding. We are not talking about children who are easy to teach, and there are the children who arrive from—