School Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:56 pm on 25th January 2017.

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Photo of Neil Carmichael Neil Carmichael Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education, Skills and the Economy Sub-Committee 4:56 pm, 25th January 2017

The very fact that we are having this debate is proof that there has been a huge step forward, because there is a proposal on the table for fairer funding. We should salute the Government for getting this far. We are obviously in a consultation process. The Education Committee is part of that process, in a sense, because we will be seeing the Minister for Schools shortly, and we will expand on many of my points then.

In a funding situation where schools in a county like Gloucestershire are, in effect, no further forward and some are actually going backwards, there are clearly issues to explore. One of those is the need to lift the baseline, which can be done in a number of ways; I will suggest three. First, we must look at the deprivation assessment in line with the pupil premium, because the two things are clearly related, and it would be wise to consider the impact of one in the context of the other. That provides scope to lift the baseline.

The second area is small schools. We all want to support small schools, but we might need to look at the ratio between what we think of as a small school and a slightly larger school. The use of statistics, as we all know, can have unpredictable and unintended consequences, and that is possibly the case with small schools. The third area is recalibrating the 3% floor, which could give authorities that have had historical problems with underfunding some way out of that.

I know those three ideas are complicated in the context of these reforms, but we need to demonstrate that we really are committed to providing fair funding. If we think carefully about the impact of the various measures I have outlined, in conjunction with the wider question of the objectives of the new funding system, we may well deliver for our children exactly what we want.