School Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:06 pm on 25th January 2017.

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Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark 6:06 pm, 25th January 2017

When I met headteachers in my constituency campaigning for fairer funding in the county of Nottinghamshire, my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke, who is my parliamentary neighbour, told those gathered there that he had only ever met two people who understood how these formulae work; one of them was dead and the other had gone mad. It gives me a lot of pleasure to see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has at long last grasped the nettle and is tackling an issue that our right hon. and learned Friend, as a former Education Secretary, said no Education Secretary would ever take on.

The funding formula was manifestly unfair, as many hon. Members have said. On behalf of schools across the county of Nottinghamshire, which was one of the f40 counties, I am delighted to welcome an increase of 0.8%—admittedly small, but an increase none the less.

I also think that it is incredibly important to take on difficult issues and not to kick these cans down the road, as happens time and again in politics, for example with tax credits. It is immensely difficult to take money away from people, even if the reasons have been proven to be wrong and the formulae are outdated—the opposition is considerable. This is an example of the Government taking on a difficult issue, rather than kicking it further down the road.

This formula also sends out a signal that there is poverty in rural areas, and no county exemplifies that better than Nottinghamshire. I may be privileged to represent the more affluent rural parts of the county, but at least half of it is made up of ex-coalfield communities, such as Ollerton, Ashfield and Mansfield, with deep-rooted social problems, left to fester by the Labour party. This formula will not benefit my constituency; it will benefit those deprived parts of Nottinghamshire. I am proud of that, even if it is a difficult conversation to have with most of my headteachers.

My last point—given that so little time is available—is that there are parts of this country that have been well funded but produced appalling results, and nowhere exemplifies that better than the city of Nottingham. We have heard today from representatives, colleagues and friends who represent the city that their funding has fallen. I feel sympathy for that, but those relatively well funded schools have let down generations of students, with an appalling local authority and poor-quality leadership. As well as increasing funding for my schools in Nottinghamshire, I look to the Secretary of State to find a strategy to address the intergenerational failure in places such as Nottingham, which desperately needs it.