School Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:18 pm on 25th January 2017.

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Photo of Julian Knight Julian Knight Conservative, Solihull 6:18 pm, 25th January 2017

Solihull is mentioned in many surveys as being one of the best places to live not just in the west midlands but in the UK as a whole and that is due in no small part to its schools. My schools have put in a Herculean effort for years. They do more with less. They have embraced change and gained the benefits from so doing, despite having been one of the losers in the fairer funding formula for many years. I welcome the Government’s commitment to making the necessary changes. Although this is a consultation at the moment, I hope that they will take on the comments that many hon. Members are making so that we can get this right and set for the future.

In my constituency, although secondary schools gain, and I am very grateful for that, some primary schools do not, with some losing up to 2.5%. In addition, the unequal treatment of Solihull schools compared with those of neighbouring Birmingham has not yet been fixed, with those in the city still enjoying a substantial per-pupil advantage, currently standing at £1,300 per year.

To put that into a real-world context, schools in Birmingham can use the extra cash to offer more competitive salaries and attract newly qualified teachers, especially in subjects such as mathematics and science, and that hurts schools in neighbouring communities that do not have the money to spare. Schools in Birmingham also have more funds to set aside for facilities, extracurricular activities, school trips and all the other things that allow schools to provide a rich and well-rounded education.

In a compact, urban region such as the west midlands, even small inequalities of that sort can have serious consequences for those who are left out, and the inequalities are more visible than they might be elsewhere. Local headteachers tell me that parents regularly ask them why pupils in Birmingham schools are taken on exciting school trips, but their own children are not. Such unfairness is made all the worse by the fact that so many Birmingham children are educated in Solihull. I believe that up to 40% of the children in some of our local schools come from outside the borough, but those pupils do not bring their funding advantages with them.

I am pleased that the need for fairer funding in our schools is widely recognised, and that the Government are grasping the nettle. The proposals are an important first step, and now we have our consultation, but we must go further to end the unequal treatment of communities such as Solihull.