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Budget Resolutions - Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:24 pm on 13th March 2017.

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Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood 10:24 pm, 13th March 2017

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate on the Budget and Britain’s place in the world. I want to speak about the Budget proposals for education and the risks they present to our children who, in the context of Brexit and changes across the world, face an uncertain future. Our education system must be equipped and resourced to deliver the best possible education for all our children and young people to provide them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to navigate our uncertain world and to be truly global citizens of it.

I am fiercely proud of the schools in my constituency and everything they deliver for local children. The transformation of the quality of education in London was one of the proudest achievements of the last Labour Government. In my constituency alone, we saw four new secondary schools, and this record of delivery is continuing with a further new secondary school that opened last year as a result of a strong campaign by parents and local councillors. Every day, teachers in our local schools are delivering brilliant imaginative lessons, helping our children to be the best that they can be and achieving excellent results.

Yet the resources that the schools in Dulwich and West Norwood need to continue their excellent work are under threat. The Government have broken their manifesto commitment to protect per pupil funding for our schools. The NAO confirmed that the Department’s overall schools budget is protected in real terms, but does not provide for funding per pupil to increase in line with inflation. In addition, the Government have loaded further significant costs on to our schools that are not funded through national insurance contributions, the national minimum wage and the apprenticeships levy. Each of those costs are important in their own right, but it is entirely unfair of the Government to impose them without also funding them.

Schools in my constituency are already reducing staffing numbers to cope with these additional costs. On top of these burdens, the Government are proposing to cut the funding for London schools in order to deliver a fair funding formula for schools across the country. I support the objective of fair funding for our schools, but there is nothing fair about taking vital funds away from some schools. This will have a direct impact on the quality of education our schools are able to provide, and it will affect the competitiveness of the UK economy. The Budget does nothing to address this. Instead of committing to increasing the education budget by just 1% to ensure that all schools can access fair funding without any school losing out, it commits funding in order to open new grammar schools which, by any measure and definition, can deliver only for a small number of children.

As we contemplate the future of the United Kingdom outside the European Union in a rapidly changing global economy, it is not a time for nostalgia to be the defining force in education policy. It is a time to be learning from the success story of London schools—investing in our education system to ensure that it is fit for purpose to equip our children with the knowledge, skills and confidence to thrive in a challenging and uncertain world. The Foreign Secretary may trivialise the challenge of global trade with reference to boomerangs and Toblerone, but I am concerned that our schools can equip all our children with the values of tolerance, diversity and internationalism, and with the skills and qualifications to pursue careers in science and technology, culture and the arts, green industries, health and social care, construction and many other fields. By cutting the funding for our schools, this Government and this Budget are failing them.