The Secretary of State has spent a huge amount of time speaking and I have a lot of Back Benchers who want to speak, so I am going to carry on.
The Chancellor announced one other measure in the Budget to address the issue: £5 million a year for the Government’s cash-for-cabs scheme, bussing children to grammar schools. Of course, the Chancellor forgot to mention that the Government had just cut £6 million out of the schools transport budget for every other child. Those cuts left no statutory provision for disabled 16 to 18-year-olds and others, who were forced to change school. They are paying the taxi tax so that a handful of pupils can be ferried up to 15 miles to the nearest grammar school by cab, at a cost of thousands of pounds each. Apparently, the comprehensive school bus is out, and the grammar school Uber is in. That is all to give the Government a fig leaf of social mobility. The Chancellor said:
“We are committed to that programme because we understand that choice is the key to excellence in education”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 622, c. 818.]
I remind the Government that good teaching, school leadership, proper funding, the right curriculum and many other things are also key to that excellence.
It is also a rather obvious point that the Government’s proposed system is not one in which parents or pupils choose the school; instead, the schools choose the pupils. Parents are unlikely to have the choice they have been promised on childcare either. The Chancellor told the House that
“from September, working parents with three and four-year-olds will get their free childcare entitlement doubled to 30 hours a week.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 622, c. 816.]
But the Secretary of State has already admitted in written answers that only a small minority of the parents receiving 15 hours will be eligible for the 30 hours. Fewer than 400,000 families will qualify, despite the Government’s promise at the last election that more than 600,000 would benefit.
The Chancellor’s plans for adult education are no closer to reality. He announced £40 million to trial new ways of delivering adult education and lifelong learning, but his own Government have cut the adult skills budget by 32% since 2010, taking out more than £1 billion. I know that the Chancellor’s aides have referred to their neighbours in No. 10 as “economically illiterate”, but surely even they realise the absurdity of trying to reverse the damage caused by £1 billion of cuts with £40 million in trials.
It is a similar story with the £500 million a year to deliver the new T-levels. That amount of new investment would be welcome—after all, further education budgets were cut by 7% in the last Parliament, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that between 2010 and 2020, funding per pupil in further education would be cut by 13%—but the briefing lines do not quite match the Budget lines. The Red Book shows that in 2018-19 the new funding will be only £60 million. Even by 2021-22, the new funding will not have risen to the promised half a billion a year.