We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Schools: National Funding Formula

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:29 pm on 14th September 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education 1:29 pm, 14th September 2017

I want to start by adding a massive thank you to the Department for Education officials who have worked on this for many years. It has been a complex piece of work, and it has been looked at under many Governments. I want to put on record my thanks to the team.

On the points raised by Angela Rayner, I had hoped, given the cross-party recognition of the need for school funding reform, that there might be a warmer welcome for this announcement. It is not just schools represented by Members on this side of the House that will gain from it; many in Opposition Members’ constituencies have been equally underfunded. This is not a political issue; it is a question of ensuring that we fund children, wherever they are growing up in our country, in a consistent, transparent and fair fashion. That is what we are shifting towards today. This is not an uncomplicated thing, and we have worked really hard to make sure that schools that were already well funded will continue to remain well funded. However, this is also about making sure that schools that have traditionally been underfunded for a very long time can now start to catch up.

The hon. Lady asked a few questions. I think she misunderstood my point about ensuring that there is a minimum per pupil funding rate of £4,800 for secondary schools and £3,500 for primary schools. There are not many schools that are not at that minimum funding rate, but it is important for those that are below it that we address those issues through the consultation response. That is what we are doing today—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady asks what the guidance says. That guidance is for local authorities, as I have explained and as I hope she will understand. Local authorities currently set local formulae. We had already said, and I had hoped she might have recalled, that that will continue for 2018-19. When I came back to the House in July this year, I set out that that would also continue for 2019-20 because we believe that the right way to bring in a significant change in school funding is to work with local authorities. As part of the setting out of the final funding formula, we also set out a small but important element of flexibility for local authorities to respond to the changes as they come through, and to nuance them to take account of local issues. That is where the optional element comes in. We are simply saying that it is right to give local authorities a modicum of flexibility to ensure that they can use the funding effectively on the ground.

We are being clear-cut about what the funding formula allocates to every single school in this country, and Members will be able to see those allocations. They will be able to sit down with their local authorities, and if they want the funding to go to those schools they will be able to ensure that it does. I expect that some local authorities will feel that the right thing to do is to get on with putting the funding formula in place at local level, and that they will simply pass the money straight through to the schools. That is something that I would support, but it is important to have a small amount of flexibility while the formula comes in.

The hon. Lady asked about the fact that we are putting an extra £1.3 billion of additional funding into the core schools formula and budget. I felt it was important to do this. Over the past few years, we have challenged schools to try to find efficiencies, because we want to get the most out of every pound we put in. However, it is also important that I challenge the rest of my Department to do the same kind of exercise that we are asking schools and headteachers to do. I believe that doing that has enabled us to free up some additional resourcing that we can now push directly to headteachers in the frontline. Frankly, I am staggered that the hon. Lady thinks that that is a bad thing to do. Anyone in my role should be challenging their civil servants to try to work smarter and more efficiently to get money directly through to the frontline. That is yet another example of the hon. Lady doing nothing other rant and produce rhetoric, and there is not a lot of thought behind that rhetoric about what is the right thing to do.

With that, I will sit down. I look forward to the contributions from hon. Members.