It is an honour to follow Jeremy Quin.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, school funding has risen on average by around 2% per year in real terms for secondary schools and 2.4% per year for primary schools every year since the mid-1970s. Much of that growth came under the last Labour Government, who oversaw average growth of some 5% in the first decade of the new millennium and embarked on a huge and desperately needed investment programme to renew our crumbling school buildings. Yet since the 2015 election, according to the IFS, school budgets have fallen by just over 4%.
This Government trumpeted their announcement last year of more funding for schools as though it was some great triumph, when in reality all they have done is ensure that by 2019-20 school funding will be roughly equivalent to the funding in 2011-12. The numbers speak for themselves: 2% a year increases since the mid-70s; 5% a year under the last Labour Government; stagnant under the Tories. That will be the legacy of this Government’s education policy.
These cuts are hitting our schools hard. Analysis by the Education Policy Institute shows that the proportion of local authority schools in deficit nearly trebled from 8.8% in 2012-13 to 26.1% in 2016-17, and that over two thirds of local authority-maintained secondary schools spent more than their income in 2016-17. That is simply not sustainable.
The pain is not only being felt by the schools; it is being felt by the teachers, too. Last year, research by the National Education Union and Tes revealed that 94% of teachers are having to pay for school essentials such as books, while 73% are regularly paying for stationery supplies. How can it be right that those who undertake a role as important as educating our children feel they have no other option than to spend their own money buying supplies? We do not expect our doctors to buy their own medicines, so why should our teachers be any different?
Is it any wonder that the effects of these constant pressures are leading to problems with recruiting teachers? Just under 40,000 teachers quit the profession in 2016—that is 9% of the workforce—and they are simply not being replaced fast enough. There is now a shortfall of some 30,000 classroom teachers, and the problem is particularly acute at secondary level, where 20% of teacher vacancies remain unfilled. Since 2011-12, recruitment of initial teacher trainees has been below target every single year. In addition, the numbers of full-time teacher vacancies and temporarily filled posts have risen since 2011.
“The government acknowledges that schools are being asked to do more than ever before. They also accept that costs are rising. But they remain unwilling to meet these increased expectations and costs with sufficient funding.”
Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, has added:
“It is no wonder that schools are increasingly struggling to provide pupils with basic essentials and having to ask parents to fill the gap.”
These are not politicians; these are the people on the frontline who are witnessing the devastating effect of Tory policies, and we should listen to what they have to say.
It is not just in our schools that the Tories’ ideology of austerity has hit hard. Maintained nursery schools have received no guaranteed funding after 2020, leaving them completely unable to budget for the future. These nurseries serve some of the poorest areas in England, with 64% in the most deprived areas. As things stand, they are set to lose almost £60 million from 2020 unless urgent action is taken. The Chair of the Education Committee, Robert Halfon, highlighted this very issue on national radio this morning. When are the Government going to act? Their record on education is nothing short of shameful. My constituents will not be fooled by headline-grabbing Government announcements of more money for our schools or nurseries. The picture is clear, and the figures tell their own story: this Government are failing our schools and our children.