It is a pleasure to follow Preet Kaur Gill, although it will come as no surprise that I really do not agree with her analysis of the situation. There is perhaps no more important issue that we consider on the Floor of the House than the future of our children. I therefore commend the Government’s efforts to reform the schools funding formula to ensure that we have an education system that is funded fairly across the board.
When I contributed to the Opposition day debate on schools funding in April, I, like other colleagues, took the opportunity to challenge the accuracy of the funding figures published by the School Cuts coalition and warned that Labour was using those figures to mislead the public, including parents in Erewash. Since that debate, the union-backed group has been forced into an embarrassing retreat, admitting that it had failed to factor the £450 million central school services block funding into its calculations for 2018-19. That funding means that school funding per pupil will be protected in real terms, and that it will be 50% higher by 2020 than it was in the year 2000.
Specifically in Erewash, the new funding formula will mean that schools will receive an average increase of 5%—an increase in spending of £2.6 million. This rights the historic injustices of the postcode lottery and will enable schools to plan their spending more effectively and efficiently. However, this is just one side of the coin. As I have previously said in the Chamber, we must look beyond the balance sheet to what our schools and their inspirational teams of teaching professionals and volunteers are achieving with their resources in order to give our children the very best start in life.
One of the privileges that we share as Members of Parliament is visiting schools across our constituencies and seeing for ourselves the variety of activities taking place and the opportunities they offer to our young people. Just yesterday I was at St John Houghton Catholic Voluntary Academy, where I spoke to members of the Erewash Youth Forum. The forum is made up of students from Friesland School—which has recently become an academy—Ilkeston Academy, Long Eaton School, Wilsthorpe Community School, Kirk Hallam Academy and the host school. The students asked some tough questions, and I dare say that a few of them may be challenging for my job in the not too distant future. It was great to see their enthusiasm and their understanding of the complex issues that affect society, both at their age group and as a whole.
Chaucer Junior School, which visited Parliament again last month, is another outstanding school. It is really community-minded, adopting the flower containers at our new Ilkeston station and carrying out numerous litter picks inspired by the “Clean for the Queen” campaign. Just a few weeks ago, students took part in the “Keep Britain Tidy” campaign organised by the Daily Mail, and I am so pleased for them because they won and will now be visiting the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham in September.
In summary, I am proud to be part of a governing party that is delivering the economic stability needed to provide a good level of funding for our schools and of a Government that have rightly recognised, through the introduction of initiatives such as T-levels and the renewed investment in apprenticeships, that someone does not have to be academic to achieve in life. The task of educating our next generation is vital. While we may disagree in this place about the strategy to best achieve that, what unites us is our admiration for the people who do this work on behalf of society. Not everyone can teach, but for those who do, it is not just a job, but a vocation.