Department for Education

Part of Estimates Day – in the House of Commons at 3:56 pm on 3rd July 2018.

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Photo of Lucy Powell Lucy Powell Labour/Co-operative, Manchester Central 3:56 pm, 3rd July 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Maggie Throup. I thank Robert Halfon for securing this debate and for encouraging the rest of us on the Education Committee to seek to secure it too.

Despite earlier provocation, I am not going to talk about how we cut the cake; I want to talk about the size of the cake. I am sure that we will hear these two main arguments from the Minister later on: more money than ever is going into education; and the per-pupil numbers are protected. Ministers say that there is more money than ever, but that is never followed by the fact that we have more pupils than ever. Not only do we have significantly more pupils, but the rise in the participation age and extra support for the early years mean that pupils are in education for a lot longer than ever before.

Ministers also say that per-pupil funding has been protected, but they do not say that the costs per pupil have gone up. The maths is quite simple—I am sure that it would make the new reception curriculum—because if there are more costs, but the cash is the same, spending power will decrease. There will be less cash to spend on teachers, textbooks and all the rest. This is not about the funding formula; it is about the size of the cake, which is insufficient to meet the current costs of our education system.

For schools in particular, the lack of funding is coinciding with the teacher recruitment crisis. That is adding to the costs, because the costs of recruitment and of supply teachers are so high, but there has also been massive change. At any other time, new curriculums, new exams and new assessments would require extra investment, not less money, so a huge strain is being put on the system as a whole.