I want to apologise to you straight away, Mr Deputy Speaker. I prepared diligently for this debate, but I had not realised the importance of estimates day debates to the House. I woke up today to headlines in all the newspapers talking about Kane for England, “Go Kane” and Kane for Harry, England and St George. It was not until the shadow Secretary of State turned up in her England top that the penny dropped. However, I am sure that the one thing that the Minister and I would agree on is that we wish our team all the best for tonight. Straight out of the gate, the Chair of the Education Committee, Robert Halfon, got the tone right for the debate. He also came up with the best soundbite of the day when he talked about funding “textbooks, not tanks”. I shall carry on with the alliteration and say that textbooks, not Tories, are the best thing for our education system.
There is a great deal to discuss in the Department’s spending review, but as colleagues have had to be brief, I will follow suit. I will start with schools, where the Department does the majority of its spending. In particular, I would like to focus on a claim that the Minister made over the weekend that is particularly relevant to this debate. He took to Twitter to say that
“claims that schools would lose money next year are inaccurate. School funding is protected in real terms per pupil—contrary to some inaccurate and misleading claims”.
I for one am glad that the Minister has decided he has a problem with inaccurate and misleading claims. With that in mind, does he believe that every school is going to get more money in the coming financial year? After all, it was the Secretary of State who said that under the current spending plans,
“each school will see at least a small cash increase.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 635, c. 536.]
Unfortunately for his Department, this has been queried by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies and the UK Statistics Authority. So I ask the Minister to offer us some clarification and to state clearly whether schools will lose money or whether they will see a cash increase.