Department for Education

Part of Estimates Day – in the House of Commons at 5:10 pm on 3rd July 2018.

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Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools) 5:10 pm, 3rd July 2018

I was so looking forward to that! The Prime Minister came to my constituency a few weeks ago to visit a school in Brooklands, in Trafford. That seat had never turned Labour in the history of municipal authority, but it did so that night and Labour took Trafford, because Trafford is losing £3.3 million in spending power for its schools.

Under the Department’s spending plans, schools will see cuts to their budgets for the third year in a row. I know that the Minister will be tempted to rehearse his prepared rebuttal and tell us how the Government have protected per-pupil spending in real terms, despite the fact that £2.7 billion in real terms has been cut since 2015. Those were the first schools cuts in a generation. Despite all the shallow talk of protecting budgets and extra funding, the future of our schools is not safe under the Tories.

While we are talking about the Department’s spending plans for next year, I know that there is one issue that teachers and school leavers across the country need an answer on, and that is pay. The Government’s own research has shown that their pay policy has left teachers nearly £4,000 worse off in real terms since they came into office. It is hardly a surprise that the Government are overseeing a crisis in the recruitment and retention of the teachers that our children and country need. Will the Minister admit that his pay policies have played a role in driving teachers out of the profession? If not, will he tell us why they are leaving the classroom in record numbers? For every teacher coming in, one is leaving the profession.

Teachers and other public sector staff have been repeatedly promised that the public sector pay cap has come to an end, but schools have been given no certainty about any pay rise or how it will be funded. So, will the Minister tell the House when the School Teachers’ Review Body will be publishing its annual report? Surely the Minister agrees that, without enough money to pay for higher wages, anything he utters from the Dispatch Box about an end to the pay cap is absolutely meaningless to the thousands of hard-working teachers who have not seen a real pay rise in years.

Before I end my speech, I want to discuss our student finance system. The Department’s estimates show that spending on the payment of student loans will be over £21 billion this year. They also show that the Department will be considering over £3 billion of interest payments on student debt as revenue. My hon. Friend Peter Dowd, the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has already shown that the Government’s use of an unreliable inflation measure for these debts costs students around £16,000, and they will now discover that that is being done to line the Treasury’s coffers. Will the Minister tell us how that £3.2 billion is going to be spent? Will he tell us whether the fact that his Department has a vested financial interest in keeping interest rates high means that it will not be acting to address the fact that students are paying more than 6% in interest before they are even able to repay their debts?

It is traditional for the Opposition spokesman to thank Opposition Members for their speeches, but not today. I want to thank all the Government Members for their speeches—[Hon. Members: “Ahh.”] Isn’t that nice of me? Craig Tracey made a fine speech, but he failed to mention that North Warwickshire Borough Council is losing £12.5 million from its schools budget. We had the most supportive unsupportive speech that I have ever heard in this House from Mr Wragg. He is right to say that Manchester teachers are the some of the best in the world—I was one of them—but Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council is losing £5.9 million over the funding period. What a fine speech it was from Jeremy Quin. I believe that Horsham is in West Sussex, where primary schools are losing £8.9 million over this Parliament. I have already had it out with Maggie Throup about Derbyshire, which is facing an £11.5 million cut. Who else do we have? Jack Brereton