Education Funding

Part of EU Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Advice – in the House of Commons at 4:23 pm on 13th November 2018.

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Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Secretary of State for Education 4:23 pm, 13th November 2018

I recognise what my hon. Friend says, and he is right. I thank him for acknowledging the additional money that has gone in, the fairer national funding formula and the additional £1.3 billion in resourcing. It is also true, as I was saying in answer to Rushanara Ali, that local authorities can move money from schools into their high-needs block, which is sometimes the right thing to do. Of course, we also want to ensure that the facilities are always there to help local authorities manage their high-needs budget as effectively as they can.

We have increased opportunities in technical and professional education by doubling the level of cash for apprenticeships through the apprenticeship levy to £2.5 billion over the course of the decade. By 2020, funding available to support adult FE participation is planned to be higher than at any time in England’s history. At the other end of the age range, high-quality childcare supports children’s development and prepares them for school. That is why this Government are investing more than any previous Government in childcare and early years education—around £6 billion by 2020.

This Government have extended the scope and extent of support in multiple ways. As well as higher reimbursement under universal credit—higher than was ever available under tax credits—and tax-free childcare, we have increased the childcare available for three-year-olds and four-year-olds from 12.5 hours to 15 hours, and that funded early education now has a 95% take-up rate among parents of four-year-olds. There are also an additional 15 hours—so 30 hours in total—for working parents. All of that represents greater entitlement than under the Labour Government.

Then, of course, there was the landmark extension of the 15-hour entitlement to—[Interruption.] Let me start that sentence again. Then, of course, there was the landmark extension of the 15-hour entitlement to disadvantaged two-year-olds in 2013, which has since benefited almost 750,000 children at an investment of £2 billion since the policy began—something that was never made available to disadvantaged families by any Labour Government. Looking ahead, funding for the future comes up periodically at spending reviews. We have a spending review next year, and we are already looking at the approach for this period. Of course, we have a review of post-18 education and funding in progress, and £84 million was confirmed in the Budget for children’s social care to help spread best practice.

Turning to school-age education, I am not the first Education Secretary to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that we need a better balance between technical and academic education. While we plan to invest nearly £7 billion during the current academic year to ensure a place in education and training or an apprenticeship for every 16 to 19-year-old who wants one, I am conscious that funding for 16 to 19-year-olds has not been protected in the same way since 2010 as funding for five to 16-year- olds, but we are ensuring a balance through public policy by developing high-quality routes for technical and vocational education through T-levels and apprenticeships.

On the high-needs budget, funding for local authorities has benefited from the same protections in the funding formula that we have been able to provide for mainstream schools, but there have been increasing pressures. There is a balance to be struck between mainstream and special schooling to ensure that most pupils can be supported in mainstream settings when that works best for them. Finally, we need to continue to ensure, as always, that there is the right level of resource to make sure that the quality of education is at the required level for people wherever they live—in a town, the countryside, the north, or the south.

Alongside all that we need to focus on ways to make the system work better for all schools. Ensuring that we invest properly in schools and distribute funding fairly is clearly fundamental, but how that funding is used in practice is just as important. The education system is diverse, operating between various local authorities, dioceses, multi-academy trusts and individual schools. While that is a strength, it does not always work in the system’s favour when it comes to leveraging the benefit of volume in purchasing, for example. That is why I am working hard to ensure that we come together to help schools get the best value, that expertise is available across the system and that resources that do not need to be purchased or created on an individual basis—from lesson plans to energy contracts—are shared. We will also work to bear down on the £60 million to £75 million that schools spend on recruitment with the new teacher vacancy service and the agency supply teacher deal. By creating financial benchmarking, we are helping schools to share good practice and identify ways to use resources more effectively. All of this allows schools to direct the maximum resource into what they do best—teaching.