Education Funding

Part of EU Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Advice – in the House of Commons at 4:59 pm on 13th November 2018.

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Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives 4:59 pm, 13th November 2018

I shall address that issue when I talk about the apprenticeship levy, but my hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are real pressures on skills in my rural area, so it is imperative that we work with schools to help teachers to understand the jobs and skills that are available and how we can keep people in the area, because it is extremely important in rural areas that we do not have what we describe as brain drain.

I am looking forward to the strategic spending review, because there is no doubt in my mind that more money is needed. However, as I said, there are things that can help schools today. For example, the apprenticeship levy has been mentioned. My local schools are contributing to it, but find it difficult to access apprenticeships, because although they have apprentices, when they go to college the schools have to cover the work that the apprentices do, and therefore have to spend even more money on supporting people. My local schools’ request to me was that their contribution to the levy be scrapped, which would help their budget.

Another idea is about cash flow. It is really important that the Government understand—I know that they do—that if a child starts school in September, they are registered for funding in October and the funding arrives the following April, but if a child turns up at school after October, the funding for that child comes 18 months later. There are schools in my constituency that have very few children leaving. For example, about six children left one school in July, but 31 joined its reception in September. No money will be given to that school for those 31 children until April next year. It is very difficult for a school that is building up, that is becoming popular and that is a school of choice for parents when the money just does not follow the child. I say to the Government that, rather than putting more money into the system, they could make things much fairer for schools if the money could follow the child, rather than be allocated in the April after the intake.

Another area that is proving to be a problem, which is not unrelated to what I have just said, is support for special educational needs. One school in my constituency supported children with special educational needs to such a great extent that nine children joined it after the October date, which meant that £56,000 had to be found to support those children for 18 months.

My time is running out, but I just want to say that I am so in awe of all the teachers and teaching staff in my constituency. They do a fantastic amount of work, but they face challenges, such as finding money to provide sports facilities such as all-weather pitches. I also wish to make a quick plea. If we remember all that we have just said about post-16 pupils—about making sure that we have the skills that we need and that we do not lose children out of the county—we should probably look at plus-16 funding and make sure that our young people can get the skills they need in their own area.