Education Funding

Part of EU Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Advice – in the House of Commons at 5:23 pm on 13th November 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk 5:23 pm, 13th November 2018

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, and my experience backs that up. A village can have its own school, but if parents think the school a drive away is better, they will send their children there, because they are exercising choice. Such a choice undoubtedly drives up standards, so my hon. Friend makes an excellent point.

In the last few minutes of my speech, I want to join my hon. Friend Derek Thomas in suggesting some ideas and adding them into the mix, as one likes to do. The first is about teachers’ pay. It is a great achievement when headteachers in particular show the leadership that enables schools that are in special measures or struggling to improve. In my view, when that happens there should be a financial reward. By the way, that would be paid for, because if more schools become good or outstanding because teachers turn them around, especially from special measures, that will lead to higher productivity, which, after all, is how we pay for higher spending. When teachers put in that sort of effort there should be a financial reward, because the country will benefit and it will pay off.

Another idea concerns school transport. In Suffolk at the moment—no beating about the bush—we are going through very controversial and painful changes to school transport, necessitated by the difficult situation of council funding. I simply remind Opposition Members, before they inevitably start making noises, that they did not protect council budgets in their 2010 manifesto any more than we did, so the situation would have been very similar. Councils have had to make painful decisions. In Suffolk that means that school transport is being reduced. The system is being changed, and I hope that the impact will not be too dramatic.

I find it very difficult to defend this, but I understand why we have decided not to look at pensioner benefits in this Parliament—because of the political situation and the parliamentary arithmetic. However, I have wealthy pensioners in my constituency who get a free bus pass, and we are cutting school transport. I struggle to justify that. To me, that is a good example of the intergenerational problems that are building up in this country, which we have to address. Many constituents of mine who are relatively wealthy pensioners come to me and say it is silly that they get that. That is just a suggestion, and it is funded. I think it would be a brave and good thing to do, because there needs to be more support for those at key stages of life to get school transport and to get to college.

In conclusion, we should be proud of the progress our schools are making. We are seeing genuine improvement, and the best way of measuring that, as other hon. Members have said, is through international comparisons. We are going up the league tables for reading. Our results are far better, and that is because of the leadership shown by a Conservative Government, responsible finances and better standards. That is the right mix for schools policy.