We have heard today of the impact of Tory austerity on education and of funding being slashed across every area of the Department, with early years, schools and further and higher education all being hit. Education urgently needs new investment right across the board. The Government must finally begin reversing their devastating cuts if they are to implement the Prime Minister’s promise that austerity is over.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Education Secretary have both stated in the House that every school in England will see a cash-terms increase in their funding, yet that flies in the face of what we have heard in the Chamber today and the reality of what parents and teachers are telling us is happening on the ground. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has stated that that is simply not accurate, and the UK Statistics Authority has rebuked the Education Secretary for that inaccuracy. There has been a concerted effort by the Secretary of State and the Minister for School Standards to fudge the figures and deflect attention away from the funding cuts that they have presided over.
To add insult to injury, there was then the one-off £400 million for the Chancellor’s “little extras”—an insult to the teachers, schools and children who have faced year after year of Tory cuts. But we did get one thing today: we got a calculator for every school from the Secretary of State. The whole House should rejoice with me at that.
The fact is that across the whole country, including in the Prime Minister’s own constituency, schools are having to write home to parents to ask for money to buy basic resources. They do not need money for little extras; they need money for the essentials. According to the IFS data, school budgets are £1.7 billion lower in real terms than they were five years ago, which means that 91% of schools are still facing real-terms budget cuts per pupil.
The Minister will again no doubt try to deflect the House’s attention away from the reality of the impact of his Government’s cuts to school funding, but Members in this House—even including Members on the Government Benches—know all too well the impact on the ground already, because headteachers and parents are telling us about it almost daily. An early indication is that the shortfall for 2019-20 will be £3.8 billion. To use the Budget to give potholes more money than schools is a sorry reflection of this Government’s priorities.
Sadly it is clear that austerity is not over for our schools. We are now in the unprecedented situation of unions taking the step of simultaneously consulting their respective members on what action to take next. It beggars belief that the Government have ignored the School Teachers’ Review Body recommendation of a 3.5% increase for all pay and allowance across the board —the first time that that has happened in the body’s 28-year history. To make matters worse, the Government expect schools to meet the costs of the first 1% of the pay award from existing budgets, which have already been cut to the bone.
The picture is no better in early years. Sure Start funding has been cut by two thirds, and more than 1,000 centres have gone since 2010. The Government must honour the commitment to their flagship policy of 30 hours of free childcare with more money from the Treasury. It was recently revealed that most providers are having to increase the fees they charge parents as a consequence of Government’s underfunding, with 85% of local authorities facing even more cuts to their 30-hours funding.
While we have been debating this afternoon, the impacts have got worse. The Secretary of State has slipped out, through a written statement, the announcement that he is sending a commissioner into Northamptonshire County Council, where the children’s services have been found inadequate by Ofsted. He may well take off his glasses and wonder what I am talking about, but this has happened this afternoon. Ofsted has warned that vulnerable children are not being
“effectively assessed, supported or protected.”
As my hon. Friend Jo Platt said, austerity is not over for our children. Will the Minister commit to coming back to the House to make an oral statement about this, and urge his colleagues finally to tackle the funding crisis facing children’s services across our country?
TES is reporting, as we speak, that children in residential care are waiting for more than three months for a school place. Labour’s national education service will guarantee the needed investment to deliver 30 hours of high-quality education to all two to four-year-olds.
In further education, the theme continues: austerity is not over in our sixth forms and colleges. Further education has suffered the most vicious of all Tory cuts to education, with budgets slashed by £3 billion in real terms since 2010. This is one quarter of all further education funding. Nothing has been done even to begin reversing this. If the Chancellor really means austerity is ending, he must end the base funding rate system and reinvest in sixth forms and colleges.