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It is a pleasure to be called to speak in this debate today and to follow Kirstene Hair, who made some very important points, but it will not surprise her to hear that we may differ on some of the detail on some of the issues that she raised.
There is a great deal that could be said about public services today, but I wish, in the time that I have, to focus my remarks on education, as so many others have done. It seemed as though, embarking on his leadership campaign, the Prime Minister understood that public services were running on empty, with the public so sick of austerity that his own prospects would be undermined if he did not offer more. The announcement that more money will be made available for schools in his first speech as Prime Minister reflected that and gave teachers and parents hope that the proposed levelling up would bring some much-needed respite to the relentless cuts that have been compromising their ability to educate the next generation. However, the reality is that the latest funding proposals fail to reverse the cuts that schools have suffered since 2015, with 16,523 schools set to have less money per pupil in 2020 in real terms than they had in 2015.
I heard the comments of Alex Chalk whom I always enjoy listening to, but I have to say to him that, even factoring in the latest funding in Calderdale, 76 of 95 schools have suffered cuts to their funding per pupil, with schools losing out on £39.4 million between 2015 and 2020, which equates to a £215 per pupil loss. The consequences of the lack of funding in our schools is that we have the largest class sizes in the developed world. At schools, such as Beech Hill in Halifax, the difference between funding and the amount needed to protect per pupil funding in real terms is £1.1 million, which is £602 per pupil and is the salary of around six teachers.
In our secondary schools, although the levelling up has helped budgets in the two grammar schools in my constituency on a per pupil basis, Trinity Academy at Sowerby Bridge has lost out on £554 per pupil between 2015 and 2020, Halifax Academy has lost out on £882 and Park Lane has lost out on a staggering £1,151 per pupil, which is the equivalent of around 10 teachers’ salaries.
Calderdale Against School Cuts, which works tirelessly to defend and restore school budgets, has stressed locally that funding announcements leave schools where they were 13 years ago and that the promise of £7.1 billion by 2022-23 becomes £4.3 billion once inflation is accounted for.
I have heard others mention that Jon Andrews, deputy head of research at the Education Policy Institute, has cautiously said that the Prime Minister’s drive to even up cash for schools implies that funding should be equal despite the fact that children’s circumstances and opportunities differ. He added:
“Any attempt to crudely level up funding would disproportionately direct additional funding towards the least disadvantaged schools with the least challenging intakes, at a time when progress in closing the attainment gap has stalled, and may be about to go into reverse.”
In the cold light of day, the facts are that four in five state schools in England will be financially worse off next year than they were in 2015. The promised £7.1 billion over three years is worth £4.3 billion when inflation is taken into account, and that will not restore funding levels to pay for the quality of education that the next generation deserves, or even the aspiration that is in the Queen’s Speech itself. This simply does not make sense, as we all agree that education is one of the most effective routes out of poverty— and we have heard that here today—in terms of social mobility, whether it is in schools or higher or further education. The outlook for further education is no brighter. Calderdale College in Halifax has been rated No. 1 in West Yorkshire for 16-to-18 achievement. Although the college has aspiration in abundance, it has had to make some really tough decisions due to a lack of funding. It has been difficult to recruit and retain staff in specialist areas. Almost all of its outreach centres have had to close. Adult learning courses, including tourism, sign language, and construction trades have been cut and fallen victim to cuts in the adult education budget, and it has reduced its ESOL provision by 50%.
I wish to mention an email that I received this week from a brilliant head teacher, Mungo Sheppard, at Ash Green primary in Mixenden, saying what a difference the national school breakfast programme is making to children at Ash Green. Every single one of us should be horrified to hear that at least half a million children in the UK arrive at school too hungry to learn. Family Action, which is delivering the programme with Magic Breakfast, has found that children in primary schools such as Ash Green where bagels are provided for breakfast achieve, on average, up to two months’ additional academic progress over the course of a year.
Ash Green is one of 1,775 schools in disadvantaged communities across the country to take part in the programme. Although it is funded by the soft drinks levy, that contract will come to an end in March 2020. With that in mind, I very much hope that the Secretary of State will reaffirm this Government’s commitment to the national school breakfast programme so that children at Ash Green and at schools all over the country continue to learn on a decent breakfast.
I have very little time to talk about policing today, but I do very much welcome the inclusion in the Queen’s Speech proposals for a police protection Bill. Having worked so hard on the protect the protectors law—the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018—with a number of colleagues, not least my hon. Friend Chris Bryant, it pains me to say that that Bill simply is not working in delivering the protections that we would all like to see for our officers out on the streets. Therefore, I very much welcome the opportunities to discuss further any and all means that we can now use to make sure that police officers are safe, so that they can keep our communities safe, too. I look forward to having those discussions.
In a nutshell, for a debate on public services, there was an awful lot I could have covered. However, learning has the power to transform lives. To invest in education is the surest investment that any Government could possibly make. It is only when people realise their potential that the country realises its potential, and never before has that been so important.