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School Funding: North-east of England — [Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:45 am on 26th April 2017.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education) 10:45 am, 26th April 2017

It is not convenient, actually.

School funding in the constituency of Dr Blackman-Woods will rise by £0.4 million—a 0.9% increase—as a direct consequence, again, of introducing the national funding formula. School funding is at its highest level on record, at almost £41 billion this year, and it is set to rise to £42 billion by 2019-20 as pupil numbers rise.

However, the current funding system is preventing us from getting that record sum of money to where it is needed most. Underfunded schools do not have access to the same opportunities to do the best for their children, and it is harder for them to attract the best teachers and afford the right support. That is why we are reforming the funding system by introducing a national funding formula for both mainstream schools and the high-needs support provided for children with special educational needs. It will be the biggest change to school and high-needs funding for well over a decade.

Such change is never easy, but it will mean that, for the first time, we have a clear, simple and transparent system that matches funding to children’s needs and the school they attend. In the current system, similar schools and local areas receive very different levels of funding with little or no justification. Those anomalies will be ended once we have a national funding formula in place, and that is why we are committed to introducing fair funding. Fair funding will mean that the same child with the same needs will attract the same funding regardless of where they happen to live.

We launched the first stage of our consultation on reform in March last year. We set out the principles for reform and proposals for the overall design of the system, and more than 6,000 people responded, with wide support for those principles. Last month we concluded the 14-week second stage consultation, covering the detailed proposals for the design of both the schools and high-needs formulae. Our proposals would target money towards those who face the greatest barriers to their education.

In particular, our proposals would boost the support provided for those who are from deprived backgrounds and those who live in areas of deprivation but who are not eligible for free school meals—those ordinary working families who are too often overlooked. We propose to put more money towards supporting those pupils who have fallen behind, in both primary and secondary school, to ensure that they have the support they need.