Education Funding (South Liverpool)

– in Westminster Hall at 4:31 pm on 10th October 2017.

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Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Labour, Garston and Halewood 4:31 pm, 10th October 2017

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered education funding in south Liverpool.

I am grateful to have obtained this debate about education funding in south Liverpool. I intend to discuss a situation in my part of the Liverpool City Council area and in Halewood, which is in the Garston and Halewood constituency but falls within the Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council area. Some of my Liverpool and Knowsley colleagues will talk a little about the experience of schools in their bits of south Liverpool, and I welcome the fact that they are here to do so.

In February, I began receiving correspondence from headteachers in my constituency about the dire financial situation they face. I sought to get a broader picture by contacting headteachers to see whether the complaints I was receiving were representative of all or most schools, and it soon became clear to me that the budgetary crunch of which those headteachers complained was a widespread concern for headteachers across my constituency. I have been seeking a meeting with Education Ministers to discuss this since the beginning of March, and I am grateful to say that I was finally granted my half-hour meeting with the Minister earlier today—well over seven months later. It took his Department 10 weeks even to reply to my request for a meeting, which I think is rather too long for an MP to have to wait to see a Minister about an urgent problem, although I am glad to see that he has decided to respond to this debate himself. I welcome him to his place.

Following the Conservative election victory in 2015, the then Chancellor decided to cut the schools budget as part of the never-ending policy of austerity and public expenditure cuts, which he was left with as a result of his failure to meet the Lib Dem-Tory coalition Government’s deficit reduction targets, and he duly did so. Despite assurances that core school budgets would be protected, figures showed a planned 8% real-terms reduction in per-pupil spending between 2015 and 2020, and the National Audit Office found that school budgets have been cut by more than £2.7 billion since then. The cost pressures that schools face in addition to those cuts were and are considerable. They include the removal of the education support grant, the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, increases to employer national insurance and pension contributions, the requirement to fund pay awards to staff without additional funds, and the prospect of having to pay for shared services and support services, which local authorities previously provided for free.

Cuts to local authority funding have hit particularly disadvantaged areas such as south Liverpool hard when it comes to shared services and support services for schools, because they have been much larger than those in more affluent parts of the country. Furthermore, the number of pupils who need such services is much higher in areas such as mine. Between 2010 and 2020, Liverpool City Council will have had to face a 68% cut to its available resource, and it still has to find a further £90 million from its already denuded budget over the current spending review period. That is a considerable challenge. Meanwhile, Knowsley’s budget will be slashed by 56% between 2010 and 2020, and it has to find a further £17 million in cuts over the current spending review period. That means that both authorities have been forced either to cut back completely or to charge schools for services and support that used to be provided for free. Unsurprisingly, schools have generally not budgeted for those charges in advance.

On top of those challenges, which were already causing headteachers to worry, there are the Government’s changes to the national funding formula. Although they have the stated aim of making funding fairer—I am sure the Minister will explain how they do that when he gets his chance to speak—they seem to disadvantage the vast majority of schools in my constituency.

Photo of Dan Carden Dan Carden Labour, Liverpool, Walton

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. As she is outlining, this is a funding attack on schools not just in south Liverpool, but across our city and beyond. The education unions have calculated that, after the last revision of the funding formula and the extra money announced before recess, my constituency alone will lose £4 million, or £300 per pupil, by 2020. I hope she will push the Minister for a response to that.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Labour, Garston and Halewood

I will indeed—and I think my hon. Friend has himself just pushed the Minister for a response. I am sure the Minister will want to make some points in reply and set out his understanding of the impact of the national funding formula, which seems not to advantage schools in our area as much as I would like.

Liverpool City Council told me that, according to its calculations, the Garston and Halewood constituency will lose £390 per pupil—a cut of more than £4.5 million between 2015 and 2020—which is not dissimilar to what my hon. Friend said is happening in his area. That is the equivalent of a cut of 125 teaching jobs. The local authority told me that across Liverpool as a whole the loss is £487 per pupil, or a 9% cut overall, and a cut of almost £28.5 million between 2015 and 2020, equivalent to 778 teaching jobs.

The Minister may well say that the revisions that were made to the national funding formula in July and September, with the finding of savings from his Department and the raiding of various capital budgets for £1.3 billion, will make a difference to that, but many of the schools in my constituency have reported to me that they have or are planning to cut teaching and support staff posts. One headteacher of a local primary school, which the Minister’s letter tells me will see an increase of 0.9%, told me that

“the current staffing levels are unsustainable due to the differentials between school income and school expenditure on staff…
The Governors are currently planning a staffing review to identify how we can reduce staffing costs by making teachers and teaching assistants redundant. We need to lose three teachers by 2019 if we are to manage our school budget without going into deficit. This will mean we will not have a qualified teacher in each class, which by law we must have. We are looking ahead at troubled times in schools.”

That is not the only school to have told me it is planning staffing reductions. One school, which has already seen a significant cut in teaching and support staff and a narrowing of the breadth of its curriculum as a result, is now contemplating further reductions to the curriculum, to pastoral staffing and to the length of the school day and the school week.

Some of my schools have been hit particularly hard, according to Liverpool City Council figures. Springwood Heath Primary School in Allerton is a unique school. It is a mainstream primary with enhanced provision places, which integrates children with significant physical and medical needs into its community. The city council projects that it will lose more than £719 per pupil—a 14% cut. Although that may be ameliorated by the changes to the national funding formula, which the Minister will no doubt tell us about later, it is already losing teachers and support staff, and to lose support staff at Springwood Heath is to put at risk the ability of some pupils to continue to attend because they depend on those support staff, who enable them to attend that mainstream school. That would be a particular concern to me. It might be said, “Well, so you lose a few support staff,” but if those staff are ensuring that severely disabled children can attend a mainstream school, that is more than simply losing support staff; it is losing a richness and quality of education that no other school offers. If the Minister comes to Liverpool, which I invite him to do, I hope he visits Springwood Heath Primary School. Then he could tell me whether in his experience there is another school like it. I am not sure that there is.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

A few moments ago my hon. Friend made the point that the evidence is that the funding formula adjustments announced in the summer have not really resolved the problems in south Liverpool. As she is aware, my information is that all bar three of the schools in Knowsley—so this affects her constituency as well—will have either no change or further reduction to their funding. The sort of situations that she described in that one important school will then be played out across Knowsley, to the detriment of the education of the children concerned.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Labour, Garston and Halewood

My right hon. Friend is correct. He and I, as representatives of the borough, know that there is an issue of attainment in Knowsley schools. It is a long-standing one, which we continue to try to tackle, as Governments of all stripes have tried to do. It is certainly not ameliorated and improved by taking money away from schools. That will just deepen and worsen the attainment gap that is already there. If that were to happen, it would be a very great worry.

Liverpool City Council figures also tell me that Stockton Wood Primary School in Speke, one of the most deprived wards in the country, will lose £659 per pupil, which is a 13% cut; Garston Church of England Primary School will lose £616 per pupil, a 12% cut; and Childwall Valley Primary School, in Belle Vale, will lose 12% or £671 per pupil.

Lest the Minister believe that only schools in the most deprived wards are being hit, I can tell him that St Julie’s Catholic High School in Woolton is facing a £555 per pupil cut, which is a 10% cut, and St Francis Xavier’s College—the school that first contacted me to express worries and about which I wrote to his Department in February—is facing a cut of £508 per pupil, or 10%. Given that the school told me at the time that its financial situation was unsustainable and that it has made 13 staff redundant, with a further six posts unfilled, I wonder what the Minister thinks will be the impact on it of the revision to the national funding formula. The revised figures from the National Education Union suggest that SFX will still lose 5% per pupil. His letter tells me that the school will have an increase, but since the new figures were produced no one has told me—certainly not the headteacher, to whom I have spoken—that it will be able to avoid painful decisions about what to do in respect of its provision.

I note that the Minister sent me a letter—as I am sure he did to many other Members—dated 14 September about the impact of his revisions to the national funding formula on schools in my constituency. For the life of me, I cannot work out how he has come to the conclusion that he came to, which is that every school on the list will have an increase in its funding. The Minister’s letter refers to “illustrative figures”, stressing that they are “not actual allocations”, which might provide some clue as to what is going on. There is also an assumption that the new formula is being implemented in full this financial year, without any transition. The baseline figure is from a year subsequent to the one in which the £2.7 billion cuts were implemented, so it is not clear how realistic the figures produced are. All that sounds like a way of saying that the table the Minister has produced contains fantasy figures that bear no relation to what is happening, and that those figures are all mysteriously going up, even though schools and headteachers still tell me that they are facing budget shortfalls that necessitate their cutting teachers and having to consider other painful decisions in order to balance their budgets.

The National Education Union has revised its own list of the impact of the new funding formula to take into account the extra, recycled £1.3 billion of Department for Education money that the Secretary of State announced in July she had found and expanded upon in her statement in September. The NEU figures at least have the merit of setting out their methodology in full: based on the core schools budget, which represents 75% of school spending, and using block funding allocations for 2015-16 as the baseline, the NEU figures compare the 2019-20 amounts for schools in the Government’s NFF document, apply the Office for Budget Responsibility estimate for inflation, and take pupil numbers from the most up-to-date school census. On that basis, 29 of the 31 schools in my constituency lose out, some seeing a cut of up to 12% and many of those with the highest number of pupils receiving free school meals losing the most.

To my mind, that is one of the most pernicious effects of the Government’s new way of funding schools. How can it be right that Middlefield Community Primary School, where 68% of pupils are entitled to free school meals, is set to lose £558 per pupil, a cut of 10%, and that even Enterprise South Liverpool Academy, where 81% of pupils are entitled to free school meals, is losing £61 per pupil, a cut of 1%? I do not call that fair funding; I call that hitting the most deprived communities the hardest.

Providing a good and rounded education for all citizens is one of our society’s greatest benefits and achievements. It also has the merit of being a great leveller, enabling people to make their way in life, to succeed and to make the most effective contribution they possibly can to our society, no matter what the circumstances of their birth. I want all my constituents to be able to benefit from an excellent education. That must start, however, by enabling those born with disadvantages to overcome them and to flourish.

In many of the schools I visit in my constituency, I see teachers and staff striving to deliver those life chances to children and young people who face significant barriers to learning. However, I increasingly see disadvantage being reinforced rather than eliminated. That is being exacerbated by the policies being implemented by this Government. In the Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council area no academic A-level provision is now available—none. That has happened because of funding arrangements that effectively require the same density of pupils who want to study academic A-levels in the most deprived areas as in the most affluent, when in reality there are likely to be fewer, at least until the attainment gap is closed, which in practice has proven stubbornly difficult to achieve.

Last year the last sixth form providing academic A-levels in the borough—Halewood Academy in my constituency—was closed because the school could not attract enough pupils to make it pay at a time when the forced academisation of the school meant that it had to balance its budget. I do not blame the headteacher or the governors for what happened, and I am glad that the academic achievements of the school improved this year—including, ironically, at A-level—but it is not right to make it harder for pupils from deprived areas to get easy access, in their local communities, to the opportunities that studying A-level subjects provide.

The barriers to success are already formidable, without making pupils travel out of area when they are less able to do so because of their families’ financial circumstances. In addition, I do not think it right that multi-academy trusts, all based and run from outside Knowsley MBC’s area, should be able in effect to choose which local pupils they wish to offer opportunities to with no accountability to local communities.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

My hon. Friend is generous in giving way again. She, my hon. Friend Ms Rimmer and I have been pressing the Government to provide support for sixth-form A-level provision in the borough. Does she agree that if we do not get that, the effect on other secondary schools will also be detrimental?

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Labour, Garston and Halewood

I believe it will be—my right hon. Friend is correct. That is essential. I hope that we can make a difference and that the Government will come through to help us get academic A-level provision back in the borough, because if that does not happen, in due course—this will not take long—young families will not locate themselves in Knowsley. They will not think it is a place to bring up their kids unless there is a good chance of their staying in a school all the way through to do their A-levels and to go on to university from there.

Where is the accountability to local parents and communities in the existing arrangement? Knowsley no longer has any community secondary schools and all the academies are controlled by different MATs, all based outside the borough. The local council still has the obligation to provide for education in its area, but it has no levers whatever to pull to affect the provision, except for persuasion. The multi-academy trusts are all controlled elsewhere and will make decisions based on factors that may or may not matter to Knowsley communities but will certainly relate to the financial circumstances of their own organisations. In addition, when the council controlled schools, local people could vote out their councillors if they did not like developments. Now, there is no way for them to affect provision. The MATs have no accountability to the communities whose future they influence so greatly.

I worry that the school provision and funding structure developed by the Government can soon go wrong in areas where there is an attainment issue and can be hard to put right. I worry that provision is now being determined by financial considerations above all else. Communities such as those in my constituency need greater local provision to enable everyone to reach their potential, but that provision is in retreat. I worry that the phenomenon of the loss of sixth forms and academic A-level provision in Knowsley could continue to spread, and that young people soon will have less chance to go down that route if they do not live in a more affluent area that can easily meet the increasingly high numbers of pupils needed to provide academic A-levels.

I would like the Minister to assure me that he is aware of those problems and is determined to reverse those trends, so that young people from the communities of south Liverpool have no fewer chances to reach their potential than those who come from more advantaged areas. If he cannot do so, our education system will have lost one of its great features: the ability to facilitate social mobility and life chances for those whose family circumstances may not give them such opportunities. We will all be poorer for that.

Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Chair, International Development Committee 4:51 pm, 10th October 2017

I congratulate my hon. Friend Maria Eagle on her excellent and powerful speech and on bringing this important issue to the House. I echo what she said about the risks to schools in Liverpool. On Saturday, we had a demonstration against school cuts in Liverpool, organised by Liverpool City Council cabinet member Nick Small, at which the shadow Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend Angela Rayner, spoke. The support there demonstrated the powerful sense in Liverpool that education is a priority for communities and families and that there is real concern about the impact of the proposed funding formula on Liverpool schools.

Let me talk about some of the schools in my constituency. According to schoolcuts.org, Croxteth Community Primary School stands to lose more than £100,000—£381 per pupil. Monksdown Primary School in Norris Green stands to lose £354 per pupil. St Edward’s College, the alma mater of my hon. Friend Dan Carden, stands to lose more than £200,000. St John Bosco, a fantastic school in Croxteth, which the Minister visited with me a few years ago, stands to lose more than £200,000. It is vital that factors such as deprivation, pupil mobility and prior attainment are given due weight when a national funding formula is devised. If they are not, schools in communities such as the one that my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood and I serve in Liverpool risk losing out, which may set back the work that those schools do to improve standards.

Let me raise a separate issue, which has been raised before in this Chamber: the future of our nursery schools. Nursery schools play a critical role in early years. I am proud to have two nursery schools in constituency: East Prescot Road and Ellergreen. They are both rated outstanding by Ofsted, as are the majority of nursery schools across the country. Last month, a Sutton Trust report stated that the Government were too focused on providing quantity over quality in early years, and that social mobility will not improve because things are being implemented at the expense of quality early years education for the most disadvantaged. Nursery schools are the very best of that quality early years education. I hope that the Minister will update us on the Government’s plans for the funding of nursery schools, because that is an important part of the picture, alongside the issues that my hon. Friend rightly raised about the impact of the national funding formula.

Finally, funding is crucial, but high levels of funding—although necessary—are not sufficient to deliver improvement. That is why schools, the local authority and others in Liverpool have come together to launch the Liverpool promise, which is about how we can collaborate to raise standards. An ambition of the Liverpool promise is to provide world-class education and to improve rapidly against national performance indicators. We know, Liverpool schools know and the local authority knows that we need further improvement. A lot of work needs to be done. If we are to deliver that improvement, we need to share best practice and collaborate, and we need to understand why some schools do better than others in the basics of literacy and numeracy. That shared learning and collaboration is at the heart of why we launched the Liverpool promise.

None of us would ever argue that funding is the only solution to the challenges in our education system, but I absolutely concur with my hon. Friend’s powerful point that we need reliability of funding to ensure that schools across Liverpool and, indeed, other core cities are equipped to meet future challenges. I ask the Minister to give some reassurance that the factors that I have described—deprivation, pupil mobility and prior attainment—will feature in the finally agreed funding formula. If they are given due weight, the funding formula may not have the impact on Liverpool schools that we fear it will if it remains as proposed.

Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Labour/Co-operative, Liverpool, Riverside 4:56 pm, 10th October 2017

I congratulate my hon. Friend Maria Eagle on securing this debate, and on her excellent speech. There is such a widespread onslaught on public services that it is often difficult to know which area to focus on, but it is very important that we look at education, because it is about giving young people opportunities. It matters particularly in areas of high deprivation, some of which are in my constituency.

The picture that my hon. Friend painted is reflected in my constituency, where the whole sector—nurseries, primary schools, secondary schools and the City of Liverpool College—is suffering in the same way. It is a great reflection of the ability and commitment of Liverpool City Council that, despite a 68% cut in its overall funding, it has managed to protect some of the education sector. For example, all the nursery schools have been protected, the council is running an extensive and important reading programme, and when the Government cut their building programme, the council raised its own funds to build and expand schools. Indeed, only last week, I was in an extension to Bellerive FCJ Catholic College, where excellent work is being done.

I would like to add my concerns about the impact of the national funding formula on schools in my constituency. The Government claimed originally that the formula meant that areas such as Liverpool would not lose out, and that it was all about giving more help to more deprived areas. That fallacy was exposed, and the Government had to look again at the situation. Although the new formula that they have brought forward is certainly not as bad as the previous one, it does not solve the problems. Indeed, at this very moment, Liverpool City Council is analysing what it really means.

The figures that have been put forward will mean cuts in many schools, and the extent of those cuts are still being looked at. The figures that were advocated and that are now proposed are in fact for only two years; we simply do not know what will happen beyond those two years. Money will be sent away from Liverpool to more prosperous areas of the country, and the money to deal with that will come from existing budgets, including the capital budget and others that have not yet been defined. We simply do not know what impact the formula will have on Liverpool’s schools, but we suspect that it will mean even more cuts.

We have had enough cuts in education; we do not want more. Education is about giving people the best chance for the future. I call on the Minister to spell out clearly what the national funding formula will mean for Liverpool’s schools, including those in my constituency, and to give a commitment that there will be no real-terms funding cuts to essential education services. We owe that to the young people in our areas.

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Labour/Co-operative, Liverpool, Wavertree 4:59 pm, 10th October 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I congratulate my hon. Friend Maria Eagle on securing this important debate and setting out all the issues that our constituents face. I do not believe there is any issue more vital to the future of children in south Liverpool and constituencies such as mine than the quality of their education.

I hope we all understand that a good education, delivered by professional teachers and support staff in a safe, nurturing environment, is the key to future success and fulfilment. Education builds the ladder out of poverty and disadvantage. It provides the doorway to job opportunities, further education and training, and it is the window to a world of opportunities. The Prime Minister talks about a British dream in which each generation does better than the last; surely a decent education is vital to that, so why in our constituencies in south Liverpool is the ladder being pulled up?

In preparing for the debate, I spoke to all my primary and secondary schools about their experiences, and it is fair to say that I was deluged by responses. I visit all my schools weekly, but I was keen to get a snapshot of their current experience. The picture painted for me was alarming and distressing. I want to reflect on the responses I received from the leaders, the headteachers in my constituency. One primary school head wrote:

“My overriding concern talking to colleagues is that the education system is at breaking point. On an increasing number of occasions, it feels like we are the ‘last man standing’
when it comes to dealing with ever more complex social issues. I worry greatly that the whole system is in danger of collapse in the near future.”

Another primary head said:

“We are continually having additional services placed as the responsibility of the school with no extra funding or staff to oversee this…The teaching profession is at an all-time low.”

A third headteacher—this time of a secondary school—said:

“My school has been through two restructurings in recent years as a direct result of real-term budget cuts: in 2015 when 12 posts were cut and in 2017 when three posts were cut. We have had to cut both teaching posts and pastoral posts. We have one part-time counsellor in school whereas previously we had two. It is fair to say that we have no further capacity for reducing the number of teachers or the number of support staff without significantly compromising the education of the young people.”

Reflecting on all those contributions—I have many more—I find them to be incredibly stark representations, particularly on World Mental Health Day.

Our schools are contending with increased numbers of children who are suffering from mental health conditions. We heard from the Children’s Commissioner only yesterday about the experience of our young people. Our schools are really struggling. Many of us here attended a meeting of the Liverpool Association of Secondary Headteachers to hear at first hand their collective experience of trying to do the best by their students, but struggling to ensure that they are cared for and looked after. That is surely the point: the cuts are harming our children’s education in real and significant ways.

I will reflect briefly on points raised by two of my schools, one primary and one secondary, about the impact of the cuts so far—I am not touching on the cuts to come—on both the breadth of curriculum and the experience of our young people. One of my primary schools has had to cut support staff hours to basic levels, which has impacted on the availability of after-school clubs and is having a significant impact on the variety of opportunities and the curriculum for our young people. Music lessons have been cut for years 5 and 6. We often talk in the House about the value of creative education and music, but in my primary schools, that provision is being cut altogether. A native French speaker who supported children in years 3 to 6 with weekly lessons has also been cut. It is all very well teaching French, but we all benefit from hearing from someone who speaks it as their native language.

One of my secondary schools has cut four A-levels, one of which is computing. As a woman who is a keen advocate for improving access to science, technology, engineering and maths, I find that disheartening. I do not have the other subjects in front of me; I am sure they are equally important, but I am particularly concerned about computing. Equally, there has been a cut in posts at that school, which is one of the best secondary schools in the country. I will not name it—I gave my schools the opportunity to speak openly, but they were concerned that their representations might affect them in the future if they were named—but it has had to cut 4.5 teachers since 2015, impacting on young people’s education.

We have heard many representations about the impact of the Government’s plans and the proposed cuts to education, which in Liverpool will equate to £28 million. That is £488 per student. I will not run through the cuts to each of my schools, but they are significant and very, very worrying. As my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood outlined, those figures do not include the cuts to our local authority, which have been significant and had a massive impact on the additional services that we know make a difference, particularly in supporting schools in our area. In total, just under 4,000 primary schoolchildren in Liverpool are being taught in large classes of over 30, which is a rise of 60% since 2011. I could refer to many other elements.

That is the real picture of education in Britain today. We are seeing growing class sizes, fewer teachers, and fewer subjects on offer at A-level. Also, we are not seeing the right equipment in schools. Unbelievably, one school essentially had to sell all its sensory room equipment because it needed to raise funds. We are seeing more children taught by unqualified teachers, often—I pointed to the figures—in packed classrooms. That is what has happened to date; going forward, the national funding formula will take even more money away from the schools that need it the most—our schools are in constituencies with some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country. That is the essence of the debate.

We have seen the human cost of other Government policies in our constituencies. The bedroom tax comes to mind, and we are discussing universal credit at the moment. The national funding formula has the potential to be the latest addition to that list. We have only one chance to educate our children. My message to the Minister is: it is not too late to listen to the teachers, parents and children in our constituencies, and think again to ensure that all children in our area—and across the country—have the opportunities that will serve them well into the future.

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools) 5:07 pm, 10th October 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I congratulate my hon. Friend Maria Eagle on securing this timely debate and standing up for schools in Liverpool. If the Minister feels uncomfortable about the number of Labour MPs facing him, he should remember that I am a Mancunian and so just as uncomfortable.

My hon. Friend spoke eloquently about the problems facing not just south Liverpool but all schools. I also want to congratulate my hon. Friend Stephen Twigg on his excellent speech. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former chief inspector, talked about politicians standing up for schools in their area and raising standards, and my hon. Friend has admirably led the “Liverpool challenge” over the past couple of years by chairing that.

My hon. Friend Mrs Ellman spoke passionately about education being children’s best chance in life. Those of us who represent working-class constituencies like we do know that it is the only silver bullet for advancement there is. If we deny children that, we are all worse off for it. My hon. Friend Luciana Berger talked about testimony after testimony from school after school and the impact that cuts are having. She has led in the House admirably on issues around mental health; nobody has done more on that.

There was an intervention from my right hon. Friend Mr Howarth, who stood up for schools in Knowsley and its A-level provision, which is a long-running sore that was also mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood. We want to see that addressed. There was also an intervention from the Member for Anfield—sorry, my hon. Friend Dan Carden. I will be keeping half an eye on the game on Saturday, even though I come from the blue half of Manchester. I welcome him to his place and also welcome his intervention.

There has been a huge, high-profile campaign by parents, trade unions, teachers and support staff to ensure that our schools are properly funded, yet the Secretary of State has made another concession on the Government’s school funding policy and found £1.3 billion over the next two years from other parts of the Department’s education budget, because unfortunately she lost her fight with the Chancellor. However, schools, teachers, parents and pupils have yet to crack open the champagne. With the Secretary of State having sneaked out her backtrack the day before recess, we have now had the opportunity to examine the detail of her announcement. The £1.3 billion that she announced is nowhere near enough to reverse the £2.8 billion of cuts that schools have suffered since 2015, and the cuts that they are having to implement now because the Government keep pushing back the funding formula and the announcement on the new budget. We also know that none of the money announced so far is actually new money for education. Will the Minister therefore confirm today, in the interests of transparency and accountability, where he plans to cut funding from other areas to fill the black hole that the Secretary of State created just before the recess?

The overall level of education funding is totally inadequate, as has been marvellously and articulately explained by Opposition Members. The devastating cuts to our schools, sixth forms and colleges just carry on and on, and the impact of the real-terms cuts to funding are there for all to see. Schools are having to cut subjects. Children are being taught in super-sized classes. Schools are cutting staff at a time when they are facing a teacher recruitment crisis, with more than 24,000 unqualified teachers working in our state sector since Michael Gove, the former Education Secretary, stopped the rule that school teachers must be qualified. We now require qualified teachers only across the local education authority system, not in free schools and the multi-academy trusts. Schools also have to support vulnerable children, as pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree, and there is not enough special educational needs provision. The strain is there to see.

There are two issues I will push on: the teacher recruitment and retention crisis, and the impact of the cuts on class sizes. It is widely accepted that falling pay levels and increased workload pressures for teachers have been causing problems in teacher recruitment and retention, and school cuts are making matters worse. The National Audit Office, for instance, has found that teacher recruitment is not keeping up. Teacher shortages are reaching crisis point, and the subjects that are vital to our country’s future, such as science and computing, are hardest hit.

What is interesting about the statistics—I will speak more about this on behalf of the shadow education team over the autumn—is that the Government have taken 10,000 to 15,000 teaching posts out of the system since 2010, yet we are still failing to recruit enough teachers. What does that say for the management of the system? As a former teacher, I know that there is no greater investment that Government can make in education than investment in the quality of the teaching. Up to 14,000 classrooms could be without a permanent teacher in this academic year, affecting around 300,000 pupils nationally. Let me get the statistics right: vacant teaching posts have increased by 24% over the past two years, with 9% more teaching vacancies this September than in the same month in 2016. Two thirds of teachers are looking to leave their current role within the next three years. Since 2011—on this Government’s watch—one quarter to one third of all teachers have left the profession since training.

Behind every good teacher is a network of teaching assistants, support staff, assistants, lunchtime organisers and more. They make the school run smoothly, giving teachers space and time for their pupils and lessons. However, the cuts that are ravaging education budgets have seen vital school support posts axed. The Minister might not value these jobs, but we know that parents and teachers do. How can schools provide a safe and secure environment for their children, prevent truancy and deal with pupil behaviour challenges with reduced staff numbers?

We have also seen the impact on class sizes. The first real-terms cuts to school budgets in a generation and reductions in teaching staff mean that pupils are being taught in super-sized classes. Analysis of overcrowding in English primary schools has revealed that more than half a million pupils are being taught in super-sized classes. The mounting pressure on school places is now starting to hit secondary schools, with figures showing an increase in the number of pupils in very large classes in the last year. The Local Government Association has shown that half of councils in England are at risk of being unable to meet the increasing demand for secondary school places within the next five years, and the Government are doing precious little about it.

The south-east and the north-west are two of the worst-hit areas, with the latest figures showing more than 90,000 primary school pupils in classes of more than 30. The number of infant schoolchildren between five and seven years of age in classes of more than 30 has almost trebled since 2010. This situation is unsustainable. If the Minister really wants to give every child the education they deserve, he needs to ensure that children are not being crammed into super-sized classes.

Our key education unions have done a magnificent job in highlighting the cuts to every school up and down the country—that has been credited with causing 750,000 people to switch their votes at the last general election. They have set out five tests for what is required for a fair funding settlement. The fact is that the Minister has failed on every one of them. School cuts have not been reversed; some 88% of schools still face real-terms budget cuts. There is no new money in the education budget, and we are yet to discover where the shortfalls will occur within the Department. High needs, early years and post-16 education will not, as promised, be fairly funded under the new proposals. The Minister has made no long-term funding commitments, so schools are still in limbo. What happens beyond 2020? When can our schools expect the information they need about longer-term funding, so that they can plan their budgets effectively? Yet again, historic underfunding for our schools is not being addressed.

Attainment has been pointed out already. If we draw a line from the Humber estuary to the Mersey estuary, the number of kids living above it on free schools meal achieving five good GCSEs is 34%. If we look at where Labour invested—right here in the capital city, with the London Challenge—50% of kids on free school meals achieve five good GCSEs. The budget cuts are damning everybody with the same outcomes. There are more than half a million children crammed in super-sized classes and more than 24,000 unqualified teachers in schools, up 52% from 2012. While I of course support the principle that schools should receive fair funding, the answer is not to take money away from existing schools and redistribute it when budgets in other areas are being cut. There should be fairness in the funding formula, but there is nothing fair about a proposal under which funding will be cut from high-performing schools in deprived areas. The solution is to invest in education, to help every child receive an excellent education.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Department for Education) 5:17 pm, 10th October 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Sir Edward. I congratulate Maria Eagle on securing this important debate. As she said, we recently met to discuss in detail the funding position of schools in her constituency, and I welcome this opportunity to continue that discussion.

Debating this issue is welcome at a time when the Government have recently announced an increase in school funding, as well as the details of the historic new national funding formula. The Government want to ensure that all children, regardless of where they live, receive a world-class education. Over the past seven years, we have made significant progress: more schools than ever before are rated by Ofsted as good or outstanding, and the attainment gap between those from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds is beginning to close.

That progress has been made despite an unfair national funding system that has failed to take account of significant changes in the challenges faced by schools in different parts of the country. For too long, the unfair distribution of funding between schools has acted, I believe, as a brake on the progress they have been able to make. That is why it is so important that we are delivering on our promise to reform the unfair, opaque and outdated school and high-needs funding systems and introduce a national funding formula.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

I think it is agreed on both sides that the existing funding formula is unfair. Part of the case that my hon. Friend Maria Eagle and I have made is that the recent adjustments somehow succeeded in making it even more unfair for some schools. That does not seem to be a sensible way to deal with this.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Department for Education)

Under the recent adjustments, according to the national funding formula, all schools will gain funding: no school will lose money or face a cut in funding, despite what has been claimed by the National Education Union, and despite what hon. Members have said during the debate. In fact, funding for schools across Knowsley will increase on average by 7.1%. I did not hear the right hon. Gentleman mention that in either of his interventions.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Department for Education)

I will not give way because there is a very short amount of time left, but I will come to the hon. Lady’s comments shortly.

It cannot be right that local authorities with similar needs and characteristics receive very different levels of funding from central Government. Across the country, schools teaching children with the same needs get markedly different amounts of money for no good reason. At the heart of the problem is the fact that the data used to allocate funding to local authorities are over a decade out of date, leading to manifest unfairness in how funding is distributed. This year, Nottingham, for example, will receive £555 more per pupil than Halton, despite having equal proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals.

Funding for each area has been determined by simply rolling forward the previous year’s allocation, adjusting only for changes in the total number of pupils in each area and ignoring everything else. The proportion of secondary pupils eligible for free school meals in London, for example, fell from 22.4% in 2007 to 17% in 2017, compared with a decline nationally from 13.1% to 12.9%, but the funding system has paid no attention to that significant shift. That is not a rational, fair or efficient system for distributing money to our schools.

That is why the Government are reforming the existing system with the introduction of a national funding formula for schools and high needs. Informed by the consultation that we undertook, with 26,000 responses, we will introduce a national funding formula from April 2018, ending the current unfair postcode lottery system. For the first time, the funding system will deliver resources on a consistent and transparent basis, right across the country, reflecting local needs.

Last month, we published full details of both the school and high needs national funding formulae and the impact they will have for every local authority. We have also published notional school-level allocations showing what each school would attract through the formula. It means that everyone can see what the national funding formula will mean for them and understand why. It is notional because we are taking the national funding formula as though it had been fully implemented in this financial year, 2017 to 2018, so that people and schools can see what the effects of that formula would be on their schools with those particular pupils this year. It is a very effective way of describing what will happen under the formula. The actual funding will depend on the actual pupils at that school next year, and we will make announcements nearer the time in the usual way.

To provide stability for schools through the transition to the national funding formula, for the next two years local authorities will continue to set their own local formulae in consultation with local schools and the schools forum. That element of flexibility will allow them to respond to changes as they come through and take account of local issues.

As well as a fairer distribution of funding, the total quantum available is also important. We want schools to have the resources they need to deliver a world-class education for their pupils. We understand that, just like other public services, schools are facing cost pressures. In recognition of those facts, the Secretary of State announced in July an additional £1.3 billion for schools and high needs across 2018-19 and 2019-20, in addition to the funding confirmed at the 2015 spending review.

The additional funding will be distributed across the next two years as we implement the national funding formula. Core funding for schools and high needs will rise from nearly £41 billion this financial year—itself a record high in school funding—to £42.4 billion in 2018-19 and to £43.5 billion in 2019-20. Overall, that means that the total schools budget will increase by over 6% between this year and 2019-20. That will mean that funding per pupil for schools and high needs will now be maintained in real terms for the remaining two years of the spending review.

The additional funding that we have announced means that we can provide a cash increase in respect of every school and every local authority area from April 2018. In the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood’s constituency, once the new formula is implemented in full, there will be an extra £1.3 million for block funding—an increase of 2.4%. Belle Vale Community Primary School will not face a cut in funding; it will have a 3% increase. Enterprise South Liverpool Academy will not face a cut in spending; it will have a 5.2% increase of £179,000. Gateacre School will not face a cut; it will have a 3.5% increase. Halewood Academy will not face a cut; it will have an 8.2% increase. Middlefield Community Primary School will have a 1.2% increase. St Francis Xavier’s College will have a 1% increase and Yew Tree Community Primary School will have a 5% increase in funding. None of the schools that I have not mentioned in the hon. Lady’s constituency will lose money; they will all gain about 1% or more.

Dan Carden said that there will be cuts of £390 per pupil. In fact, in his constituency there will be a £1.1 million increase in funding, equal to 1.6%.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Department for Education)

I will not give way, because we are very short of time now. As I said, across the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood’s constituency there will be a £3 million increase in funding. Stephen Twigg talked about cuts to funding in his schools. Croxteth Community Primary School will gain a 0.9% increase; Monksdown Primary, a 0.9% increase; St Edward’s College, a 1% increase; and St John Bosco Arts College—I enjoyed visiting that school—a 0.9% increase.

I can confirm that deprivation, mobility and low prior attainment are very significant factors in the funding formula. That is something that the Secretary of State was determined to have in the formula that we consulted on. Funding will increase by £0.6 million in schools in the constituency of Mrs Ellman—some 1.2% according to the national funding formula.

The extra £1.3 billion that we are investing means we will be able to go over and above our manifesto commitment that no school should lose funding as a result of the introduction of the national funding formula. Now, every school will attract at least 0.5% more per pupil in 2018-19 and 1% more in 2019-20. That change will have a particularly positive impact in Garston and Halewood: 23 of the 32 schools will gain through the formula as a result of the decision to raise the funding floor. I trust that the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood will welcome those changes when she has a chance to consider them more reflectively.

Following the strong representations that we received during the consultation, the formula will also provide all secondary schools with minimum per-pupil funding of £4,800 in 2019-20 and all primary schools with £3,500. In 2018-19, as a step towards those minimum funding levels, secondary schools will attract at least £4,600 and primary schools will attract £3,300. That new minimum level will recognise the challenges of the very lowest funded schools, including 14 schools across Liverpool. The changes delivered by the national funding formula will mean both Liverpool and Knowsley will be among the 10 highest-funded local authorities per pupil outside London.

We are particularly focused on supporting children who face the greatest barriers to success. That is why we are also committed to reforming the funding for children and young people with high and special needs. We are finally moving towards a more rational basis for distributing funding for children and young people with high needs, taking into account an up-to-date assessment of the level of need in each area.

The additional investment we are putting in means that every local authority will see a minimum increase in high needs funding of 0.5% in 2018-19 and 1% in 2019-20, but for south Liverpool, a fair allocation of resources means an even more significant increase in funding. Once our formula is implemented in full, Liverpool will see an increase of 17.1%, compared with their planned high needs spending in 2017-18, with Knowsley gaining 4.5%.

Moving towards this full formula allocation, local authorities will receive up to 3% per head gains a year for the next two years. As important as the fair allocation of funding is how that funding is used in practice. We are committed to helping schools improve outcomes for pupils and to promote social mobility by ensuring that they get the best value from all their resources.

In conclusion, I thank the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood and other Members from the Liverpool area for taking part in this important debate. The Government will continue to support England’s schools by providing more funding than ever before, by making sure that that funding is distributed fairly and to where it is needed most and by helping schools to achieve more with that funding. That will help schools to sustain and improve the rapid progress our children and young people are making under this Government.

Introducing fair funding is an historic and necessary reform—one that previous Governments have avoided for too long. Thanks to the commitment of this Government to addressing issues of unfairness in our society, for the first time we have a clear and transparent system that matches funding to children’s needs and the needs of the schools that they attend. It will help all schools to deliver the high-quality education that their pupils deserve and it will ensure that all pupils are able to fulfil their potential.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered education funding in south Liverpool.

Sitting adjourned.