I beg to move,
That this House
has considered school funding.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I wanted to keep the title of the debate broad because school funding does not have the same impact in all areas. We must continue to ensure that all our children get an excellent education regardless of where they live, and that all our schools have the money in place to provide that.
I am sure that hon. Members welcome the record levels of funding going to our schools. The simple facts tell us that, overall, more money is being spent, and that is a good thing, but schools are not feeling the effects of that increase. We must differentiate between the schools budget and the teaching budget: more money is being spent on education, but that does not necessarily filter its way down to the experience for all pupils and teachers.
Last month I met local headteachers and parents as part of a Fair Funding For All Schools campaign that has been going up and down the country, which colleagues may have seen. The overall view of the group was that we need more resources in our schools budget, but they were disappointed by the line repeated by the Government that more money than ever is going into our schools. Although that may be the case, the schools are not necessarily able to feel the effects of the increase, due to the ever-rising costs and additional financial burdens placed upon them.
I thank the hon. Lady for giving way—I suspect that I will be the first of many to intervene. I have done a survey of a number of schools in Coventry. Headteachers tells me that they have a number of funding problems. For example, in Coventry they have probably lost something like £295 per pupil over the past seven years. I acknowledge that the Government have put £1.5 billion back in, but they also have a shortfall of about £3 billion from cuts some years ago. Does she agree—I doubt she will—that one of the big problems is the need for specialist teachers for children with special needs?
The hon. Gentleman is pre-empting my speech; I will deal with special educational needs because they are of great concern.
If the Minister meets headteachers in Coventry or in my constituency, they may well tell him that the reality is that the current budget is not enough. Sian Kilpatrick of Bernards Heath Junior School told me that recently she wrote to parents to explain the financial squeeze that her school faces. Mrs Kilpatrick compiled a helpful list of all the additional things that she has to allocate funding to in order to keep her school running—I will not go through them all, but I am happy to share the list with the Minister. The things she outlined include: outdoor vital risk assessments, legal human resources advice, general maintenance costs and staff insurance payments. Those are just some of the additional costs that schools have to find money for. On top of that, she had to pay £8,000 to get her trees pruned.
Surely one of the problems is that different campaign groups, and indeed the Department for Education, use headline figures that vary from organisation to organisation. In working together to achieve a solution to the problem, it is not particularly helpful for words such as “deceptive” and “dishonest” to be used by one campaign against another or against the Department. Does my hon. Friend agree that there should be a much firmer grip on the use of language by the campaign groups?
I cannot comment on the campaign groups; I am commenting on what the headteachers in St Albans said, and no one used the words “deceptive” or “dishonest.” The purpose of my being here today is to ensure that there is a degree of clarity about where the funding goes. The headline is that we are putting more into schools—and we are—but the reality on the ground is that teachers face undue pressures. I want to highlight that. I cannot accept anyone’s use of inappropriate language—that is not fair on either side of the argument. We must be respectful of the pressures faced by the schools and by the Minister.
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, will meet in half an hour to discuss education issues in Northern Ireland—to be fair, they are not the Minister’s responsibility. In Northern Ireland, teachers, schools and boards of governors have to decide whether to pay for a teacher or to increase class sizes, thereby affecting the quality of education. Are those the sorts of decisions being made in the hon. Lady constituency, as they are in mine?
My teachers did not exactly raise class sizes, although it was covered in the round that that was a problem. They raised the problem of not being able to refurbish toilets, pay for much-needed decoration or replace outdated PCs in their IT suites.
I am sure that the Minister will agree that the picture varies, but the signs indicate that schools are not benefiting universally, as we would wish them to, from the new funding formula. Many schools I have spoken to have reiterated that the national funding formula must cover the funding needed for schools, not just the pupil-led aspect. Pupils and parents expect those schools to be fit for purpose as well as to provide lessons. We must address the concerns raised by teachers; we must not hide behind any basic facts of a rise in per-pupil funding. We must look at this issue in the round.
The Minister said that he is in listening mode. I hope that the Government will look carefully at parents’ requests to direct money to special educational needs, as Mr Cunningham outlined. The Department for Education reports that we have upwards of 1 million pupils with special educational needs in our school— a number that has risen significantly in recent years and is 14% of school pupils. I welcome the news that the Government have committed to improve funding for SEN pupils and that a further £1 billion has been put into this fund since 2013. Those are good things, but we must look at whether they are sufficient.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this important debate. There is an anomaly that schools that accept pupils from poorer backgrounds are rewarded and encouraged by the pupil premium that those schools attract for taking those children, but for children with additional or special needs the first 11 hours of the education, health and care plans are funded by the local school, which often places a financial burden on it. There is therefore a disincentive for schools to take on children from those backgrounds who have additional special needs.
I completely agree. I will touch on that issue later in my speech. Links Academy in St Albans says that it is mopping up the very pupils that the hon. Gentleman says are being cold shouldered or refused positions elsewhere.
The National Association of Head Teachers carried out a survey on SEN funding, and a mere 2% of those surveyed said that the top-up funding received was sufficient to meet the growing needs of SEN pupils. That was recognised by both teachers and parents in St Albans. Inevitably, that will have an impact on the way that schools look after SEN pupils. Department for Education figures say we have 2,800 fewer teaching assistants and 2,600 fewer support staff in our schools. That puts even more pressure on teachers and can be especially challenging for teachers dealing with SEN pupils. The increased amount of money paid to some of those who are lower paid and work as assistants or support staff was welcome, but it puts an additional pressure on school resources. We welcome the additional funds for people paid lower wages but we must recognise the true impact.
To return to the remarks of Tim Farron, I have been in contact with David Allen, headmaster of Links Academy, which I recently visited, and he welcomes pupils with special needs. He described his despair at the rising number of SEN pupils being permanently excluded from mainstream schools. In fact, I was due to meet him there on Thursday with parents and the SEN group, but as soon as the SEN group heard that I was coming, it said it would pull out. Unfortunately, I have had to pull out in order to ensure a fair hearing for the pupil in that school. I was concerned to hear that SEN children are regularly subjected to bullying at school and have resorted to either drugs or knife crime as a result—that is anecdotal and not in my schools in St Albans, but the teacher has backed that up.
The hon. Lady is making some very important points on behalf of pupils with special educational needs. The Department for Education’s statistics show that at the start of this year 4,500 pupils with a statutory right to special educational needs support were not in school at all; they were awaiting a suitable place, and a lot of them were being home schooled because they could not get a place. That is only the tip of the iceberg, because those are only the pupils with a special education need statement or an education, health and care plan. The actual number of young people with special educational needs who are not in school is even higher.
I completely accept the picture that the hon. Lady paints. If we are here to do anything, it is to try to move forward consensually—education is not a hot potato that we can repeatedly pick up and drop. She mentioned statementing for children with special educational needs. Parents tell me that there is sometimes reluctance to statement a child because of the extra resources that should automatically be associated with that. We must look into that, too.
Instead of stepping in and helping SEN children, some mainstream schools permanently exclude pupils, as the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale mentioned, and academies such as Links in my constituency pick up the pieces. As a result of funding pressures, mainstream schools do not always have the staff or resources to care for those children. I have heard parents say that when they contact a mainstream school that has places—this is what Lilian Greenwood referred to—but inform it that their child has a special educational need, they suddenly find that the place is no longer available. That is a primary concern for teachers, and I hope that the Minister will set out his plans to secure and correctly direct SEN teaching resources, which are absolutely needed.
Has the hon. Lady heard from her local schools, as I have, that one of the barriers to getting a statement in the first place is the severe underfunding of child and adolescent mental health services? It is necessary to go through CAMHS to secure an EHCP. The referral time used to be six months, which frankly is a long time in a young child’s life, but in Oxfordshire it now averages two years.
Staff and staffing costs are under severe pressure. Schools cite increased staffing costs, and the amount of their budget that those costs take up, as their main concern. WorthLess? surveyed headteachers as part of its fairer funding campaign and found that 60% had had to reduce their staff by one or more to balance their budget. That goes back to the pressures I mentioned.
Sandringham School in my constituency, which hosted the public meeting I attended—it was quite a rocky meeting, but I said I would bring back people’s concerns—explained to me its issues with staff pay rises, national insurance and pension contributions, and teacher recruitment shortfalls. Many schools across the country are grappling with those four key issues. In an area such as mine, where house prices and the cost of living are very high, wages sometimes just cannot keep up so that teachers are able to live in the constituency and work in its schools.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. Although I welcome the extra £3.5 million per annum for North East Hampshire’s schools as a result of funding adjustments, there is still a big divergence in per-pupil funding across the country. That is entirely in line with her point about the cost of staffing, which has no relationship with per-pupil funding, given the high cost of living in Hampshire and elsewhere. Does she agree that it is important that future funding formulas take proper account of the cost of living?
As a former teacher, I know that there are teachers who argue vociferously for universal pay standards across the country and dispute the need for pay to reflect local house prices and so on. That is a debate for another day. However, teachers in my area say—this is awful, but I accept it—that when a valued, top-of-the-range headteacher or head of department goes, there can be a small, collective sigh of relief in the budget department because that means the school can take on a younger, less experienced teacher on a lower pay scale and the budget suddenly becomes a little looser.
It is demoralising for a school not to be able to reward and keep high-value staff because it simply does not have the money to pay them. I am experiencing that cycle in St Albans, where staff are hard to retain. Although it is great to have bright young things—I was one of those once—coming through the door, with all the enthusiasm they bring to teaching, there is nothing like an experienced head of department.
There is widespread unhappiness about the handling of the recent teacher pay rise announcement. The key problem is that schools themselves have to fund the first 1% of that pay rise, which we so generously allocated them but did not provide additional funding to support them with. Declan Linnane, the head of Nichols Breakspear School in St Albans, told me that that 1% alone will cost his school £30,000—money it will have to find from yet further efficiency savings or another member of staff in already difficult times.
With rising national insurance contributions and an impending increase in employer pension contributions, schools are under huge pressure to find more savings at the cost of our pupils’ education. Increasing staffing costs have a huge impact on schools’ budgets. Removing the need for schools to fund the first 1% of pay increases themselves would be welcome. I wonder whether the Minister is in a generous mood and would like to make a grab on the Chancellor’s Budget.
Schools are interested in the Government’s proposal to create a central staffing database to reduce agency fees. Agency staff are a big issue for many schools, which often cannot retain staff and are obliged to use agency staff as cover, or run their staff so tightly that there is no slack in the system if a staff member goes ill, for example. I would be grateful if the Minister updated me on that database and when headteachers should expect it to be available.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies, which reported last month on education funding in England, found that per-pupil school spending has fallen by 8% in real terms since 2010. That must be considered alongside the fact that, according to the DFE’s own figures, half a million more pupils are in our schools now than in 2010. The IFS also reported that school sixth forms have endured a 21% reduction in per-pupil spending since 2011, and it estimates that by 2019-20 spending per sixth-form pupil will be lower than at any point since 2002.
Those are worrying statistics, which address many of the real concerns of teachers and parents in St Albans. We must aim for funding that meets the needs of schools across the country—as my hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena) said, certain parts of the country are really struggling—and allows them to deliver excellent teaching that inspires pupils to succeed in life.
Worryingly, we have also heard reports of schools having to use the pupil premium to fund their core budget. A recent poll of headteachers found that 70% had dipped into the pupil premium to prop up their core budget. That is borne out in St Albans, where we are aware that happens. It should be of real concern that a fund designed to help students from the most disadvantaged families has to be used for overall school spending. That cannot be right.
Schools are also concerned about their lack of ability to plan their finances. With the NFF being introduced over a number of years and uncertainty about how it will affect individual schools, headteachers are unwilling to commit to long-term planning. That was reflected in a poll of headteachers, which found that 90% feel the NFF has given them no long-term financial certainty and has resulted in no “meaningful financial planning” being carried out beyond year 1.
I do not just take things at face value. Trading statistics is never good, as I said at the public meeting I mentioned. I believe in listening to what teachers say, and they say they are struggling to do long-term planning under the current system. They need longer-term certainty about their budgets.
Does the hon. Lady agree that the problem with long-term planning and wriggle room in budgets is even greater for smaller schools? In constituencies such as mine there are lots of very small, very good schools of 30 children or even fewer. If a large school has a bad period in which it has an issue with leadership, a poor Ofsted report or whatever, it can absorb the effect of getting fewer pupils as a consequence and still be able to plan ahead. However, that could be curtains for a small school, which would mean a community losing its school for good.
I do not have experience of that, but I recognise the picture the hon. Gentleman paints. It is vital that we address those concerns about funding.
The UK tax burden is at a 50-year high, so the Minister will be pleased to hear that I do not propose additional tax rises. We are at the limit of how much tax we can reasonably ask ordinary people to pay. Working families have felt the squeeze since 2010 as the Government have tried to tackle the enormous financial burden we found ourselves with. It is good that we have made progress. Far be it from me to tell the Chancellor how to do his job, but the Budget is looming, so I am going to put my thoughts on the record. I am certain that the Government can find the money if we prioritise our spending appropriately.
We had a manifesto commitment—the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale will probably profoundly disagree with me about this—to scrap universal free school meals for reception, year 1 and year 2 pupils, but it was dropped. That was misguided. I and some of the teachers who were at the meeting I mentioned think we should have investigated that further. Thankfully, in St Albans only around 6% of pupils are entitled to free school meals. In Hertfordshire overall that figure is about 8%. Perversely, that means we subsidise between 90% and 94% of parents in Hertfordshire who could pay for their own children to be fed. Just as I do not want budgets that should be used for pupils at the poorest margin to be taken away, I do not want wealthier parents to be cross-subsidised when they do not need it. Such largesse is costing my local authority £6 million, and it is money that should be spent on teaching. I would rather St Albans pupils received a universal quality of teaching than that those with more affluent parents should receive a gratuitous free lunch they are not entitled to.
I am a great supporter of the good aid projects that have been carried out around the world, but, again, it seems crazy to me that we ring-fence huge sums of money for foreign aid when vital public services such as the education budget lack funding. The aid budget should be under the same scrutiny and pressures as other Departments’ budgets. We are effectively shovelling money out the door to meet an arbitrary target set in law. That misplaced policy should be brought before the House so we can decide whether to look at that ring-fencing.
I hope that the Minister will listen carefully to the issues raised in the debate, including some of the experiences recounted by teachers and parents. There is a funding problem in schools and it does not seem right that more and more schools have to go cap in hand to parents for even the most basic of provisions, such as textbooks. Alan Gray started the public meeting I attended by asking “What price education?” He did not ask the price for pruning trees, painting the classrooms or replacing some broken paving slabs, but the price of education. Of course it is entirely reasonable for parents to be asked for contributions for bonus offerings such as trips, but when they are asked to contribute for vital reading materials, the central funding formula needs to be addressed.
Teachers in my constituency do not tell me that the NFF is bad policy; they want it to be funded correctly. The aim of ending the so-called postcode lottery for school funding under the NFF is sensible, but the lack of overall funding means that it is difficult to deliver. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response, and I hope to see some movement on the issue in the Budget. We must answer the call: what price do we put on our children’s education?
Six hon. Members want to speak in the debate, and we have to start the winding-up speeches at 20 minutes to 11. That gives us about 50 minutes, so Members have about eight minutes each, maximum.
It is a pleasure to follow Mrs Main, who I congratulate on securing the debate. For the first 19 minutes of her speech she sounded as if she was reading a Labour party brief, and I was about to get out a membership form to pass across to her. It was just the last two minutes that spoiled it slightly, and I am afraid as a result I cannot pass the form across after all. I certainly recognise her analysis of some of the problems that affect our schools’ finances.
I am the only London Member present, so if Members will forgive me, I shall dwell predominantly, parochially, on my own borough and mention at least one issue that affects London schools in particular. The one thing missing from the analysis given by the hon. Member for St Albans—if I may gently chide her—was consideration of the impact of cuts in general local authority funding. As a result of those cuts, most of the support that used to be available from local authorities to help schools in difficult circumstances is no longer there. Schools have had to find their own solutions—some with considerable success and others with less. That is part of the backdrop that we need to consider.
I am privileged to represent schools that, according to independent analysis by the Education Policy Institute, are in the borough that provides the best education in the country—from starting school to leaving school. The increase in achievement is, apparently, best in Harrow, according to the institute. I give particular credit to the teachers, parents and leadership of my borough’s schools, and as a former teacher I recognise the huge contribution to the country that teachers and other professionals in schools make. I want to highlight the pressures that schools in my constituency face. I should acknowledge the generous offer of the Minister for School Standards, who is responding to the debate, to receive a delegation of headteachers from Harrow. We are in the process of organising that. I hope to persuade him not only to meet the delegation but to come to Harrow to see one or two schools in my constituency that face particularly challenging circumstances.
The average annual cost implication of the financial pressures on schools in my constituency—for the current 12 months, compared with the previous 12 months—is more than £203,000 for a secondary school and more than £70,000 of additional net costs for a primary school. That comes from the increase in non-teaching pay awards, non-teaching pensions, the apprenticeship levy, the estimated likely increase in teaching pay awards and other aspects of the incremental costs that come with teachers’ pay rises. It does not include any increase in the cost of pensions. There are pay pressures as the result of rises in utility costs and there is reduced income, in particular for primary schools, which are experiencing annual reductions, related to pupils in receipt of pupil premium grant, of on average £10,000. I have described average pressures, with an assumption that average school budgets are cash flat, but in Harrow some 25% of schools that are currently protected by the minimum funding guarantee expect to lose roughly 1.5% of their pupil budget per annum, as a result of the way that the minimum funding guarantee works. That could equate to a cash reduction of a further £20,000 to £30,000 per annum.
For a primary school, losing £70,000 a year equates on average to the cost of one to two teachers. For a secondary school, an average loss of £200,000 is the equivalent of four teachers. As the hon. Lady said, school headteachers and governors are trying to find ways to protect the experienced teachers who add the most value to a child’s education, but experienced teachers who go are often replaced by a newly qualified teacher. Many of those are, as the hon. Lady said she once was, bright young things. They are enthusiastic and skilled and have a huge contribution to make, but they do not have the same experience, and that is a significant problem. Alternatively, teaching assistants can be lost, as is happening in my constituency. That has a particular impact on those with special educational needs, and there is a knock-on effect on other young people in those classes.
The hon. Lady rightly dwelt on the funding crisis for special educational needs. There has been some helpful media coverage of that, of late. I understand that roughly half of London boroughs face significant shortfalls in funding. They are overspending on SEN budgets, such has been the growth in the pressures. That is partly caused by some helpful changes in connection with the conclusion of the SEN funding review, leading to an increase in the number of post-16 and post-19 SEN children deemed eligible for funding, as well as general demographic growth and the fact that the formula for SEN is currently based on historical data on children aged five to 15, and does not reflect the post-19 inclusion.
Another particularly helpful aspect of the hon. Lady’s speech was the reference to sixth form provision. There been an 8% real-terms cut for every school, as concluded by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, but the 21% cut affecting sixth forms is a particular pressure for St Dominic’s Sixth Form College in my constituency. While I hope that there will be a general funding increase for education, I hope that Ministers will look particularly at sixth forms in that respect.
Lastly, I ask the Minister to come to Grange Farm or Norbury Primary Schools in my constituency. Their headteachers are remarkable individuals who are hugely passionate and determined to do what they can for their children. Nevertheless, given the housing crisis in London, the number of pupils who move on a regular basis, and the scale of the diversity challenge, financial pressures are adding to the general problems facing those schools, and I would be keen to host the Minister on a visit to Harrow to improve his education on the school funding crisis.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mrs Main for securing this important debate, but there is a sense of déjà vu. Over the past few years I have participated in many debates in Westminster Hall and the main Chamber on school funding, and two years ago there was a debate specifically on school funding in West Sussex, which is what I will concentrate on today. As my hon. Friend said, progress has been made with the new funding formula, but for many of us that is just work in progress. It was a move in the right direction, but it has not yet reached the destination of genuinely fair funding.
West Sussex was able to secure an additional £29.8 million funding as part of the £1.3 billion that the Government added last year, but that must been seen in the context of pupil numbers that are up substantially and the funding pressures coming down the line, such as teachers’ pay, national insurance and the other points raised by my hon. Friend. We will all plead the case for our own areas, but West Sussex has consistently been at the bottom of the table. We were the second to lowest funded local authority in the country, and with the additional money we have now gone to being the eighth lowest funded per unit for primary schools, and the sixth lowest for secondary funding. We have gone from being at the bottom of the lowest decile to nearer the top of the lowest decile. There is still a long way to go, as the Minister will be only too aware, given that he, too, represents a West Sussex constituency.
There is great confusion about what has happened to funding in real terms. Many figures have been bandied around, with banners outside schools saying that West Sussex has lost x millions of pounds. Because of the funding formula and the complications of how the deprivation, prior attainment and rural sparsity factors work, we need greater clarity on exactly what we are getting and where the money is going.
Everybody is arguing that more money is coming into the coffers of local schools—that is plainly a fact. It is a question of how many pupils that money has to be spread across, increasing pressures on that funding, and what is left over to fund the basic education of children. It is no good saying that less money is going into schools; it is not. It is just not enough, given all those other factors.
In West Sussex we have the cumulative effect over many years of consistently being right at the bottom of the heap, so that all those savings have been used up years ago and many of my schools are running on empty. Despite that, many schools in my constituency are doing an outstanding job, such as Eastbrook Primary Academy in Southwick, St Nicolas and St Mary Primary in Shoreham, Shoreham Academy, Sompting Village School in Sompting, and Vale School in Worthing, to name just a few schools that have been consistently outstanding and good, despite all those factors. They are a mix of academies, faith schools and local authority schools—I give preference to no particular type of school, and indeed we have no free schools in my constituency. As has been said, there is a particular problem with special needs schools that are not covered by the new fair funding formula, although the numbers of pupils coming forward with severe educational needs has increased. Fantastic schools such as Herons Dale School in Shoreham are suffering huge pressures, and we are seeing the effect on pupils.
I want to concentrate on real examples, not just talk in the round. Last year I invited every head of every school in my constituency to a couple of roundtables to tell me exactly what was going on in their schools—it was not about fears of what might happen, but about what was going on and how they set their budgets there and then. This year I repeated that exercise with the chairs of governors from all schools in my constituency. As a result of those findings, I wrote a lengthy letter to the Education Secretary—I have just had a reply from the Minister—in which I gave real life examples.
There were many common factors, and in the consultation on the fair funding formula, 9% of 25,222 responses that the Department for Education received came from West Sussex. That hugely dis- proportionate figure shows how important this issue is in our part of the world. Common issues were that staffing costs, in some cases, were 90% of a school’s budget. Some years ago they would typically have been nearer 80%, and beyond that figure it becomes unsustainable for many schools. There have been many redundancies and fewer working hours, and non-returning maternity leave cases are commonplace. Senior leadership teams are covering classes to remove the need for supply teachers, and extracurricular activities and trips are being culled due to cost. Infrastructure investment and development is being delayed or ruled out completely.
Let me give a few examples from schools. One medium-sized primary school has reduced teaching assistant support by more than 200 hours and has not replaced its inclusion co-ordinator. It is unable to replace ageing and antiquated IT equipment. A junior school now has a deficit of £40,000, and will require an additional £220,000 for salaries over the next few years. Class sizes are typically 32 or 33 since 113 more pupils came into the school, yet there was an equivalent increase in full-time teachers of 0.8%. Schools are not losing funds because they are losing pupils; they are attracting pupils and yet they do not have the funds to get the teaching cover they need. The professional development budget was between £3,000 and £5,000, but it is now zero. The extended curriculum budget was around £20,000, but it is now £500. The learning resources budget was £120,000, and is now £35,000. There will be a deficit, and in that school 87% of expenditure is on staff salaries and overtime.
In a medium-sized primary school, non-qualified teachers such as high-level teaching assistants are being used to cover classes so that the school cuts the cost of supply staff, and numerous cuts to teaching assistant posts are creating greater workloads for teachers. Schools are unable to pay overtime. Counselling levels have fallen due to cutbacks, and that will be a soft target for further cuts in future. That is a particularly big worry to me because it will create greater pressures on those pupils who require greater attention and resources. They will then fall further behind at school, and they will not get the opportunity to make that time up if we do not deal with the issue soon. In too many cases the waiting list for counselling in school or beyond is many months, and during that time a condition can fester. I have many more practical examples. That is not scaremongering; this is going on now, and this is how governors and heads have to set their budgets to effect those constraints.
What can we do? I have three suggestions. First, the Minister absolutely must lobby as part of the comprehensive spending review and say that the shortfall in funding is a false economy in the extreme. Secondly, it was disappointing that the full teachers’ pay was not covered centrally—just the additional pay over that 1%, and there have been questions about some teachers not getting that full coverage over the 1%. Finally, I suggest that West Sussex, and other coastal areas where there are particular problems of deprivation and high costs, should have something like a coastal communities challenge fund, just as the London Challenge fund in 2003 addressed some of the difficulties in places where affluent areas mask areas of real deprivation, such as those found typically on the south coast, the Kent coast and other parts of the country. I ask the Government to look seriously at addressing the serious deficit in parts of the country such as West Sussex, because we are feeling the effects of it now.
I congratulate Mrs Main on securing this timely debate.
For some years, school funding in Devon has been a growing concern, expressed on a cross-party basis. My area in the far south-west is a true representation of the wider picture in Devon of not getting our fair share of resources. Last Friday I held my monthly “Politics and Pastries” roundtable, where I fed pastries to some of our hard-working headteachers and got information out of them about the state of education in Plymouth. They listed as their top concerns the pressure on finances, the lack of support for mental health and the urgent need to fund the Plymouth Challenge.
As the proud son of a teacher, I know how hard teachers work. Each of them is full of love for their profession, their students and the subjects they teach, but it is fair to say that at the moment our education system is being held together by good will. I thank Plymouth’s teachers, teaching assistants, support staff, other professionals and volunteers for all they do, but all too often their spark is being put out. Too many are left frustrated and demoralised by the double whammy of a lack of support and an increase in pressure to do more with less.
My argument today is a simple one: every child matters. All children, whether from the north, the south, the east or the west, from London or Plymouth, should be valued equally and have a fair slice of the funding cake. That children in one part of the country should be valued the same as those in another is surely a principle that we can all agree on, but schools across Plymouth have suffered consistent underfunding, especially since 2010. Plymouth has one of the lowest education spends per head in the United Kingdom. Each of our children, on average, is valued £415 less than a child in a London postcode, and £300 less than the national average. A Plymouth child is not worth any less than any other child anywhere else in the country, and the value for their education should reflect that and not treat them as being worth less.
Cuts have consequences; the shortfall has had a damaging impact on students in Plymouth, who continue to fall behind the national average in academic performance. That is not because our teachers are not working hard enough, but simply because the resources are not there to give those children the educational excellence they deserve under fair funding. Plymouth schools face a vicious cycle of cuts and increased costs that worsen existing conditions. Class sizes have increased and the numbers of teachers and teaching assistants have decreased. It is worth remembering that some of the poorest and most vulnerable students in our communities are increasingly in the most underfunded schools.
The contrast is clear when we compare Plymouth with London. In the capital, nine out of 10 children go to a good or outstanding school, while in Plymouth only five in 10 children do so. If every child matters, why is it that children in the far south-west are worth less than those in other parts of the country? Why are schoolkids in Plymouth not being given the fair chance to succeed?
I have three simple asks for the Minister, to help our teachers and to stop our children falling behind. First, I would like him to consider reviewing and removing the 3% maximum gains cap that is part of the national funding formula. One of the key principles of the national funding formula consultation was that pupils with similar characteristics should attract similar levels of funding wherever they are in the country. That is a good thing, but the maximum gains cap prevents schools that have been underfunded for many years from receiving their fair share of their current funding entitlement.
To give an example, under the new funding formula, Plymouth is due to gain £10.6 million, but the maximum gains cap means that in practice schools in Plymouth will receive less than half that amount, £4.7 million, in 2018-19 and £8.7 million in 2019-20—less than they should be getting under the funding formula because of the gains cap. Even with that additional funding formula, Plymouth will continue to receive considerably less than the national average, so I would be grateful if the Minister reviewed whether the gains cap is appropriate for where we are and whether it could be flexed or removed to give places such as Plymouth that have received lower levels of funding a chance to catch up.
Secondly, I would be grateful if the Minister looked again at funding for mental health support for our schools. It has been mentioned a number of times, but wrap-around support for young people is especially important if they are to achieve their full potential. Plymouth schools are currently sharing a three-year mental health funding deal, but that money runs out this year and headteachers have told me there is no money to replace that funding when it expires. We know that mental health concerns are rising among our young people, with a combination of increasing pressure, social media, bullying and, sadly, for far too many of our children, the additional pressure of caring responsibilities as young carers. Mental health funding is not only an essential part of educational support, but vital if they are to achieve their potential.
Our teachers are brilliant, but they cannot also be mental health workers and professionals. We have seen cuts to mental health provision for young people in primaries, especially with the Plymouth Excellence Cluster—a body that pooled mental health funding for schools—losing its funding earlier this year. The three-year funding deal for secondaries is now due to expire. That cannot be right, and I would be grateful if the Minister gave urgent consideration to providing support, especially for young people who are receiving support at the moment and may lose it if money cannot be found within school budgets to replace that provision.
Finally, I ask the Minister to support the Plymouth Challenge. As Tim Loughton mentioned, the challenge opportunities are incredible for coastal communities that have lost out on funding. Plymouth, unfortunately, was not deemed to be one of the Government’s opportunity areas, and so missed out on the social mobility package of funding that was recently announced, but Plymouth City Council, working with the Plymouth Education Board in partnership with the regional schools commissioner and officials at the Department for Education, has come up with the Plymouth Challenge, which aims to work with schools in Plymouth and the far south-west to raise standards, promoting leadership and aspiration.
There have been successful challenges right across the country, most notably in London but also elsewhere. In each case, standards and teaching quality have been driven up by considerable and focused investment of time, energy and money in our teachers and schools. In Plymouth we have the will and the passion, but we lack the funding and the time to make that work. There must be deep learning for our teachers—not simply one hour swapped out of a classroom for a quick update on skills, but deep learning, so our teachers and teaching assistants can receive the benefit of the latest in teaching quality initiatives—and the children who would otherwise have been taught by those teachers must have a high-quality replacement, ensuring that their education does not suffer because their teacher is being given additional training.
Plymouth City Council estimates that it requires between £900,000 and £1.3 million to implement the first phase of the scheme. It is supported by schools across the city, and I would be grateful if the Minister looked positively at the Plymouth Challenge and agreed to meet a cross-party delegation of teachers and political representatives from Plymouth at both national and local level, to look at how the DFE can support Plymouth in funding the Plymouth Challenge and ensuring that we can support our own teachers to do the best they can.
Those are three small asks for the Minister, but they would make a huge difference to Plymouth kids and their schools. Plymouth is unique, due to the diversity of our education provision; we have a school of every kind that every Government since 1945 ever thought of. It is not the range of schools that is the problem, but the lack of funding, and I would be grateful if the Minister met us to discuss that.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Mrs Main on securing this debate, which is vital for most children in our country.
Every child deserves an equal opportunity to get on in life, with the same access to high-quality education as their peers, wherever they are in the country. I am proud that Chichester exceeds the national average for attainment at key stage 4 and A-level, as a result of the hard work and dedication of teachers from early years through to secondary schooling.
Spending on our children’s education has never been higher and the new national funding formula is a welcome step toward rebalancing some of the disparities in the old system, where there were over 100 different models across the country. As my hon. Friend Tim Loughton said, however, West Sussex historically suffers from being one of the lowest funded authorities. It is currently the sixth lowest recipient of secondary school funding in the country, and eighth lowest for primary school funding.
I am pleased that under the new funding formula, Chichester schools are to receive an additional £1.2 million in baseline funding for 2018-19—a welcome step toward ensuring that our schools are given the resources they need to help and support every pupil. However, speaking to teachers across my constituency, there is concern that the positive impact of the increased funding will not be felt in the classroom, simply because operating costs in the form of salaries, pensions and apprenticeship levies, to name but a few elements, have increased. All the additional moneys are being used to service those additional costs.
There is much innovation across the sector to reduce expenditure and share costs. One example is executive headships. A headteacher’s salary is one of the largest costs faced by schools, particularly small rural primaries, such as those in my constituency. Last term, two rural schools came under the leadership of one head, ultimately saving money. Those schools are just a 10-minute drive from each other, so the arrangement works. The headteacher now divides his time between the sites and is doing a brilliant job of improving Rogate Primary School, just as he did with Rake Primary School. The money saved will go towards additional resources to aid the children’s educational experiences. Of course, such a move comes with strains, particularly because of the close relationships that teachers and staff form with parents and pupils in small villages such as Rake and Rogate. It takes time to build those, and I pay tribute to the commitment shown by headteacher David Bertwistle in that venture.
Rural schools play a vital role in their communities —perhaps even more so than in larger, urban centres. They are the centre of a community and are often the frontline in offering social and mental health support to pupils and their families. The reduction of base funding from £150,000 to £110,000 leaves a £40,000 hole in the budgets of small rural primary schools that cannot easily be filled with additional pupils. Additional pupils will come within a natural catchment area, and schools are not in control of those numbers. It is important that the Government funding formula understands the additional pressures facing rural schools and ensures that the level of funding for which they are eligible through the sparsity grant reflects the uniqueness of their place in our communities.
The number of pupils with special educational needs in West Sussex is well above the national average, with 13.5% of all pupils recorded as needing SEN support, compared with the national average of 11.6%. The number of referrals for education, health and care plans has risen by 43% over the past three years. Although those plans are a much-needed device to ensure that children with special educational needs are given personalised support, we must ensure that the Government are equally adaptable when it comes to tailoring the new higher needs formula to authorities with very high numbers of pupils with special needs.
Let me give an example. I have a constituent who is fighting for her daughter to attend a specialist school equipped to provide the 24-hour care that she needs that is halfway across the country, as she fears that the SEN provision in West Sussex is just not adequate. We need investment in the right provision in West Sussex. No parent should ever feel that their child’s education is worth less than that of others. It is vital that every child has the opportunity to enjoy a high-quality education. It is a one-off shot in most cases and has a massive impact on life chances.
I do understand that the formula is designed to provide more resources for areas with higher levels of deprivation and lower prior attainment. I recently visited schools in Knowsley, where I went to school, and I know that the extra funds are essential to those schools, where 70% of the children are on free school meals and almost half the children are looked after by foster parents or grandparents. Those schools face additional challenges in terms of attracting and retaining the best teachers, but there are additional needs in West Sussex, too. The challenges of rural primary schools and pupil numbers and the unanticipated rise in special educational needs are putting severe pressure on some school budgets. Of course more is being spent on education than ever, but we have increased costs, higher numbers of pupils and more children getting the support they need for their special educational needs.
School standards have been transformed. When I go into my local schools, I am constantly struck by how much better the provision is now than when I went to school, but we should expect the best. We are living in an increasingly competitive world—one that is global and without borders. Providing our children with the best education that we can is vital to their future.
I thank all hon. Members for their co-operation so far. There is eight minutes each for the two remaining Back-Bench speakers; the winding-up speeches will start at 20 minutes to 11.
Here we are again, talking about school funding. It feels to me, as education spokesperson for my party, that it is all I have had a chance to speak about since being elected and taking this post. There is more to a school than just its funding. The problem is that the funding crisis started badly and, over the past two years in particular, it has got worse and worse, to the point that it is now the top concern of both parents and teachers when they contact me. It used to be other things, such as Ofsted and exams, when people were focusing on the curriculum. The debate about school funding has meant that the life has been sucked out of the broader debate and the vision that we should have for education in this country.
As many people here know, I used to be a teacher, but I continue to be a governor of a local school, Botley Primary School. That is important so that I can see with my own eyes the funding pressures on schools. I absolutely agree with the examples given by Tim Loughton and thank him for his helpful contribution to today’s debate. The point is that these are not theoretical cuts, which could happen. We sometimes look at the headline figures and forget the effect that they have on the frontline. I also very much thank Mrs Main for securing this important debate. Although sometimes it feels as though we are in “Groundhog Day”, the most important thing we can ever do is provide a good education for the next generation in this country.
I would like to talk about numbers. As many people know, I was a maths teacher, and I have to say that I was disappointed—to use a teacher’s phrase—when it was uncovered that the Government’s claim that we are spending the third highest amount on education of any country in the OECD was pulled up by the UK Statistics Authority as not true, because the number included contributions by private schools and student loans. When the Government talk about how much “we” spend, any ordinary person outside the House—our constituents—would think that they are talking about public spending, and that it does not include money spent on top of that by those parents who want to send their children to private schools.
When I toured the schools in my constituency during the recess, as I am sure many other hon. Members did, the private schools themselves were appalled that they were being used in that way, because there is solidarity among members of the teaching profession, whether in private or state schools. The feeling was that the numbers were being conflated in that way to hide the fact that the UK is not third but 14th, which is rather different. The UK Statistics Authority therefore expressed its serious concerns, and it was also disappointing that the Secretary of State wrote to us all essentially to defend the claim.
The issue was about not just those numbers, but numbers about reading attainment. The statistic that more children than ever go to good or outstanding schools is not the full picture either, because it does not quite take into account the inflation in the numbers of students—the population increase—or the fact that, as we explored in the Public Accounts Committee, large numbers of outstanding schools have not been inspected for the best part of 10 years, so whether they continue to be outstanding is up for debate.
Sir David Norgrove, chair of the UKSA, went on to say:
“I am sure you”— this was to the Department—
“share my concerns that instances such as these do not help to promote trust and confidence in official data, and indeed risk undermining them.”
Therefore, my first ask of the Minister today is simply this: can he give this guarantee about official statistics from now on? I appreciate that the Government want to put a positive spin on what is—let us face it—a very difficult time for teachers and headteachers, but can he at least say that any further statistics coming out of the Department will be in line with the code of practice set by the UK Statistics Authority? I ask that because without the actual numbers, without us all knowing what we are talking about, it is very hard to have a proper debate. This should be a cross-party debate; a child’s life in education will span several colours of Government, so it is important that we get the figures right.
As other hon. Members have said, there are many reasons for the current situation. It is an equation: money in versus money out. The money out, which ends up on the frontline of teaching, is less than it ought to be. In fact, when we take into account inflation, rising student numbers, national insurance contributions, the apprenticeship levy and so on, the estimate is that we are £2.8 billion behind where we should be, given all those extra burdens, compared with 2015.
We are seeing examples of all this in our schools. Let me give the example from my constituency of Thameside Primary School, which services one of the most deprived areas in the country—they exist in Oxford West and Abingdon, too, even though that is not always obvious. These schools are not now using their pupil premium money to do things such as fund trips. They try to do that, but actually what they are doing now is employing link workers to help families to access basic benefits. They do not update the books in their library, because they cannot. Meanwhile, local authority cuts have meant that mobile libraries no longer bring the new books to the children of the school. They have had to cut forest school. I do not know whether other hon. Members have forest school in their constituencies, but it is incredibly important and I wish I had had it in my school. At Thameside Primary School they have had to cut it completely. In other schools in my constituency they have reduced the hours, because they do not have enough members of staff to service it.
The Conservative manifesto said that £4 billion would be put into schools by 2022. How close are we to achieving that manifesto commitment? I would get behind it—let us all get together and put extra money into schools. The former Secretary of State attributed £1.3 billion to the education budget. In the Public Accounts Committee we have been asking the Department where that money will come from, and we are yet to get an answer for about half of it. It was all to come from within the existing budget and through the cancellations of some programmes, but at the time of questioning about half of it was still unaccounted for, so I ask the Minister: where will that money come from?
There are broader consequences to this lack of funding for our schools, particularly the paring down of the curriculum. We now have schools that no longer offer the full range of modern foreign languages and creative subjects. Those students who—God forbid—do not love maths and science, which was the case even in my classroom, need the full range of opportunities to succeed. The unfortunate fact is that in the current state of affairs schools are paring down what they are able to offer and providing less opportunities for students to get on. I ask the Minister: is education a funding priority for this Government? What has he asked the Chancellor to give to education in the Budget? Can he give a commitment, genuinely, that every school in this country will be able to offer the full-range curriculum, which we want all children to have access to?
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I congratulate Mrs Main on securing this timely debate.
This is not a boast I want to make, but when I came into this place York was the seventh worst funded authority, and today it is the very worst funded authority. We have exchanged places in the league tables. That is why I am speaking in this debate. Some 18 out of 23 primary schools and two thirds of secondary schools in my constituency have had their funding cut. Like most MPs, I meet with my schools on a regular basis. The crisis in funding has come to the fore. I want the Minister to take away the point that when schools are struggling, the outcomes of those schools are affected.
York has one of the biggest attainment gaps in the country, particularly around early years, and we have seen severe cuts to our primary schools. We are therefore seeing a significant minority underachieving by 10%. The Minister needs to focus on those figures, which correlate with funding.
My hon. Friend is quite right to draw attention to what is happening in primary and secondary schools, but does she share my concern that sixth forms have been hardest hit? I was shocked by the Institute for Fiscal Studies submission to the Education Committee on school and college funding, which found that per-pupil funding in post-16 education will be the same in real terms in 2019-20 as it was 30 years ago. Does that not show that the Government are failing to address the needs of young people in the future?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. I meet with colleges in my constituency, which are absolutely on their knees with regard to funding. We know that this is an issue right across the education system. It has a real impact on outcomes, which is what I want to focus on.
While our schools have excellent outcomes, in the areas in my constituency where the cuts have been the greatest in real terms, the attainment is the worst. We can easily see the correlation between money and outcomes. If we make those cuts, we must expect those children to be short-changed, perhaps for the rest of their lives.
We are also seeing a change in class sizes. York has the second biggest increase in the teacher-classroom ratio in its primary schools and the fourth biggest fall in staffing numbers in primary schools, with 20 teachers leaving between 2014 and 2017—that has an impact. We have seen the biggest increase in class sizes in secondary schools across the country—the relevant figures is 2.9, with the next biggest being 1.8. In secondary schools, York has the joint biggest teacher-classroom ratio. Pupil numbers are increasing. I know at least one school in my constituency that is really struggling and does not know how it will accommodate its children next year.
We have also experienced a real turnover of teaching staff, as hon. Members have mentioned. Experienced teachers are leaving and being replaced. In one school around 60 teachers have moved and newly qualified teachers have been brought in. That has an impact on the experience of staff and therefore on the teaching of students. We are also seeing the impact on vital support staff. When the pay increase was announced, schools had to find the resource to pay their support staff, which resulted in many having to leave. We must focus on them as well.
The excellent head teacher of Millthorpe School in my constituency, Trevor Burton, had to write to parents to inform them of the reality and what they can expect. The school is unfunded by £169,000, for four years of 1% pay increases, £56,000 for increased employer pension contributions, £78,000 for national insurance, and £21,000 for the apprenticeship levy. The school’s expenditure has increased by £324,000. The school had an 8% real-terms cut, but it received increased funding of only 3.6%, so it has had a 4.4% cut. Of course, that has had a real impact on children through increasing class sizes, cutting events, doing without teacher posts, stopping all year 10 and 11 vocational courses—as we just heard, that has a real impact on children—and not replacing staff when they leave. On top of that, the school, like many others, has had maintenance issues. It has had to spend £900,000 on double glazing in classrooms, to keep them warm and dry, and to replace school roofs in the dining hall, sports hall, gym, language lab and one of the classrooms.
Tang Hall Primary School also faces the pressure of maintaining its building—a matter I have raised since being elected. The school, which has had one of the largest cuts in the constituency, was top of the Building Schools for the Future list to have a new school built. However, that programme was cut, and the school is still struggling and desperately needs a new building. The school is so cold, because it is such an old building, that they have had to change the school uniform so that the children can wear hoodies to school. It is a disgrace that in 2018, after eight years, they are still waiting for their new school. Children cannot study when they are cold. This has an impact on children throughout their time at the school. The head teacher has pleaded for a new school.
Westfield Primary Community School, in perhaps the most deprived area of my constituency, has had the largest cut in my constituency. How can that be the case when children and families desperately need the support? The school does extraordinary work in the face of such cuts. That needs to be looked at, because we are failing some of the most needy children in our communities.
My final point is about budgets and where we need to go.
Yes. I have talked about buildings and attainment, and I concur with all hon. Members about mental health support, which we desperately need. Ultimately, however, schools just need to have funds.
There are 10 minutes remaining for each of the Front-Bench speakers. If they could give up 20 or 25 seconds of that to allow Anne Main to respond, that would be appreciated.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I congratulate Mrs Main on securing this timely debate a few days before the Budget. She has stood up for schools in Hertfordshire, which have faced and are facing a £33-million cut since 2015. She is right to defend the schools in her constituency. While reading out the parliamentary Labour party brief, as my hon. Friend Gareth Thomas pointed out, she also alluded to the disingenuousness of the statistics that have come from the Department. That was also alluded to by Layla Moran.
The Department is fast becoming the ministry for dodgy stats. We have heard that we have the third highest spend in the OECD, which was knocked back because it included private school fees and other items. We have heard that there is more new money for our schools, which was knocked back by the Office for National Statistics. We have also heard that 1.9 million children are in good or outstanding schools. I am desperate to see whether the Minister repeats that, because it was pulled up by the UK Statistics Authority. The Minister must have forgotten to tell the Prime Minister that though, because she repeated the stat in Prime Minister’s questions. We have heard that the Government will fully fund the pay rise—another dodgy stat for teachers up and down our country.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government’s disingenuous attempts to override the statistics are failing, because parents, pupils and teachers know precisely what is happening? That is why I welcomed children and parents from SOS East Midlands to Parliament a fortnight ago. They know that 82 out of 84 schools in Nottingham city face cuts, including every single school in my constituency, they know that their children’s schools are losing an average of £296 per pupil, and they say that that is not good enough. It has to be addressed in the forthcoming Budget.
My hon. Friend articulates the point for Nottingham city brilliantly, as my hon. Friend Rachael Maskell did for York, where 32 schools are facing cuts.
The hon. Member for St Albans also talked about special educational needs and disability—SEND—which is vital. Last year alone, 20,000 children were off-rolled because of it. She talked about a school in her constituency, the Links Academy, which takes in many off-rolled children, but we lost 20,000 to the system. My hon. Friend Luke Pollard highlighted that problem with regards to mental health too—we do not know where 10,000 of those children are in the system. In an age when we have criminal child exploitation going through the roof and the running of county lines, the school system does not know where 10,000 children are.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has stated that the stats that we have heard used are simply not accurate, and the UK Statistics Authority has rebuked the Education Secretary for his inaccuracy. The figures quoted by Education Ministers attempting to defend their pitiful record on state school funding included money spent by parents on private school fees. There has been a concerted effort by the Secretary of State and the Minister to fudge the figures and deflect attention away from the cuts to school funding that they have presided over.
Let us assess the facts. Some £2.8 billion has been cut from school budgets since 2015, and we will find out in a couple of weeks that that will be a lot more. That means that 91% of schools are facing real-terms budget cuts per pupil. For the average primary school, that will be a loss of about £50,000 a year. For the average secondary school, it will be a loss of about £178,000 a year. But those figures are based on last year’s data. When can we expect the Department to release the schools block funding data for 2018-19? With the inclusion of those figures, it is likely that the outlook for our schools will be even bleaker.
Perhaps the Minister will try to deflect the House’s attention away from the reality of the impact of his Government’s cuts to school funding again, but hon. Members already know the impact on the ground all too well, as headteachers and parents are telling us about it. It is right that we are well represented by the hon. Members from West Sussex, the hon. Members for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and for Chichester (Gillian Keegan). The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham said that schools are x millions of pounds down in that borough in his constituency. I have the statistic: they are £8.9 million down based on last year’s data. It will be interesting to see what next year’s data will be when the Minister releases the block funding grants. The Minister’s own schools are threatening a four-day week because of the funding cuts.
We know that the £1.3 billion of additional funding announced by the Secretary of State is nowhere near enough to reverse the £2.8 billion that has been cut since 2015. We also know that none of the money announced so far is actually new money for education. While I, of course, support the principle that all schools should receive fair funding, the answer is not to take money away from existing schools and redistribute it. A fair approach would be to apply the lessons of the best-performing areas in the country to schools everywhere. A fair approach would look objectively at the level of funding required to deliver in the best-performing schools, particularly in areas of high deprivation, as my hon. Friend the Member for York Central pointed out, and use that as the basis for a formula to be applied across the whole country.
The F40 group, which includes my constituency of Trafford, has told us that school funding requires an injection of £2 billion to meet the needs of all schools, and that an early indication is that the shortfall for 2019-20 will be £3.8 billion. Schools need to see plans for the funding formula beyond 2020. They need a three to four-year rolling budget settlement so that they can plan for the future with confidence, and any settlement should take into account inflation, the cost of living increases and the wage and national insurance increases that have been pointed out by several hon. Members.
When will the Secretary of State and the Minister remove their heads from the sand and begin to truly hear the voices of schools, teachers, parents and Back Benchers from across the country? If that does not happen soon, our children’s education in St Albans, Harrow, Plymouth, York and West Sussex will continue to lose out.
I am sure that that is the case.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Mrs Main on securing this important debate. It is always interesting to follow a Labour spokesman talking about school funding. It was the Labour Government who left the coalition Government with a record public sector deficit of £150 billion, which is equal to 10% of GDP—on the brink of collapse—an economy in recession and high unemployment. We have reduced that deficit to under 3%, we have the lowest level of unemployment since the 1970s and we have halved youth unemployment to record low levels. Mike Kane should be more careful when he talks about public finances.
This debate is timely, given the looming Budget next week. I am sure that everybody has listened carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans and other hon. Members who have spoken. We are determined to create an education system that offers opportunity to everyone, no matter what their circumstances or where they live. That is why we have delivered on our promise to reform the unfair, opaque and outdated school funding system by introducing the national funding formula for schools, which previous Governments had shied away from doing, including the previous Labour Government.
The introduction of the national funding formula means that this year, for the first time, funding was distributed to local authorities based on the individual needs and characteristics of every school in the country. This historic reform is the biggest improvement to school funding for a decade and it is directing resources to where they are needed most.
This Government want to ensure that all children receive a world-class education, and we have made significant progress. More schools than ever before are rated good or outstanding; 86% of schools are now rated good or outstanding, compared with—
I will not give way.
That figure compares with 66%, which is what we inherited from the previous Government. The attainment gap is beginning to close and we have launched 12 opportunity areas to drive improvement in parts of the country that we know can do better. Children’s reading ability is also improving. We have risen from joint tenth in the reading ability of nine-year-olds to joint eighth in PIRLS, the progress in international reading literacy study.
However, we have made those achievements against a backdrop of inheriting an unfair method of distributing funding, which has hindered and not helped progress. Across the country, schools with similar pupil characteristics used to receive markedly different levels of funding for no good reason, meaning that the right resources did not reach the schools that needed them most. That is why it is so important that we have delivered on our promise to reform the unfair school and high-needs funding systems and introduced a national funding formula.
Schools are already benefiting from the gains delivered by the national funding formula. The formula has allocated an increase for every pupil in every school this year, with increases of up to 3% for underfunded schools. Next year, those schools that have been historically underfunded will attract increases of up to 6% more per pupil compared with 2017-18, as we continue to address historic injustices.
The constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans will attract gains of 2.5% per pupil under the formula next year compared with 2017-18, which is an extra £3.1 million for schools in St Albans when rising pupil numbers are taken into account. Of course, how that money is allocated will depend on the local authority. Special needs funding in Hertfordshire will rise by £4.4 million this year, rising to some £107.9 million.
I listened very carefully to Gareth Thomas, and of course I would be delighted to accompany him on a visit to schools in his constituency and to meet headteachers.
My hon. Friend Tim Loughton has attended many of these debates on school funding, as he pointed out, and made calls for a fairer funding system. He has been successful in that respect; he should acknowledge his own success in putting the case for schools in West Sussex, because they have seen an increase in the funding allocated to them. How it is allocated on a school-by-school basis will depend on West Sussex, but the funding that it has received for schools in my hon. Friend’s constituency for 2019-20 has risen by 5.5% compared with 2017-18.
My hon. Friend and constituency neighbour Gillian Keegan was right to point to improving standards in her constituency and she was also right to refer to special needs funding, which I will come to. Under the national funding formula, the amounts allocated to schools in her constituency will rise by 3.4% in 2019-20 compared with 2017-18.
I was interested to hear about the “Politics and Pastries” roundtable that Luke Pollard held. I would love to have been there; nevertheless, I would be delighted to meet headteachers from his constituency at some point very soon. Pupils in Plymouth will be funded on the same basis as in the rest of the country, despite what he said, under the national funding formula. That is the whole purpose of the national funding formula: based on the same needs, those pupils will receive the same amount. The hon. Gentleman referred to the gains cap, which ensures that changes in funding can be smoothed over the years under the national funding formula. Approximately 75% of schools that gain under the national funding formula—those that were historically underfunded—will be fully on their national funding formula figure by 2019-20.
Rachael Maskell raised the issue of York’s position in the national league tables of school funding, but I should point out to her that the amount allocated to schools in her constituency will rise by 5.4% in 2019-20, compared with the baseline of 2017-18. We have made a significant—
We have made a significant investment in our schools by providing an additional £1.3 billion across this year and next, which is over and above the funding confirmed in the 2015 spending review. The additional money means that core funding for schools and high needs will rise from almost £41 billion in 2017-18 to £42.4 billion this year, and to £43.5 billion in 2019-20. As the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed, funding for five to 16-year-olds will be maintained in real terms per pupil across this year and next year. The IFS has also pointed out that by 2020 real-terms per pupil funding will be some 70% higher than it was in 1990 and 50% higher than it was in 2000.
Of course we recognise that we are asking schools to do more and that schools are facing cost pressures. That is why the Department is providing extensive support to schools to reduce cost pressures. We have recently launched “Supporting excellent school resource management”, a document that provides schools with practical advice on savings that can be made on the £10 billion of non-staffing expenditure in schools. It summarises the support the Department is offering to help schools to get the best value from their resources, including things such as buying equipment more cheaply and the new teacher supply agency framework, which ensures that fees paid by schools to agencies are transparent and that people are aware of what they are signing up to.
Another issue that was raised was, of course, high needs. We are firmly committed to supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities to reach their full potential. That is why we have reformed the funding for these children by introducing a high-needs national funding formula. We have invested an extra £1 billion in funding for children with high needs since 2013 and next year we will provide local authorities in England with over £6 billion in high needs funding, which is up from just under £5 billion in 2013. We recognise the challenges that local authorities face with their high needs budgets, which is why we have provided them with support to deliver the best value from their high needs funding. We are also monitoring our national funding formula for high needs and keeping the overall level of funding under review.
The issue of teachers’ pay and pensions was also raised. We have responded to the recommendation made by the school teachers’ review body to confirm the 2018 pay award for teachers, which will see a substantial 3.5% uplift for the main pay range, a 2% uplift for the upper pay range and a 1.5% uplift for the leadership pay range. That will ensure that schools are supported to continue to attract high-quality staff members and retain them.
I will not give way, because of time.
We are funding the teachers’ pay award above the 1% that schools will already have budgeted for, by providing a teachers’ pay grant worth £187 million in 2018-19 and £321 million in 2019-20. This funding will be over and above the funding that schools receive through the national funding formula.
I want to give time to my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans to respond briefly to the debate, so I will conclude by thanking all Members who have contributed to this important debate. It is a key priority for this Government to ensure that every child receives a world-class education, to enable them to reach their full potential. I believe that the significant extra investment that we are making in our schools—both revenue and capital, and distributed more fairly through the national funding formula—will help us to achieve that.
I thank all hon. and right hon. Members who have taken part in this debate. Let me tell that the Minister that I am going to mark my own homework. I will give myself four out of 10, because I have obviously not managed to convey the level of frustration that my teachers have been experiencing. The statistics are all fabulous and wonderful, but there is a reason why I am no good at maths, because they actually do not mean a lot to me. To me, they mean that there is a great effort on behalf of this Government to do the right thing from current underfunding, but the reality is that teachers on the ground face huge pressures, and we have got to look into this.
My hon. Friend Tim Loughton said that teachers are running on empty, and he is not alone. I did not refer to attainments in St Albans because I know that we do very well. However, as a former teacher, I recognise that there is value added that does not always show too well in attainment charts. Nevertheless, teachers have put in a lot of effort to bring pupils from a very low base up to a higher base, and we cannot just say that because pupils have been achieving, funding is therefore not needed. That is not the case. All schools and all teachers should have the resources they need. I will keep pressing on this issue, because this is something that we need to take forward collaboratively, because otherwise we would be letting down the children of the future. So I am sorry to say that I will put my dunce’s cap on and say that I could not persuade the Minister today.
Motion lapsed (Standing Order no. 10(6)).