School Funding — [Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:40 am on 24th October 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools) 10:40 am, 24th October 2018

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.