Much like Elizabeth Taylor’s latest husband said, it is difficult to bring something new to a debate that we have had so many times. There is a real sense of déjà vu, and the number of Members present shows the extent of the problem up and down the country.
Having spoken in just about every other debate on this subject for some time, I want to bring one new thing to the debate today, which is that the forthcoming recommended 2% pay increase for teachers is going to have a serious effect on the already fragile budgets of many of our schools. Last year, 1% was to be funded by schools, with the rest largely funded by central Government; this year, responsibility for funding the full 2% will fall on schools, whose budgets are already highly stretched. When I tabled a question to the Minister, asking what sustainability criteria had been taken into account, I was sent a circular that said:
“we know there is considerable scope for schools to improve their efficiency and use of resources…our”— the Department for Education’s—
“high-level analysis indicates that if the 25% of schools spending the highest amounts on each category of non-staff expenditure were instead spending at the level of the rest, this could save over £1 billion that could be spent on improving teaching.”
The problem is that over many years, certainly in West Sussex and in my constituency, schools have taken all their surplus expenditure out of the system. In some cases, they are now spending over 90% of their budget on staffing, which leaves a tiny pot from which those schools can supposedly take further savings to pay for that increase. That is going to be a problem. Running schools, or paying for pupils in our schools, has not got any cheaper since last year.