School Funding — [Sir David Crausby in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:39 pm on 4th March 2019.

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Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley 5:39 pm, 4th March 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I congratulate Liz Twist on opening the debate. I also thank my fellow West Sussex MP, my hon. Friend Tim Loughton, for his speech; I endorse his comments about the pressure on school budgets in our county.

Last week, I was privileged to take part in a Westminster Hall debate on global education. It is absolutely right that this country does all it can to ensure that education is improved in developing countries, because that is important for the future prosperity and security of us all. We should never forget that children and young people in this country have a very privileged education in comparison, but there have been extraordinary pressures on our school system.

Historically, West Sussex has been very underfunded. I see many Labour Members present; I am pleased that the debate is well subscribed, but when I was leader of West Sussex County Council—a local education authority —between 2003 and 2010, I saw schools in my county being significantly underfunded. During the Administrations of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, per-pupil funding in metropolitan areas such as London was almost double what it was for my local schools, and I certainly did not hear complaints from Labour Members.

I welcome the important £28 million funding increase for West Sussex schools under the new national funding formula. I also welcome the increase to 200 places at Manor Green School, a special school in my constituency, but we need to go further still. The historical underfunding of West Sussex schools under the Blair and Brown years has left a lot to make up for. The additional funding under the national funding formula is very welcome, but the pressures that have been described today need to be better addressed by the Department for Education.