School Funding — [Sir David Crausby in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 7:12 pm on 4th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education) 7:12 pm, 4th March 2019

Not right now, if my hon. Friend will forgive me. I want to make sure that I respond to the points from as many hon. Members as I can.

Figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies show that real-terms per-pupil funding for five to 16-year-olds in 2020 will be more than 50% higher than in 2000. We compare favourably with other countries. The UK spends as much per pupil on primary and secondary state education as any country in the G7 apart from America—a point made by my right hon. Friend Nick Herbert.

While more money is going into our schools than ever before, we recognise the budgeting challenges that schools face as we ask them to achieve more for children and to absorb cost increases, such as employer’s national insurance and higher pension contributions to teachers’ pension funds, that have arisen as a result of our determination to bear down on the unsustainable deficit. That means that it is essential to do all we can to help schools make the most of every pound.

In addition to providing additional funding for schools, we changed the way funding is distributed, to make the system fairer. Last April, we started to distribute funding through the national funding formula, with each area’s allocation taking into account the individual needs and characteristics of its schools. That replaced the unfair and outdated previous system, under which schools with similar characteristics received very different levels of funding, with little or no justification. These disparities existed for far too long, as my right hon. and hon. Friends from west Sussex pointed out, leaving some schools trying to achieve with fewer resources the same as other, better-funded schools in similar situations. That is why we committed to reform the system, and I am proud to say that our introduction of the national funding formula delivers that commitment.

Schools are already benefiting from the gains delivered by the national funding formula. Since 2017, we have given every local authority more money for every pupil in every school, while allocating the biggest increases to the schools that have been most underfunded. By 2019-20, all schools will attract an increase of at least 1% per pupil, compared with their 2017-18 baselines. The most underfunded schools will attract up to 6% more per pupil by 2019-20, compared with 2017-18.

The hon. Member for Blaydon will be aware that funding for schools in her constituency has risen from £52.6 million in 2017-18 to £54.9 million in 2019-20—a 4.5% increase in cash terms. In Blaydon, per-pupil funding has risen from £4,468 per pupil in 2017-18 to £4,635 in 2019-20, which is a 3.7% increase over that period.

The hon. Lady cited a figure from the School Cuts website, which incidentally has been criticised by the UK Statistics Authority. It said:

“We believe the headline statement”,

which the hon. Lady cited in this debate,

“that ‘91% of schools face funding cuts’
risks giving a misleading impression of future changes in school budgets. The method of calculation may also give a misleading impression of the scale of change for some particular schools.”

My hon. Friend Tim Loughton made important points about the over-politicisation of this issue. I understand the points that he made about the historical inequities in school funding in West Sussex.