School Funding: East Anglia — [Mike Gapes in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:29 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education) 5:29 pm, 3rd September 2019

The hon. Gentleman will have to wait, because we have not made the announcement for early years funding. If he can be patient a little longer, we will be making that announcement.

We will continue to distribute this money through the national funding formula, which is our historic reform to the schools funding system that continues to ensure that funding is based on the needs and characteristics of schools and pupils, rather than on the accidents of history or geography.

Today we have reaffirmed our intention to move to what is called a hard formula, whereby all school budgets are set on the basis of a single national formula, guaranteeing equity among all schools, wherever they are in the country. Moving to this approach will mean that neighbouring schools that happen to sit on different sides of a local authority boundary will be funded on the same basis, and it will no longer be the case that different decisions made by different local authorities mean that similar schools receive different budgets. We intend to move to this hard formula as soon as possible. Of course, we recognise that this will represent a significant change and we will work closely with local authorities, schools and others to make this transition as smooth as possible.

The hon. Member for Norwich South said that he was opposed to academies. He has publicly expressed what I would regard as unwarranted hostility against the Inspiration Trust—a multi-academy trust that is doing huge work to raise school standards in his part of East Anglia. That probably explains why he failed in his speech to congratulate Jane Austen College in his constituency, a free school, which this year published its first GCSE results. Its provisional Progress 8 score places it in the top 10% of schools nationally. Some 75% of pupils achieved grades 9 to 4 in maths and English, and 30% of students at that school achieved a grade 8 or 9, which are the top grades that can be achieved in a GCSE. I offer huge congratulations to Jane Austen College and all the staff and teachers at that school.

My hon. Friends the Members for Waveney (Peter Aldous) and for North West Norfolk raised the hugely important issue of special educational needs funding. We are absolutely committed to supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities to reach their full potential, and we expect all schools to play their part. That funding increase therefore includes more than £700 million of extra funding to support children with special educational needs and disabilities to access the education that is right for them. We recognise that local authorities have pressures on these budgets for next year, and alongside that additional funding we will continue to work with local authorities and schools to ensure that this investment is working well for those children in greater need. My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney also raised the important issue of funding for 16 to 19-year-olds.