I beg to move,
That this House has considered e-petition 232220 relating to school funding.
It is a honour to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I present the petition on behalf of Mr Andrew Ramanandi, the headteacher of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Blaydon, and more than 104,000 teachers, support staff, heads, parents and governors around the country who have signed it. I acknowledge the fair funding for schools campaign, which was started by Mr Ramanandi and joined by all headteachers across the borough of Gateshead. Their imaginative campaign has captured the attention of the public and many politicians, and they will be listening closely to the debate. Mr Ramanandi is in the Gallery.
Dedicated staff, who are by far the most important resource in our schools, face an uphill battle due to not only school funding, but curriculum reform, an increasing workload and the growing and often complex needs of many of our children. Time and again, we hear that morale and staff retention are low. Our educators are looking to us as politicians to help them to respond to that challenge.
I congratulate my hon. Friend and fellow Petitions Committee member on securing and introducing this important debate. In January, the Minister encouraged MPs to write to their local schools and congratulate them on their improvements in key stage 2. I did just that, but I heard back almost immediately from my local schools, which had improved their results significantly, that they were having to lose the key staff who had helped them to do that. Does she agree that that is completely counterproductive and hugely concerning for the future performance of those schools?
I agree with my hon. Friend that it runs counter to what we might expect to congratulate schools and then find that they have huge financial problems.
Does the hon. Lady acknowledge, however, that there is still a huge difference between the funding for schools in rural shire countries such as mine and that of schools in metropolitan inner-city areas?
The petitioners are keen to look at the overall situation with regards to school funding, rather than asking, “Is this one right? Is that one right?”. The question is whether we have sufficient funding to provide a good education for our children.
Before the hon. Lady moves on, can she give us an idea of the percentage increase that she thinks would now be sufficient?
I do not have a percentage figure, but it has been estimated that more than £2.8 billion would be needed to restore the situation to where it was in 2013.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
Will the hon. Lady give way?
I will make some progress, but I will take some interventions shortly.
The campaign started with a letter co-signed by headteachers of primary, secondary and special educational needs and disability schools in Gateshead, who became increasingly alarmed by the impact that a real-terms reduction in school funding was having on the children and young people in their care. The letter, which was sent to parents before Christmas, informed them that schools may no longer be able to provide the same level of service and asked them for their support in raising the schools’ concerns with the Government.
This is a speech of two parts. The first part is about the facts and figures that we regularly bandy around the Chamber and in official papers. Eventually, they get down to the school heads and governors at the kind of scale where they can see the black holes in their budgets and try to work out how they can balance their books.
Coventry has experienced the same sort of difficulties as my hon. Friend’s constituency. I did a survey and visited several schools last year, which showed that out of 103 schools, 102 were suffering from teacher shortages, demoralisation, rising class numbers or low pay. Does she agree that the Government have to do something about that?
Will the hon. Lady give way?
I will make some progress, so that the debate makes some sense.
As I said, this is a speech of two parts. The first part is about the facts and figures and the second part is about what they mean for our schools—the staff, the governors, the parents and, most of all, the pupils.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise those inequalities, but does she concede that this Government have tried to do something about fairer funding? In our part of the world, in Devon, there has been an increase, but we are still chronically underfunded. Every child in a Devon school gets £304 less than the national average, so we lose out on £27 million per year. Under a previous Labour Government, funding was skewed towards the inner cities and away from the shire counties.
As I have said, the debate is about having enough funding for all schools to provide the education that children deserve.
The second part of my speech is about what the figures mean for our schools. At the start of the debate, we should establish the facts about school funding. It is right that more money has been allocated to education, following pressure from hon. Members on both sides of the House who know the pressures that their local schools face. It is also right to acknowledge that the Government have offered additional funds to support increasing pension costs, which have hit schools badly.
The Minister must know, however, as I do, that those measures do not go anywhere near far enough to meet the real-terms cuts that schools face year on year. The statistics from the School Cuts campaign, which were verified by the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, show that 91% of schools across England have experienced real-terms cuts in per-pupil funding since 2015.
One of my primary school headteachers, who has been a teacher for 30 years and a headteacher for 15 years, tells me:
“I’ve never experienced a time when the range of needs has been so complex and the financial support so thin.”
She is the head of a school in one of the most deprived parts of my constituency and faces an overall deficit of £70,000 this year. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is not adequate to enable her to do the job that she has been doing for so long?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend’s assessment of the situation. That is a real problem, as it is for Mr Ramanandi and schools in Gateshead.
As I was saying, the Minister must know that schools face real-terms cuts year on year. It is simply not right to say that funding per pupil, which is the measure that really matters, has gone up. The Government’s statistics show that England’s schools have 137,000 more pupils in the system. The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies acknowledges that schools have suffered an 8% real-terms reduction in spending per pupil, despite growing numbers of pupils coming through the door.
With increasing numbers of pupils, and decreasing funding in real terms, schools have had to make cuts that have resulted in 5,400 fewer teachers, 2,800 fewer teaching assistants, 1,400 fewer support staff and 1,200 fewer auxiliary staff. If funding per pupil had been maintained in value since 2015, school funding in England would be £5.1 billion higher than it is now.
Like the petitioners, school leaders across England are concerned that the Government have not kept their promise to increase school funding in cash terms this year. The Secretary of State for Education promised that
“all schools would see a modest rise in funding”.
However, 4,819 schools have not received the Education Secretary’s guaranteed cash increase, meaning that one in four primary schools and one in six secondary schools have had their funding cut in cash terms this year. Locally, 71 schools in Gateshead have suffered Government cuts to per-pupil funding since 2015, losing out on £14 million. In my constituency, the average cut is about £45,000 per primary school and £185,000 per secondary school.
Headteachers in my constituency tell me that, as funding has become tighter, schools have had to cut back on essential resources: teaching and non-teaching staff; support staff who work with vulnerable pupils; small group work; interventions with children who are not thriving; teaching resources; subject choices; classroom and extracurricular activities; repairs for buildings, including asbestos management; and renewal of equipment.
Unison, which represents support staff in many of our schools, forecast that over the next year one in four schools across Gateshead borough will see redundancies. We know that, on top of that, many schools are not replacing staff who leave, so the reality is much worse for them.
Support staff are disproportionately affected by the redundancies. These are mostly part-time or term-time-only jobs, low-paid and generally taken by women living close to the school. By 2021, all but three schools in Gateshead are expected to be in budget deficit, so it is likely that further redundancies are on the horizon. How do we expect our schools to plan for the future?
I am very grateful to the hon. Lady and fellow member of the Petitions Committee for giving way, and she is making an excellent start and making the case for more funding for schools. I am sure that there is no one in this Chamber today who does not want to see more funding for schools. However, schools in Cornwall have been making the sorts of rationalisations and working efficiently in the way that she is describing for many years. So while we make the case for more funding for our schools, does she agree that the allocation of that funding must be fairly distributed across the country, because metropolitan schools have had too big a share of the cake for far too long?
I will repeat the point a third time that the petitioners have been clear with me that their concern is that all schools are properly funded, wherever they are, so I will not enter into those discussions.
My hon. Friend will share my concern about children in areas of high deprivation. They are already well behind the curve in terms of development; they were disadvantaged the day they were born. The education system can actually drag them out of poverty, but does she agree that this Government policy ensures that they are left in poverty?
Yes, clearly the lack of resources in schools and the loss of jobs mean that attention cannot be given to important issues, which is a real detriment to the people affected.
The second part of my speech is about what these figures mean for our schools: for the staff, the governors, the parents, but most of all, for the pupils in each and every school. I am sure that other Members will indulge me if I talk about the schools in my constituency; I have no doubt that many of them will wish to share experiences from their own schools.
Last Friday, I visited Portobello Primary School in Birtley. During my visit, the headteacher and governors of this great community school told me about their concerns about funding pressures. In the last year, they have lost four valuable members of staff to redundancy: a higher level teaching assistant with 20 years’ experience in early years education; an experienced teacher who led on the arts curriculum; a highly skilled teaching assistant who was trained in supporting children with medical and educational needs; and a dedicated school counsellor, who supported young children with their mental health.
Does my hon. Friend agree that for children with special needs, such as those in Coleridge Primary School in my constituency, this situation is a double whammy?
We all recognise that supporting the higher needs budget is extraordinarily important because of the vulnerable children that it supports. However, does the hon. Lady agree that when there is just a compulsory virement away from other budgets, that exacerbates the problem and that what we need is higher needs properly funded as a bloc?
Yes, I most certainly agree with the hon. Lady.
The headteacher and governors at Portobello Primary School also said that the impact of real-terms budget reductions has made it harder to deliver specific interventions with pupils; that it is increasingly difficult to provide personal and emotional support for vulnerable pupils; that they have lost decades’ worth of experience and curriculum knowledge; and that they are finding it harder and harder to take children on educational visits and purchase up-to-date teaching resources and equipment.
Due to these redundancies, staff are taking on extra duties and the local community are supporting the school by fundraising. I applaud the commitment of the staff of Portobello, who are doing everything they can for the children in their care. Most headteachers in my constituency could tell a similar story; it simply is not good enough that schools are not adequately funded to provide an outstanding education.
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way.
Order. May I ask Members on the Benches at the sides to come forward to speak, so that the microphones can pick them up?
Thank you, Sir David. My hon. Friend is making a very powerful speech. Given the feedback that I have received from schools in Hounslow, in my own constituency and in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury), I know that the pressures and demands, particularly regarding the special educational needs of the most vulnerable, could now become the next national issue, just as adult social care has been in crisis because of the lack of places. In my constituency and the rest of Hounslow, although we could provide over 1,200 places with the extra investment and funding that has come, there are more than 2,000 children with educational and healthcare plans. Does she agree that is a concern?
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention and I most certainly agree that there is a need to put additional resources into special educational needs as well.
I want to put it on the record that the Backbench Business Committee asked on 5 February for a six-hour debate on this issue, and that request has been granted. That request was supported by 43 Members, many of whom are here today. It is about time that the Government found time for this very valuable debate, because it is roundly supported.
I thank the hon. Lady very much for that intervention. What is clear from all Members here today is that we need a long debate on this issue, and I hope that we will have one soon.
Last November, I visited St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Blaydon, along with our local parliamentary outreach worker, Gillian. It is the school of Mr Ramanandi, the lead petitioner—and a fine school it is, too. I met some of the younger pupils there: they were polite and well-behaved, but also fizzing to make inquiries and ask questions. They were not afraid to ask some of the questions that many adult constituents would be too polite to ask.
Our discussions ranged far and wide, really covering some important local, national and environmental issues. These children had clearly been taught to have inquiring minds and to express themselves—in fact, I had to leave the school without answering all of their questions as I was late for my next meeting. In December, I had the chance to see the school Christmas play in a church just down the road from my office, and what talented and well-behaved ambassadors for their school the children were! I congratulate Mr Ramanandi and the staff on that.
My hon. Friend speaks with great experience on these matters. She reminds me of my own experience at East Acton Primary School, which I visited on Friday. In London, there are not just redundancies; there are also retention issues, because of the prohibitive cost of housing in London. As a result, there is a very imbalanced age structure of the teaching staff. They can get newly qualified teachers up to the age of 30, but then they are off somewhere else, because they want to put down roots. Does she agree that that is a tragic state of affairs?
Also, I spoke to one teacher who qualified in 1998. Our taxpayers have funded her training, but such older professionals are now brain-draining away. The teacher I met is moving to Beijing, because she cannot live on the wages here. Is that not a tragedy, too?
It is indeed a tragedy to see such a waste of the skilled people who are teaching in schools. It is a loss to our schools.
The point of my telling Members about St Joseph’s is to impress on them that the school, like Portobello and many other primary schools in my constituency, has great, dedicated staff who put all their effort into giving the children the best education they can have. When Mr Ramanandi and other heads tell me that their funding is not enough to maintain the high, rounded standards of teaching, learning and support their pupils need, I ask questions of them, but I believe and support them.
I will carry on a little.
Of course, it is not just primary schools that are feeling the strain; our secondary schools face real funding problems. Steve Haigh, head of Whickham School, says:
“The more pressure on my budget, the more class sizes have had to increase. We started a national petition to tell the Government that these cuts can’t go on, because children in Gateshead and across England deserve better. Headteachers are facing impossible choices. They care deeply about the whole of their communities—children, parents and staff. When choices are made to cut deeply in areas of need, making staff redundant and cutting the support for vulnerable young people, hard won gains are at risk, and effort and sacrifices made over the last decade may be thrown away if schools are not adequately funded. I stand proud with my community for our successes and I feel every cut I have to make—well concealed, painfully made, shamefully felt.”
I agree with Mr Haigh, who does excellent work in our local secondary school, especially in supporting pupils’ mental health.
Let us not forget the impact on children with special educational needs, who are also losing out because of the pressure on school budgets. Joanne, a parent, wrote to me:
“I am writing to express my serious concerns about school funding. I have an 11-year-old son and a 9-year-old girl in primary school. A regular topic of conversation in our house is how disgusting the school toilets are. It’s not that they are not cleaned; they are so old and dilapidated they are beyond looking nice. There is no spare money to replace them, nor has there been for many years. My son has autism, and during his whole school life he has never received the one-to-one support to which he has always been entitled, due to funding. My daughter regularly runs straight to the loo after school, after holding it in all day rather than use the toilets. I cannot fault the school, they try their very best at all times. Isn’t it the job of Parliament to do better for our children, our next generation?”
One school in my constituency is looking at more than £1 million of cuts by 2020-21. That will mean that it will not be able to afford any learning support assistants, teaching assistants, office staff or site staff. As children with special needs need one-to-one support from learning assistants, does my hon. Friend agree that school cuts will disproportionately affect them?
I thank my hon. Friend for making such a powerful speech. Does she agree that the education system is on the brink of insolvency, and that it is unacceptable for parents to be asked for money, for professional fundraisers to be employed and for charges to be introduced for parents, to provide basic provisions in schools?
Yes, I believe very strongly, as do the petitioners, that our schools should be properly funded to provide the education their pupils need. Where fundraising is concerned, it is people in areas of deprivation who may well lose out, because there is no spare cash.
Bringing food into schools to feed the kids in the morning, hand-me-down school uniforms, staff putting their own cash into raising funds, and headteachers paying for cleaners out of their own pocket is the reality in Hartlepool. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is a sad indictment of the national funding formula’s effects?
That is a very distressing tale to hear. There is certainly a huge impact on schools and pupils locally.
I will press on.
Because of the petition, in recent weeks my mailbox has been packed full of stories from school staff and parents across the Blaydon constituency. Sheena, a teaching assistant—a TA—wrote:
“I love my job! I have worked in a local infant school for 30 years as a teaching assistant. But over the last 3 years we have lost 8 members of staff due to redundancies due to lack of funding. We run our school on a skeleton staff. We are unable to buy resources for the children due to lack of funding (staff sometimes use their own money!). We have just gone through the redundancy process again, losing another TA, which leaves us with 2 TAs in a school with 6 classes (3 classes are Early Years Foundation Stage, which require…a TA…). Does this mean we have to turn children away because of lack of staff? In turn, this means less funding! Teachers without a TA have to leave their ‘teaching’ to see to poorly children, first aid and collecting resources, all because of reduced funding to schools. Not having a TA in every classroom…does have a detrimental effect on our children, especially the slower learners and SEN children.”
The hon. Lady comes on to talk about teachers, and it seems to me that the impact is not only on the children. We risk those in this much-needed profession being too exhausted and stressed to cope with the additional pressures and workload. We risk alienating them from the profession altogether.
Yes, I most certainly agree. When visiting schools, I see the enthusiasm that teachers have, but also the strain they are under because of the lack of support and resources.
Susan, another teaching assistant, said:
“As staff, our main concern is the welfare of the children in our care. We are making as many adjustments as we can to try to absorb these cuts with minimum disruption to the education we provide for the children. But there is only so much we can do!”
And Dominic, a secondary schoolteacher, wrote:
“This is at a time when students in general appear to have greater needs. The rates of mental illness are on the increase. We have a talented team of pastoral and welfare teachers who would willingly spend more time one-to-one with students, but who have no time because they are dealing with endless cases of misbehaviour. There are increasing incidents of self-harm, internal truanting and bullying, which could be addressed with more money for more staff.”
I have received dozens more stories from parents and governors as well as from staff, and I am sure colleagues will share their own experiences.
For headteachers, parents, teaching and non-teaching staff, governors, and—most of all—children, this should not be about politics, and the petitioners have made that clear in speaking to me. Our schools simply want to go about their jobs, delivering high standards of education, and preparing our children and young people for life, ensuring that they have the best possible start. We cannot afford not to fund our schools properly.
Sir David, the petitioners do not just want me to tell you how hard things are because of the funding problems they face; they want to ask the Minister for some action, to provide adequate funding—fair funding—for our children and young people. They call on the Government to increase funding for schools, so that they can provide the education their pupils need.
Mr Ramanandi was talking to me earlier about how tomorrow he will be telling his staff at St Joseph’s the outcome of his funding and redundancy consultation—not something he is looking forward to. He would like to tell them that in the future his school will be able to offer the broad, rounded curriculum and supportive environment that makes our children healthy, rounded people who have had the best start in life. I hope that the Minister is able to tell Mr Ramanandi that he can do that, because of the actions the Government have taken. I also invite the Minister to join me in visiting the schools in Gateshead, to see the great work they are doing.
I am going to need to call the Front Benchers at 7 pm, so that leaves about two hours for Back Benchers. Given the numbers of Back Benchers standing, I am going to limit speeches to four minutes, but that may well have to be reduced later.
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.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
On the issue of pressure on teacher’s pay, I have had a communication from a headteacher in my constituency about the upcoming 40% increase in teachers’ pension contributions. Teachers in my constituency are absolutely desperate, because they do not know how they are going to fund those contributions within the existing levels of teaching grant and budget support.
Indeed; I mentioned just one aspect of the further upcoming expenditure and pressure. I will not take any more interventions, because I do not seem to have got an extra minute for that one, so that was probably a mistake.
Last year, I got together all the chairs of governors from all the schools in my constituency to tell me, in real-life terms, what impact the funding pressures were having on their schools. I did a similar exercise with all the headteachers. A lot of national figures and a lot of misinformation have been thrown at us from all sides, and some of the campaigns in our constituencies have been highly politicised. Simply because I put a DFE press release on my website, one head of a secondary school in my constituency wrote to all the parents of the children in his school castigating me, despite my having been in every single debate on this subject and having stood side by side with parents, teachers and others to get fairer funding. Politicising those campaigns does not help. If we are going to get a better deal, we need to work together with heads, parents and governors, as I have been trying to do.
Rather than all sorts of misinformation, I got hard information and I wrote an eight-page letter, which I am happy to give to all hon. Members, about the impacts that funding pressures are having on our schools. Shortfalls are being clawed back by reducing staffing costs, which in some cases account for 90% of a school’s budget. Senior leadership teams are covering classes. Extracurricular activities and trips are being culled, and certain subjects are being taken off the curriculum altogether. In one school, teaching assistant support has been reduced by over 200 hours. Higher level teaching assistants are being used to cover classes so that school cuts’ effects on supply staff are lessened, and I am afraid that in some cases, quality is being compromised. Just today, I got an email from the head of a primary school in my constituency, which said:
“We have a long waiting list of children who benefit from work with a therapist (who works here two days a week), she has had a great deal of success with children with social and emotional needs; we are not sure if we can maintain her hours. The danger is that some of these children who could and would have been able to engage and flourish in education and society will end up costing society a great deal more than the adequate funding of their needs in school”
because they are missing out.
This is a national emergency. In West Sussex, it has been an emergency for some years. We need to have fair funding now; it is a false economy for our children if we do not.
The school in my constituency that seems to have the biggest problem with budget reductions is Cardinal Hume Catholic School. That name should be familiar to the Minister and the Secretary of State, because they came to that secondary school to launch the opportunity fund for the north-east. It should be remembered that the opportunity fund for the north-east will not actually benefit Gateshead, but they came to my constituency to launch it anyway.
Cardinal Hume Catholic School is one of many schools in my constituency—too many to mention—that are due to lose significant amounts, having lost significant amounts already. Some 26 schools are due to have a negative budget by the end of the 2019-20 budget round, in a context where headteachers across the borough and the region are struggling to provide for the children in their schools, many of them in very deprived communities. We should bear in mind that Gateshead has an unemployment problem that has been on the increase, year on year since last year, and month by month in that same period. Some 7% of the working population are now unemployed, and many others are underemployed. There is significant deprivation in that patch.
What headteachers wanted to impress on me, and asked me to impress on the House as well, was that because of significant cuts to a range of other services, there is pressure on them to try to backfill for those cuts: for the welfare reform, for the cuts in local authority services and children’s services—for all of the cuts that have taken place since 2018. I know that Government Members sometimes struggle to get their heads around this issue, but the simple fact is that when I resigned, or had to retire, as the deputy leader of Gateshead Council in 2010, we had an annual revenue budget of £310 million. The commensurate figure this year is £200 million. Some £110 million has gone out of the annual revenue account of that local authority, while at the same time demand, particularly for children’s services and adult social care, has grown like Topsy.
Because of the concerns, particularly welfare concerns, that headteachers in our schools have about the children in their care, they are trying to provide services that used to be provided but sadly no longer exist. By the way, it is not just the DFE that was involved: the DFE was part of that process, but the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Department for Work and Pensions and other Government Departments were also involved. A range of important services for the welfare of children have gone by the board, and funding needs to be restored.
Representatives of the teaching profession tell us that a minimum of £2 billion needs to be restored to the system; possibly £2.7 or £2.8 billion, and perhaps as much as £5 billion if we are to keep all services’ funding in line with inflation. That might be pie in the sky, but we should not expect great benefits for children, particularly those in deprived areas, when services have been cut and headteachers are being expected to pick up the slack. Those benefits are not going to happen without significant investment. Invest in our children and our schools.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. At the start, I pay tribute to the many teachers and teaching assistants in my constituency; I do not often get to publicly pay tribute to them, and this is a timely moment to do so. They are some of the best public servants that we have, along with all of the others who we routinely talk about. However, in the context of what has become such a toxic debate, it has to be remembered that MPs are public servants too, and that MPs on all sides of the House are trying to do the best that they can. Some of these debates have become so unpleasant that we are slowing down progress that might put some of these things right for our constituents, our schools, and our teachers and teaching assistants.
During debates on this subject, we routinely hear two sides of the story: the Opposition side and the Government side. The Government have a good tale to tell on schools. I know as I say that that some people will laugh and make comments, but it is not right to say that there is only one side of the story.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies talks about real-terms cuts of 8%. When Members go through the Division Lobby and vote for such policies, people—teachers, parents and the community—will remember.
This is the very point I am trying to make. If we are to make progress, we need to listen to Members such as my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who are talking about how politicised the debate has become,. We know that more needs to be done. We know that schools need more money. I know that schools in my constituency are struggling with their budgets, but it does not do to constantly—[Interruption.] That is the point I am trying to make. Every time someone tries to make a point, it becomes a political argument. We do not make progress by saying one side is right and the other side is wrong. Many of the increases to school budgets we have seen in recent years have been in no small part due to the lobbying skills of people like my hon. Friend. Those increases have come about because of such people, not because they have always been playing the political game.
My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. He says there are two sides; surely one is funding and the other is outcomes and standards, which are ultimately what matters. Does he agree that we are seeing real and significant improvements, particularly in phonics and GCSE results, that mean our children will do better in life? That is what matters, surely.
That is exactly the point, and it should be what we talk about. We should be talking about our children, their outcomes and their future and not constantly make it a political battle.
School budgets have increased, but I concede they have not increased enough. [Interruption.] If Members could just allow me to get on to the points they might agree with, we might make some progress. The teacher and teaching assistant to pupil ratio in my Southampton constituency is around 10 children to one adult. When I went to school—I concede it was a long time ago—it was 30 kids in a class, sat in rows with one teacher and a blackboard. I know we do not want to go back to those days, but more recently, when my daughter went to school about 10 years ago, and now what we see has changed beyond all recognition. We never seem to do anything to acknowledge that, and we should, because otherwise we sound like we are moaning and whining and nothing is ever good enough.
I concede—this is important, because this is what people say, and they are right to say it—that pension contributions and national insurance are increasing. The national living wage has increased. Pupil numbers are rising. Inflation has not stood still. Pay has been held down and is quite rightly starting to rise. They are additional pressures, and they need to be funded.
Does my hon. Friend agree that a huge additional pressure is the complexity that some pupils are presenting at school with? Whether that is behavioural problems or emotional problems, those are significant additional pressures that schools are being required to address.
I absolutely agree. How schools deal with children who have significant and complex special educational needs or disabilities has changed beyond all recognition from how things used to be. We are doing so much better. [Interruption.] Members shake their heads, but things are so much better than when I went to school and when my daughter went to school. The reality is that it could be better still. If all we ever do is refuse to acknowledge what is happening, we will never make the progress we all want.
The hon. Gentleman talks about the needs of children with special needs in school, but when he was at school, many of those children would have been in special schools—separated and with a different level of provision. We support the integration of children with special needs in our schools wherever possible, and that needs resourcing.
That is exactly what I just said, but the hon. Lady decided to interpret what I said as not thinking that children with special educational needs and complex educational needs were being looked after in schools far better than they used to be. There is nothing wrong with putting the case for extra funding from Government, and I expect everyone to do that, but it has to be done within the envelope of public spending. Everyone is asking for money for everything.
In the last Budget, the Chancellor talked about giving “little extras”. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that what we need is proper funding, not “little extras”?
I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady, but what we are getting is far more than we did. What we need is even more than we have got.
I am grateful to have been called early in the debate, and I will try to be brief. In the very short time I have, I would like to focus on the overall school system and the malaise that can be taken right back to academisation and this Government’s ideological approach to academies.
Academies, which were originally designed to introduce a degree of competition and choice for parents, have become a system in which there is no more local oversight and scrutiny. It has therefore become incredibly difficult to get to the bottom of the funding problem. Eight years ago, school oversight was done by the local authority. In my authority of Bath and North East Somerset, the council’s schools management budget was just under £1.8 million. That paid for the director of schools and the school support officers for all 78 schools in the borough.
I sit on the board of a multi-academy trust in the constituency I am privileged to represent. Many of the other governors who sit on various different academy boards are also locally resident. They provide rather better oversight than many local authorities.
I too am a board member of one of my local academy trusts. The oversight provided through the local education authority, the overview and scrutiny committee in the council and the direct accountability of local councillors. was better than what the boards can do.
Bath now has 10 multi-academy trusts. That is 10 management structures, 10 chief executives on similar pay to the LEA director of education and 10 lots of support staff. Additionally, we have the new regional schools commissioner and their staff, which is another chunk of overheads.
Education funding in Bath has dropped by 8.8%, or £414 a pupil, over the past seven years. The Education Secretary said that good teachers, not management structures, create good teaching, but in our 2019 education system, where national trusts and commissioners support regional trusts and commissioners, far too little funding reaches individual schools, let alone individual teachers and students. Here in Parliament we must ask how such management structures enrich and add value to our children’s education. If money is paying for management at the expense of teachers, we should know about it.
We should have transparency about where education money goes in Bath and elsewhere. Ten years ago there was, with schools under the oversight of the local authority and councillors on the governing bodies; there were local overview and scrutiny committees and councillors were answerable to the community and parents. That is no longer the case. Local accountability has been replaced by multi-academy trusts accountable to Whitehall. Often they operate over several local authority areas, and that is a problem.
Multi-academy trusts provide excellent education, but so do local authority schools. If academies cost more to provide the same education, we should know about it. Where are the comparative figures? I have tried to find out how we can compare what happened in 2010 with what happens now, but that is difficult because we do not have local figures anymore and multi-academy trusts can keep the figures to themselves. If they cost more, we should know about it. Our children’s education matters. If the changes introduced over the past 10 years cost extra in management and overheads at the same time as per pupil funding has fallen by 8.8% in Bath, let us be open and talk about it. Let us have fair comparisons and find solutions to ensure that funding goes to the frontline and to our young people, not to the management of a fragmented system.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Sir David. I congratulate the hon. Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) on a fine speech. Obviously, we all sympathise with the points she made because there are concerns in our schools. I have just had a letter from the Stour Valley Trust in my constituency, and I have forwarded it to the Minister. There are significant concerns: capital is the one that schools in Suffolk mention the most. However, there is a positive picture to paint, particularly in relation to standards.
On Friday, I had an inspirational visit to a primary school in my constituency. I have 42 primaries, most of which are tiny and in very small rural areas. Hadleigh Community Primary School, which I went to on Friday, is exceptional because it has 500 pupils. I went to Edgware Primary School in north London, which has 680 pupils, but in South Suffolk Hadleigh primary is very large. It has just gone from “requires improvement” to “good”. Its excellent headteacher, Gary Pilkington, asked me to give the Minister a message: that the funding situation is improving significantly because of the change in the formula.
It is all well and good people denying the point about how the cake is divided, but on the Government side of the House, where many of us represent rural constituencies, we have disadvantage, too. We have poverty in rural areas. When a child has special needs there should be no difference in the amount they receive, wherever they are in the country, and we have campaigned for such principles. From the evidence that I am getting, that is now leading to more funding getting through.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that the so-called fair funding formula has disadvantaged Ipswich and Lowestoft far more than the rest of Suffolk? Those are the places where there are the largest problems with SEN provision and the lowest levels of attainment. Does he not accept that it does not necessarily make sense to provide exactly the same resources for every child?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but, if we were disadvantaging the other schools in Suffolk, standards in Suffolk would not be improving. The statistics show very strong improvement in Suffolk. In March this year, just under 90% of Suffolk schools held Ofsted ratings of “good” or “outstanding” compared with 72% in December 2013. We have seen significant improvements in GCSEs: 64% of students in Suffolk now achieve the expected standard in English and maths, putting Suffolk in the top third of local authorities. The county has risen from 67th to 42nd out of 151 local authorities ranked on Progress 8 schools, which is a significant improvement. If Lowestoft and Ipswich, our biggest towns, were struggling to badly, we would not be attaining such improvements.
I have only one minute left, so I will make my key point. Yes, spending is important, but, with respect, Opposition Members focus relentlessly on that when standards and outcomes are what ultimately matter. What matters is the education our children achieve, the grades they get, how our country performs, and how they will be able to compete in a global marketplace.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that wellbeing and mental health are also important? Would he support the campaign being run by YoungMinds, who are in Parliament today to tell Ofsted to count in mental health and wellbeing in our schools?
With the extra time belatedly allocated, I can say that I see a role for that. It is timely because a report on SEND in Suffolk was published today, and I am afraid Suffolk is still struggling. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) said earlier in his intervention, there is a growing awareness of the problems that we see in special needs children who are on the spectrum, and of the extra funding that that requires, so I agree that mental health and so on should be included.
On the point about standards, in the modern labour market our children might go out to compete globally, working abroad or competing with people coming here from other countries that have rigorous and high quality education systems. Our children have to be able to compete. If we look at international comparisons, not only do we have the highest funding in the G7 on state primary and secondary—something to be proud of—but our international progress on all the key markers is also improving. We must be doing something right. We are now in joint 8th place internationally on phonics: the best position we have had since the test started in 2001. That is in large part down to my right hon. Friend the Minister.
For me, this is the most important statistic: compared with 2009, the last year when the Opposition were in power, 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are now 50% more likely to go to university. That is social mobility. We have to pay for it and find the money, but we have to see the positives. Significant improvements are being made, but we need to continue to find a fairer formula that benefits constituencies such as South Suffolk.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I congratulate Andrew Ramanandi, the headteacher of St Joseph’s Primary School in Blaydon, for starting the e-petition. Without his hard work on the petition, we would not be here today discussing this very important issue. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) on speaking so eloquently and on taking so many interventions in opening this fantastic debate.
I want to focus on how the Government’s policy of austerity in education is harming the wellbeing and life chances of my constituents in Edmonton, especially children with special educational needs. Austerity has created an £8.5 million annual funding shortfall in Edmonton. Every single school in my constituency has had its funding cut since 2015. Furthermore, Edmonton, ranked the 50th most deprived constituency in England in 2015, has suffered some of the worst cuts in funding per pupil in the country.
Since 2010, owing to pernicious funding cuts from central Government, Enfield Council has been forced to find £178 million of savings, but further cuts mean that the council has to find £18 million to draw out of essential services by 2020. That £18 million is more than Enfield’s current net spending on housing services, leisure, culture, libraries, parks and open spaces combined. In an already struggling community, the education and overall life chances of every single pupil in Edmonton is being systematically undermined by the Government.
Does my hon. Friend agree with me that London’s education has been transformed thanks to investment by the previous Labour Government, but the cuts of £16 million in five years under the Conservative Government—including in constituencies such as mine, which has the highest child poverty rate in the country—make a mockery of the so-called fair funding formula as it does not take into account the deprivation indices facing our constituents? If the Government are serious about maintaining and improving education standards and making our education world class, they should continue to invest in all areas.
My hon. Friend makes a valuable point. I will share the story of a parent whom I saw in one of my surgeries. The parent has a child with a developmental disability. He spends around £800 per month on one-to-one sessions for his child’s needs, which the family cannot get the council to pay for. Without the sessions, the family believe their child will have no hope of an independent life in future, but paying for the sessions is financially ruining the whole family.
I have also heard reports of children in Edmonton with statements, or education, health and care plans, who receive no special provision at all, or who receive a fraction of the legally required support, because schools and the local authority simply cannot afford it. Worryingly, some councils are pushing back against parents seeking legitimate support for their children, which has led to almost nine in 10 cases taken to tribunals across the UK finding in favour of parents. Every tribunal case is a family struggling and a young person failed by the system.
Time is against me, so I will end by saying that I want the Minister to please listen to the cries from all of us here today. All our children need fairer funding—some children even more than others.
I am pleased to be able to speak today in support of the petition. I congratulate the hon. Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) on putting this important debate before the House, and of course it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David.
I believe in investing money wisely in things with a proven record of return, and there can be no greater stock worth investing in than our children’s education. It is true: never has more public money been spent on education, and the Government should be commended for that. The diversion of an extra £1.2 billion is a good start, but, bluntly, I want more cash for schools in my constituency.
I was pleased that more than 1,000 residents from Hazel Grove signed the petition, placing us 14th in the ranking. That reflects not only how strongly local residents feel about the proper funding of their children’s schools, but the fact that they are becoming ever more aware of the unfair imbalances in funding that have left local authorities such as Stockport underfunded for decades.
Does my hon. Friend agree that one issue facing schools is that they are being asked to do more to support children with special educational needs and disabilities? We understand those conditions better and we have legislated in this House to raise standards and entitlements for those children. We need to ensure that schools and councils have the resources to provide what we have asked them to.
Yes—it is high time that the resources caught up with that justifiable expectation.
Since being elected as the MP for Hazel Grove, I have sought to build strong professional relationships with the schools and headteachers in my constituency, and I am grateful for their insights on school funding. I am particularly grateful to those who have met me. I will rattle through the schools quickly, because they all deserve a name check. They include: Romiley Primary School, Norbury Hall Primary School, Brookside Primary School, Torkington Primary School, St Stephen’s RC Primary School, Fairway Primary School, Ludworth Primary School, Mellor Primary School, Werneth School, Harrytown Catholic High School and Marple Hall School. I defy other Members to mention as many schools as that. They have all provided me with important facts and financial analyses of what my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) has said is the real impact of the lack of funding.
I, of course, supported the national funding formula, and I and many other colleagues are in the f40 group, which represents the lowest funded local education authorities in the country. We have had many positive meetings with Ministers. However, as time has gone on, and with the implementation of the national funding formula, it has become increasingly clear that, although the Government are still technically honouring their commitment, some schools are set for an increase so slight that it is essentially negligible.
Of the 25 schools in my constituency, four will receive an increase of under 1%, and 10 will receive an increase of under 3%—only four will receive a sizeable increase of 5% under the new formula. We are asking not for the world: merely resources comparable to those of similar schools in different parts of the country. It is inherently unfair to expect schools with similar characteristics to achieve the same results on wildly differing budgets.
It is a timely coincidence that the Education Committee, of which I am a member—I am pleased to see many august members of the Committee present this afternoon —is conducting an inquiry into both school and college funding. The evidence that we have received from across the sector points towards the true figure needed to address the historical imbalances, as the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) indicated earlier. It is not the DFE’s current £1.2 billion, but at least £2.1 billion.
I know that Education Ministers will argue strongly for their budget in the forthcoming spending review, but can the Minister indicate whether that figure is on the cards? The evidence suggests that that is what is really needed to get school funding to where it needs to be, so that schools can stop endlessly worrying about making ends meet and focus on the business of providing great education.
I have a specific question for the Minister. Writing to us in September on pension contributions, the Education Secretary said:
“There will be a consultation and it is the Government’s firm intention to fully fund schools for the additional pressure that the pension contributions place on their budget, ensuring that the core schools budget continues to be protected.”
Can the Minister confirm that this afternoon?
I congratulate all Members on taking part in the debate. I thank the 1,000 of my constituents who signed the petition. I hope that in the spending review we can give good news to our local schools, and give them the cash that they need.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) for leading the debate.
Last week, I spoke in the estimates debate on education funding, appealing for increased funding for our schools and colleges. Seemingly, every Education Committee inquiry references the lack of appropriate funding, or misdirected funding, as a cause of many of the problems. As a teacher and headteacher of 34 years—I am not speaking politically now, but personally, as a professional—I get so frustrated by the fact that we, and teachers, have to come cap in hand to such debates to appeal for funding so often, when it is every child’s right to have a quality education. However, I thank the teachers, head- teachers and parents who signed the petition and brought it to Parliament for the debate.
My colleagues, both in education and in politics, will no doubt agree that the passion and determination of those in the education sector should never be underestimated. That passion drives teachers, teaching assistants and others, who want children to get the best education possible, to take on extra work and responsibilities, or to use their own money to buy learning resources that schools cannot afford. However, it should not be like that. It should not be the case that 95% of schools in my constituency are facing real-terms cuts in per-pupil funding.
Schools in my constituency in Bedford and Kempston will lose £1,000 per primary school class, and £1,600 per secondary school class, despite the Government’s promises that the national funding formula would fix everything. The reality is that class sizes are going up, and school funding is going down. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government are hopelessly out of touch regarding the crisis in our schools, and parents, teachers and pupils know better than to be fooled by paltry funding for “little extras”?
I completely agree. From having spoken to many headteachers in my constituency, and around the country, I know that they now say that they have made it work, and made it work. They are now crossing red lines, and can no longer deliver proper provision for the children in their schools.
Colne Valley secondary schools should not have a total annual shortfall of more than £1,360,000, and primary schools a total of more than £1,720,000. It is not difficult to see how rising pupil numbers and reductions in funding are putting schools in a terrible position.
I reinforce my hon. Friend’s point about headteachers being at the end of their tether. One of my constituents, who is an officer for the National Association of Headteachers, and who happens to be in the Gallery, organised a very useful meeting for me with headteachers from across my constituency. Like my hon. Friend, a number of them have been in the teaching profession for decades. Several of them also said that under no previous Government had they seen anything like such large cuts. Does she agree, and has she heard the same from her headteachers?
I absolutely concur. I can speak personally about that. Under the last Labour Government, I had a headship for two schools and had a school with a Sure Start centre, which was funded adequately and making a real difference to the quality of children’s and families’ lives. I can speak personally about the investment from the previous Labour Government.
At my latest meeting with Colne Valley headteachers, I was told that funding issues have led to cuts in staffing and resources, and difficulties in SEND provision. I know that that is the case for headteachers up and down the country. The cuts have also limited opportunities for learning in schools. A recent report by the Fabian Society found that there has been a dramatic decline in arts provision in primary schools, and that it is of a poorer quality than in 2010.
It is the same for modern foreign languages. Analysis from the BBC shows a drop in the number of pupils taking a GCSE language course of between 30% and 50%. The Sixth Form Colleges Association revealed that 50% of schools and colleges have dropped courses in modern foreign languages because of funding pressures, with A-levels in German, French and Spanish the main casualties. The hon. Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge) spoke about equipping schoolchildren for being the future workforce. A decline in the number of young people taking modern foreign languages will have a negative impact on that.
The funding cuts not only put an unnecessary and unwelcome amount of pressure on professionals; they take away from what should be a broad and balanced curriculum. The Government need to listen to professionals—on issues in the system, and on the types of learning and environment that benefit children and the level of resources that it will take to deliver them. Decisions should be responsive to what is happening, and should not trivialise concerns, offering only “little extras” here and there. I know that the people supporting the campaign better to fund our schools, colleges and sixth forms will keep going. I hope that today’s debate reassures them that they have allies in this place who are listening and who will stand with them.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I congratulate the hon. Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) on opening the debate. I also thank my fellow West Sussex MP, my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (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.
I am glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman’s constituency’s schools are getting more funding. If more money is being spent in some schools, that is great, but how does he justify the fact that schools in areas such as North Tyneside are losing 3% funding per pupil? It does not make the balance any better. Surely he cannot rejoice that his schools are doing better when other schools are losing funding.
I certainly would not advocate that schools in one part of the country should lose to benefit schools in other parts, which is what happened under the last Labour Government: schools in my constituency of Crawley were given about half the funding of their equivalents in metropolitan areas, particularly here in the capital. I believe that funding for pupils should be made available across the whole country. The historical underfunding needs to be addressed; it is beginning to be addressed, but if we are to properly equip our young people and support teachers to ensure that our young people have the best education, we will need more still.
I should have declared an interest at the beginning of my speech: when I was leader of West Sussex County Council, I was chair of the West Sussex learning disability partnership; I am also currently a vice-president of the British Dyslexia Association. I will end with a plea to the Department for special needs to receive extra attention. Those children and young people deserve our support so that they can have a start in life equal to that of all other pupils up and down the country.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) on introducing this important debate.
I would like to focus in detail on one consequence of school underfunding for an inclusive education system. Rising demand for specialist provision in mainstream schooling, which is already facing an undue burden from cuts, is resulting in a two-tier education system and in the disappearance of the different and the disabled from our mainstream schools. Parents across Bury all too frequently share heart-wrenching stories of their struggles—often years long—to get the support that is needed for their children with special educational needs and disabilities in the mainstream school system. That failure is sponsored by Government direction, budget cuts and the narrowing field in which we judge our children to have succeeded.
In our inquiry into SEND, the Education Committee has uncovered a crisis. Parents are forced to fight with schools and local authorities through tribunals, often at great emotional and financial cost to their families, to secure the specialist provision needed to ensure that their daughter or son fulfils their potential.
My hon. Friend mentions children who have special educational needs or are disabled. In many instances, children with higher needs have actually been removed from mainstream schools and moved into a separate education system in which they are not getting the support that they require.
I absolutely agree. It seems to me that in the education system, we ignore everything that we would deem important when using the word “special” in any other context. Enhanced provision, accurate service, more rather than less attention—in education, those things are just not happening for those with special educational needs.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has concluded that between 2010 and 2018, total school spending per pupil fell by 8% in real terms. The National Audit Office says that schools will need to make efficiency savings of £3 billion by 2020—8% of the total schools budget. Ever-tightening school budgets are forcing schools to make difficult and often short-term decisions about lower-level preventive SEND support that would meet the needs of many children without the need for statutory plans and interventions. The failure in mainstream specialist provision creates a perverse incentive to push for education, health and care plans: 320,000 children and young people had EHC plans last year, which represents an increase of 35% since 2014. Schools have to find the first £6,000 for the additional support needed—yet another burden on their budgets.
The Local Government Association has warned of a £500 million SEND funding gap for 2018-19, which is set to increase to £1.6 billion by 2021. Local authorities have stated in evidence to the Education Committee that spending their already limited budget on facing down the legal challenges at increasing numbers of education tribunals is politically and practically more palatable than funding mainstream schooling better in the first place, even though that would be a preventive measure. When appeals go to tribunal, 90% of decisions are found in favour of parents. The number of cases going to tribunal has increased year on year since 2014, at an average cost of £6,000—70 million quid overall. That money would be better spent on improving SEND provision, instead of on the “crisis first, crisis only” provision that there is under this Government.
At every stage of the Government’s education system, we can see the Tory-touted promise of opportunity becoming wasted opportunity. Nursery providers are being forced to ask parents for money. Schools are riddled with asbestos and face a £100 million shortfall. Capital funding has disappeared. Teacher recruitment and retention are at crisis point. College funding is stagnating. Lifelong learning budgets have been gutted by 32% this decade.
I say to the Government: spend more upstream in mainstream. Instead of just increasing the budget, move the money upstream, reach into the system and enable the simple change of frame that is required. Our country deserves a world-class education service for all, from nursery to university and lifelong learning— one where every child matters, can fulfil their potential and take advantage of a lifelong education system that is based on inclusivity and difference, and repeated opportunities.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. When I was first elected to the House almost 22 years ago, the problem in Gloucestershire was that we were underfunded due to something called the area cost adjustment. It has taken a long time to start to correct that, as this Government have done. We lost out not just to inner-city areas, which received a lot more money per pupil, but to other rural areas that got much more than Gloucestershire did.
I was very pleased that this Government agreed to set up the national funding formula. That was good news, but we need to start to see the fairness of the formula coming through a bit more quickly. If we continue at a very slow pace—let us say that it takes 20 years for there to be an equalisation of funding per pupil—three or four generations of pupils will lose out. I say to the Minister, “Well done so far, but perhaps we need it to happen a little bit quicker than it is happening at the moment.”
Does my hon. Friend agree that we have the wrong Minister responding to this debate? That is in no way a personal criticism of him—quite the opposite. I believe that he and his colleagues in the Department for Education are listening, but they can allocate only the funding they are provided by the Treasury. Is it not the Chancellor who should be answering our requests for more funding for our constituencies? Should not our key request to the Minister be to ask him to take back to the Chancellor our calls for more funding for our constituencies?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend and am absolutely delighted that the schools Minister is here to listen. He and his colleagues have an open-door policy: they are always prepared to meet hon. Members and listen to their concerns. I take the point that the Education Secretary and his Ministers can divide the cake only in certain ways, and it is their decision. Perhaps we need to grow the cake, which is the point my hon. Friend correctly makes.
I want to turn to higher needs funding. I welcome the fact that, again, the Department listened to many of us who said that higher needs requires more spending. Several colleagues did that, and more money was forthcoming, which is very welcome. Although I welcome recognition of the problem, even after receiving more money, Conservative-controlled Gloucestershire will have a shortfall in higher needs funding this year, and it will increase next year. We need to see more money going into that.
I have two absolutely excellent special schools in my constituency—Alderman Knight and Milestones—and I recognise that mainstream schools are also struggling with this particular issue. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Royston Smith) made the point that when we were at school many years ago, class sizes were bigger and there was no such thing as a teaching assistant—that was also the case when I was the chairman of governors at a primary school. However, I accept and recognise that there are now greater and more complex higher needs, and more pupils with them, than there were in those days. I fully accept that we need to do more in that respect.
I met about 40 or 50 school governors on Saturday morning, along with my hon. Friends the Members for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) and for Gloucester (Richard Graham) and the hon. Member for Stroud (Dr Drew). It was a very good debate, but one teacher said that a teacher at her school had been assaulted by a pupil. I have seen that happen in other schools, and one of the problems is that there are not enough staff in schools. I asked them, “If you had a load more money, what would you spend it on?” The answer was more staff and perhaps better facilities in schools.
I recognise that the Government have given more money for capital spending, but also that there are problems in schools. Fairly recently, I had a school that was actually dangerous—there was asbestos in it and the windows were very dangerous and almost literally falling out. The Government came forward with emergency money for that. It is an issue that we have to recognise.
I started by saying that when I came to this place, there were different reasons for concerns about school funding. Although we are getting absolutely excellent education in our schools—the ones I visit are amazing in the work they are doing, and my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge) is right to point out that outcomes matter at the end of the day—I have never known the concern about school funding to be as strong as it is now. That is not in any way to deny what the Government have done, or to deny the progress that has been made; it is recognising that there is a real problem.
It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship in this incredibly important debate, Sir David. I am proud that nearly two years on since local parents, children, support staff, teachers, head teachers, Fair Funding For All Schools, the Labour party and I protested in Nantwich town centre and marched in our thousands on the streets of Sandbach, my constituency is still demanding answers to the crisis the Government and 10 years of austerity have inflicted on our education system. We still come in the top 10 constituencies in the country for responding to this petition, and I thank every single person who took the time to do so.
Since being elected, I have spoken many times about the funding crisis that has gripped our schools. I speak as an ex-teacher, an educational campaigner, a parent and now as a Member of Parliament and as vice-chair of the F40 group, which represents the worst-funded authorities in the country. Today I speak on behalf of all of those brave professionals who continue to stick their head above the parapet and speak honestly about life in schools. In Crewe and Nantwich, they constantly hear the misleading claim that this Government are providing more money for schools than ever before, but they know full well that they have faced real-terms cuts on a massive scale. After all, 100% of schools in my constituency have experienced such cuts. They do an amazing job at trying to deliver the best experience they can for the children and families that attend, but it is becoming an impossible task.
I regularly meet head teachers in my area, both as a collective and as individuals. Without exception, they relay the same message: they cannot shave any more meat off the bones of their budgets. They are demoralised and devastated, and they feel let down, because teachers believe that every child matters—that is a fundamental idea that should unite everybody in this place whenever we discuss education. It is the belief that every child matters that inspired me to go into teaching.
I want to focus specifically on the issue of SEND provision. It is not only the first topic mentioned by the majority of head teachers, but shows that somewhere along the line this Government lost the belief that every child matters. The F40 campaign states that the funding currently available is not enough to deliver education for the modern world. All SEND in schools has increased dramatically in recent years, including the low levels of SEN. Schools are dealing with those higher levels, an increase in pupil numbers and the increase in the cost of running a school, while their budgets have been slashed in real terms.
On the issue of SEND, I want to mention the importance of teaching assistants. UNISON, which is represented in the Gallery by its regional director in the north-east, recognise their importance. My daughter is a newly qualified teacher in her first year of teaching and has said that she has a number of children in her class with special educational needs, yet she has only one teaching assistant for a few hours. Does my hon. Friend recognise how detrimental this is to those children?
I am very pleased to hear that my hon. Friend’s daughter is going into the profession. I cannot speak highly enough of the talents of the teaching assistants and support staff who work in schools. They are desperately needed, and we do not want to see anybody losing teaching assistants.
Just this morning, a headteacher who knew that we were having this debate got in touch with me, saying:
“At my school, budget cuts along with having to fund the first £6k for SEN pupils has forced us into a deficit budget (the first ever) and consequently into a whole school restructure situation which has left us unable to fund any general classroom support. I have had to make redundancies which has curtailed our ability to provide the broad and varied curriculum that OFSTED are now demanding. We are only able to offer teaching assistant support to pupils with EHCP’s. I have also had to cut allowances to dedicated and hardworking teachers (who have always gone the extra mile for pupils at my school) leaving them undervalued and demotivated after years of exemplary service which has kept our school one of the most consistent and respected schools in our town.”
The head continued:
“I am only asking for enough money to effectively run a school in the 21st century that supports the needs of ALL pupils not just SEN and deprived children. After all shouldn’t education offer fairness of opportunity to all?”
Minister, I am sick of empty words. I am sick of the fact that so many of my friends in the profession feel crushed. I am sick of those dedicated professionals reporting to me that their mental health is suffering and that they may leave the profession they love. I am sick of the lousy pay that they are expected to work for, while the work piles on. Most of all, I am sick of the Government’s abject disregard for the education of the many children in this country who do not attend a fee- paying school. As a parent, I am sick of the fact that those who care for and nurture my children are so demoralised. I am furious that future generations are being let down so catastrophically. Test results and attainment are a small part of what makes a successful school.
[Sir Christopher Chope in the Chair]
I have been a Member of this House for 14 years. Interestingly, for the first decade school funding was not especially an issue in my constituency. The debates that we had with the local education authority and West Sussex County Council were more about standards. That is perhaps not surprising, because overall funding per pupil in this country rose considerably over that period, reaching a peak in 2015, when it was 60% higher than in 2000. Overall, until 2015, there was a very big increase in spending per pupil, but from then on, although overall funding for schools was increased, costs—some of which have been alluded to—rose faster. That drew the attention of schools in my constituency to the fact that our county is the worst-funded county education authority and the third-worst funded education authority in the whole country. It is therefore no surprise that three Members from West Sussex have contributed to this debate.
We all accept that needs are considerably higher in other areas of the country. I represent an affluent rural constituency and I have hon. Friends in West Sussex who have urban areas in their constituencies whose needs are much higher than mine. Nevertheless, the inequity—the gap—is very large. Spending per pupil in some other areas of the country is between 50% and 70% higher than it is in West Sussex. We were therefore strong supporters of a national fair funding formula, and we benefited from the change. In 2017, West Sussex received an extra £28 million through the national funding formula—an increase of 6.5% in its provision—which went more than halfway towards what the F40 campaign estimated we needed to redress the funding gap.
Nevertheless, the rising costs continued to outstrip the income that was provided. The county council adjusted the formula to give more help to primary schools, some of which actually lost under it, and less help to secondaries. Some of the secondary schools in my constituency face deficit budgets and are very concerned. There is a question about whether the formula recognises the basic costs that every school must meet to run.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for emphasising the importance of per-pupil funding. In Newcastle, per-pupil funding has gone down by £240 since 2010. I grew up getting free school meals at a state school. Does he recognise that people on lower incomes have less capacity to do well when funding cuts are made? The pressure put on parents to make up for the funding cuts is higher and cannot be met.
Yes, I have already said so. We all recognise that there are areas of the country where needs, and therefore spending needs, are much greater. My point is that all schools need a basic minimum. In the last couple of years, West Sussex schools and some in my constituency have struggled to make ends meet because that minimum has not been reached. Given that their funding was at the lowest level per pupil anyway across the whole country, it is much harder for them to make savings.
When we argued for the national funding formula, we never sought to take money away from other schools; we wanted fair funding for our area. It is much harder to introduce a national funding formula in an environment in which spending is not rising sharply. In the last Budget, a number of public service areas benefited considerably from big increases in spending—notably the national health service, defence and social care. Resources are finite, and every Government must choose how to allocate them. That is exactly what the spending review will be about. There is a case to be made for ensuring that the education budget does not fall in real terms, even if the falls are not quite as catastrophic as has been made out. Spending per pupil in the UK is the highest of any G7 country for primary and secondary schools. If adjustments are allowed to happen and budgets that are already tight receive less money, the only way a lot of schools will make savings is by losing people, and that is not something we want.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Sir Christopher.
Over the past few months, I have conducted two surveys in my constituency about the adequacy of school funding and the impact of funding cuts to schools. The first was of the schools concerned, which described the impact of funding cuts on their ability to deliver the educational outcomes that their pupils deserve. The second was of parents, who are all too aware of the impact of the school cuts on their children’s education. I want to channel their voices and tell hon. Members more about schools and parents in Leeds North West. and by extension the whole country.
For schools the problem is clear: every school surveyed had experienced the need to make some form of cut since 2015. More than 57% have been forced to make staffing cuts due to funding pressures, and 86% have had to reduce the number of books and the educational equipment available to students. More than half the schools surveyed had to let teaching assistants go, and the same number had to make cuts to cleaning and maintenance services, potentially putting our children at risk.
Teachers and students in my constituency told me just the other day that A-level students have only just been able to get textbooks at this point in their second year of their studies, when they are taking their A-levels in the summer.
I thank my hon. Friend for that point, which I will reinforce later in my speech.
All the respondents expected further cuts to be made in the future. Some 43% of schools had experienced a rise in pupil numbers, and 100% of respondents were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. It is uncertain how schools will take on the extra family support obligations created by the cuts to council services elsewhere. One school said:
“We cannot continue to hit the DfE’s expectations for pupil achievement and take more pupils, with less staff and resources. We are at breaking point in this profession. As the council continues to make cuts in other areas, more is put onto schools. We cannot provide the support that is needed for families without the funding to do so.”
The fact that schools are willing to use the term “breaking point” is shocking to me, and should be shocking to the Government.
We heard the same refrain in the parents’ survey. One parent said:
“schools are doing an amazing job and are often the only source of support for children in crisis. Schools should not be trying to provide mental health support and there is no alternative provision for kids with heart-breaking mental health and behavioural issues.”
Another said that
“there is a complete lack of adequate mental health provision for children in primary schools due to funding cuts elsewhere in the system. This is very marked, and I have spoken to a number of parents who are at their wits’ end about where and how to get the right support for their children.”
I had a huge response to my survey. More than 90% of respondents felt that schools had been negatively affected by cuts, and that the cuts were making their children’s education worse.
With those cuts being layered on top of cuts to council services, schools are now clearly at breaking point. That has an effect right across school activities. School trips, for example, are the canary in the coalmine—the first sign that is something going wrong with the school budget. One parent of a year 6 pupil said:
“The head sent out a letter last week explaining that they can no longer subsidise school trips and events in school due to cuts in the school budget. This is very concerning to me that as I know this will prevent a number of children from attending trips and missing out on the important experiences these trips bring. Also, a lot of class work is focused on the trips children go on”—
so some children cannot go on trips, and that means they are behind on school work. It is not an optional extra, but part of the curriculum of that school.
Children are being left not with the bare minimum of an education, but with an inadequate one, which promises to have knock-on effects for their future and for wider society. Even the most ardent Conservative must be aware that the cost to the public purse of the loss of revenue generated by reduced educational attainment in this country will be far from inconsequential, as will be the social cost of failing in the historical promise that has long linked the old to the young—that things will continue to get better, that the future will be brighter and that we pass on the promise of more than we had ourselves. One constituent put it this way:
“As parent and teacher, I firmly believe the quality of education we are providing this generation is dire. Between funding cuts, inaccessible exams, no support for SEN or EAL, no trips and extracurricular activities being squeezed, I see a generation being told they are failures because we are not providing the funding or resources to help anyone except the most well adapted and able pupils to achieve. We are a laughing stock at best. Shame on this Government for letting it get to this.”
Those are not my words, but those of a parent and teacher in my constituency.
Having spoken in the estimates day education debate last week, I do not intend to keep the House long now. However, I thank the 214 people from Colchester who signed the petition, and I declare a small interest in that my wife is a teacher.
I am passionate about education for a number of reasons, but primarily because it is an enabler of social mobility. At the heart of equality is equality of opportunity, and education is very much at the heart of that. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Royston Smith), I thank teachers in my constituency, who do an amazing job. Pressure on teachers is immense, and they are asked to do more and more every single year.
Only last week, I met a number of teachers and school governors at North Primary School; some of them came from other schools. We discussed the disconnect between the messaging from the Government and the messaging from schools, and how that confuses parents and the wider public. The Government rightly say that more money is going to schools than ever before, but schools say that they face incredible cost pressures and have to not replace or lay off support staff.
In effect, both are correct. I praise the Government because between 2010 and 2015—before I entered Parliament—there were no cuts to education per se, to age 16. Inevitably, however, cost pressures have risen considerably over that time. I went into the different cost pressures on schools last week, so there is little point in going over them again, but the amount of increased funding has not kept up with those considerable cost pressures on our schools. That is the reality, so I strongly support calls for an increase in both revenue and capital funding for our schools.
In particular, we need to look at further education. The 16-to-19 budget has been frozen since 2013-14, and all those cost pressures that I mentioned in the debate last week have equally affected sixth forms and colleges. As a result, educational standards are suffering.
One point that has not been made in the debate so far—if an hon. Member has done so, I apologise—is about certainty of funding. We have talked about increased funding, and that is important, but certainty of funding is too. We ask schools, rightly, to set a three-year budget, but we do not tell them what funding they will get next year or the year after. That presents a problem. We have just created a 10-year long-term plan for our NHS to give certainty of funding. We need to do something similar for our schools. I am not suggesting that that has to be for 10 years, but it needs to be at least three years, so that headteachers and school business managers have the certainty of knowing what funding they will have.
Why have this debate now? We know that more money is going into education but that the cost pressures are rising. I genuinely feel that we are at the precipice. Two, three or four years ago, governors and headteachers were not raising such issues with me. Yes, there were efficiencies to be made in our schools—the Government sent out a helpful toolkit on saving money—but there is now no fat left to trim. Schools have maximised efficiencies, so there is only one place left to go. In a school whose budget is 80% or 90% spent on staff, what else is there to trim apart from staff? When we start to take away staff, we hit educational attainment. We are at the precipice. I fear that we will start to see results decline. I urge the Minister to increase funding for schools.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) on leading this debate and Mr Ramanandi, who led the creation of the petition, as well as those who organised and signed it throughout the country.
This is the second debate on education this year that I have attended in this Chamber—the first was on college funding—and the pattern is the same: Government party Members wring their hands about the impact of financial cuts in their constituencies. When will they realise that what they are describing is a direct impact of their failed austerity project? We cannot do more with less.
I concur with many points made already by Members in this debate, so I will focus on how the cuts in school funding have impacted in my borough, Hounslow. I have seen at first hand the great work that our schools are doing—23 of our schools are rated outstanding by Ofsted; our secondary schools perform above the UK average in Progress 8 scores; and our primary schools exceed the national average in reading, writing and maths—and that is in a community where the majority of children do not speak English as a first language at home and with high levels of churn in its schools. Hounslow Council has also invested £177 million in capital funding for the expansion of primary, secondary and SEN schooling, but that is all happening despite the steeply rising and unjust cuts being imposed on our schools by the Government.
Other Members have talked about the experience of their constituencies. In Hounslow we have seen cuts in total spending per pupil since 2010, and real-terms cuts in per-pupil funding between 2015 and 2019. Local authority spending on school services has been cut, so that—if they still exist—they now have to be bought back by schools. Before, schools had them for free and yet now school budgets have been cut, as we have heard so many times. The range of extracurricular and curricular activities supported by councils has gone down and down. This year, schools in Hounslow have lost teachers, teaching assistants, support staff, auxiliary staff and the essential additional support that children in crisis or trouble need in particular.
To give some numbers, we have had an additional 5,640 additional primary and secondary places in the borough, and a 51% increase in children with special needs or an education, health and care plan since 2012—that is the third highest increase in London—and we face £27 million in funding cuts in 2018-19, with £4.5 million savings in education and early-years provision. Added up, that has a massive impact on the ability of our children to learn with good quality. As others have said, many schools, teachers and parents have expressed concerns about children with special needs in particular.
My hon. Friend’s experience in Hounslow is mirrored in other parts of London, including in my constituency. The headteacher of an outstanding special needs school in my constituency wrote to me, knowing this debate was to take place, to flag that in order to balance her budget she faces having to drastically reduce staffing ratios in her school.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that it is both the numbers and the quality of staff at special needs schools that make such a difference to children’s outcomes. But that is for the children who get into the special schools: I hear again and again from parents, teachers and governors about children who desperately need to be assessed. Even once assessed, they desperately need the right support either in their mainstream school or in a special school, but they are not getting it. They have to wait—not because of a lack of will, but because of a lack of professional support and places. In London, we have the additional problem of a massive shortage of professional psychological and psychiatric support in child and adolescent mental health services. Children with special needs who are not supported not only are suffering, with an impact on their future; their troubles have an impact on the other children in the class, affecting their learning. That is unacceptable.
Teachers and governors have written to tell me a number of things, including the inability to provide maintenance to replace air conditioning—in Hounslow under the flight path, the windows cannot be opened in summer. Another cannot replace an inclusion mentor and children are not getting the high-quality art and technology support because the technician has had to be cut.
As I said in an intervention on the hon. Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist), it is about time we had the six-hour debate that this House has been promised. Indeed, 43 Members supported that and I know a lot more who could not sign but wanted that debate, as can be seen in the number of people wanting to speak today. We have only a few minutes, which is nowhere near enough.
We accept that more money has gone in, but if more people are invited to the party, rations have to be spread ever thinner. Many schools are spreading those rations beyond belief. I particularly want to raise a concern that a headteacher told me, which has not been raised yet. She felt guilty about almost heaving a sigh of relief when a very senior member of staff left, because that meant she could take on a more inexperienced junior member of staff and therefore have a bit more give in her budget. I was teacher a long time ago, but I can remember being a probationary teacher, as they were called in those days. We need experienced teachers to lead from the front, to drive schools forward. We cannot expect our schools to constantly rely on a churn of young inexperienced teachers who need to learn on the job, but also make sure they have plenty of time for lesson preparation.
Teachers cannot pay their bills with long holidays, as I used to say to people.
I find myself agreeing with the hon. Lady, probably because we have both been teachers. She is exactly right with regard to—the point has gone from my brain. Sorry!
I was right, and that is all that matters. Every Member will be told the same by other schools. In high-value areas such as mine, we cannot pay bills with holidays. Teachers have to pay bills with their salaries. They are struggling to get on the housing ladder in areas as expensive as St Albans, where the average house price is £600,000. Recruiting members of staff is difficult; retaining members of staff is very difficult, as they find their pounds go a lot further elsewhere.
On recruitment and retention, for the first time in history, as far as I know, more people are leaving the profession than entering it. One of the issues that headteachers bring to my attention is that many young people who do not have those years of experience are promoted too swiftly when they enter the profession. They are given responsibility, but there is burnout just a few years later.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right; there is nothing more demoralising. Teaching is a tough job; anyone who has never tried it should go in front of a classroom and try. I taught in Feltham at an inner London school.
Will the hon. Lady give way?
No, if she does not mind, because Members on the hon. Lady’s side are waiting to speak. We need those experienced teachers and we must ensure that teachers are not overwhelmed so quickly that they fancy quitting the profession.
I am also worried that we will end up cutting the curriculum to the bone. Gone are the times when there would be the luxury of a peripatetic music teacher coming to schools. There simply is no latitude in schools to pay for anything other than the bare necessities. The statutory obligations on a school have to be paid for first. It also worries me that sometimes there is a reluctance to statement pupils; if a pupil is statemented, that pupil is rightly required to have additional assistance. However, a school might drag its feet in that scenario because it does not wish to be obliged to provide the extra funding.
I went to a public meeting in my constituency. It is not easy to have rocks thrown at us, but sometimes we need a rock to wake us up. It is hard to admit that schools are struggling. Schools have always been struggling; anyone who has worked in a school will say that the roof has always leaked and the windows are always awful. But there comes a point when things have to be tackled—they cannot be put off any longer. As many Members have said, robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the answer. Taking away from one set of schools to give to another set of schools that are very deserving is not the answer.
An hon. Member earlier talked earlier about the results meaning that we must be doing something right. My schools have excellent results, but that does not mean they do not need the resources. At some point, those results will start to crumble. The curriculum has shrunk down to the core topics, so perhaps those results are already sliding. When I was at school, I was passionate about art. Many young people are not academic but value those topics as much as anything; they inspire young people to go into school, and those teachers may inspire them and know how to deal with the complex needs of some youngsters who have been turned off by education.
We cannot just look at results. Value adding to a pupil means that pupil may have benefited far more from being taught in a good school than another pupil who is academically high achieving. I simply cannot accept that by looking at a set of results we can judge how well our schools are doing. We must ensure that every pupil is making the best of whatever they have to offer.
I accept that more money has gone into the system. We can all talk about how much extra there is, but Sian Kilpatrick of Bernards Heath Primary School told me that she had to write to parents to explain why she had to ask them for money: because a lot of things that used to be paid for are no longer paid for. This is the banquet I am referring to: outdoor visit risk assessments, legal and human resources advice, general maintenance costs and staff insurance. When parents send their children to school to get educated they do not expect that a teacher will have to divert money from teaching their pupils to pruning back overgrown trees in the playground that a risk assessment has identified as a problem to the pupils.
It is high time we had the six-hour debate. I do not think that views in here will change, but looking at what has been expected to be done with the money that schools have had is the only way to see whether there is enough money. If there is not, we may have to find some more.
The hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) was spot on about so many things in her speech. She spoke from her experience as a teacher and no doubt someone who keeps in close contact with her schools.
In east Bristol, school funding has reduced by 7%, which is about £359 per pupil. Some people have spoken in headline terms about overall spending rising, but that is meaningless. It is the per-pupil spending that matters, and it has gone down by 7%. When the increase in school expenditure—which I am told is around 8%—is factored in, that is a real-time cut of 15% in per-pupil funding. It is pointless to have the debate unless we accept that situation.
Colleagues have spoken about schools having to reduce staff numbers to accommodate that. At one point, teaching assistants were in most classes. They provide such a valuable addition to the classroom, giving extra attention to the pupils who need it. Those might be pupils with SEND, but they might also be pupils who are just shy or for some reason lag behind and need that extra attention, perhaps even just on one particular day. Funding cuts have also meant that things such as reading recovery classes and forest schools have had to be cut. My sister was a TA and a forest school leader; the budget for that school was axed and it could no longer afford her. Kids absolutely thrive on such outdoor experiences.
On what was said about senior teachers, I had a meeting with governors from a number of infant and primary schools in my constituency on Friday, and they made the point that good schools manage to keep their teachers—teachers want to stay there because they love being there—but that means there is a higher wage bill. That puts the school in an invidious situation.
My hon. Friend raises the point I forgot when I intervened on the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main). I remember how much respect I had for the teachers who mentored me when I first entered the profession, and how I was able to develop my teaching practice as a result. I agree with both my hon. Friend and the hon. Lady that that is now going, which is a tragedy.
We absolutely want a balance of newer and more experienced teachers in schools. However, it has been raised with me that schools have to pay the apprenticeship levy, which is about £10,000 per school, but they do not want to take on apprentices. That money could be spent on a teaching assistant. Schools do not need apprentices. That is a very quick way in which the Minister could help schools.
In the limited time I have left, I want to focus on SEND. Since 2010, Bristol City Council has lost more than 40% of the funding it gets from the Government, and funds for early intervention have stopped being ring-fenced. That means the council’s high-needs budget has been in deficit for some time, and it has had to raid the mainstream education budget to compensate. Over the past few years, the number of SEND pupils in Bristol has risen three times faster than SEND funding. Obviously, that has an impact. It means children with SEND are often diagnosed later, and that they miss out on early intervention during their first years at school. Early intervention is crucial for ensuring that a child thrives and often prevents problems from developing into something more serious. Services such as CAMHS and speech and language therapy, which have supported schools, have also been cut. That is leading to a crisis. If we do not have early intervention and cannot support children at an early stage, they will develop far more serious problems as they become older.
I am involved in a project called Feeding Bristol, which aims to eradicate food poverty in the city. There is also a very good school food project, which looks particularly at holiday hunger, breakfast clubs and so on. It is not just a case of getting food to children. We can get donated food for breakfast clubs and holiday hunger schemes from excellent projects such as FareShare, but schools need to be able to afford the staff. That little bit of extra money that schools cannot come up with makes the difference—it means children do not have to start the school day hungry or go through the long school holidays hungry. This is about so much more than just providing education. We need to look at the whole picture. If we are to produce well-rounded, physically and mentally healthy children, which is what we should be doing, we need to be able to support them outside school as well as in school.
The word crisis is overused in this place, for certain, but it feels very much as though the situation with school resources is a crisis. However, it is a crisis largely in disguise, for two reasons. First, headteachers and the profession as a whole are loth to get involved in what they consider to be politics, or in any way to use the children they serve and teach as pawns in a political debate. Secondly, headteachers do not want to speak about the situation quite so much, simply because, understandably, they fear competitive disadvantage.
I am sorry, but the fact that 1,000 head- teachers marched on Downing Street last year is symbolic of their frustration at the point we have reached.
And it really takes that. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her remark, which of course comes from her experience. As I said, the other reason this issue has not been spoken about as much as it might have been in another part of the public sphere is simply fear of competitive disadvantage. If a headteacher talks about having to lose teaching assistants, the children who would have come to their school might go to another school instead. People therefore keep quiet and suffer in silence.
However, as the hon. Lady rightly says, we have got to a breaking point—a point of immense frustration, which has led headteachers, who would normally dutifully have got on with the job, to speak out very clearly. Just this week, 16 headteachers in my constituency, representing primary schools, special educational needs schools and secondary schools, clubbed together to write to parents and others in our community to be explicit about what the cuts mean for them. That is a brave and unprecedented thing to do. They deserve our taking notice, and they deserve the Government’s taking notice. We must listen.
Those headteachers note that in my constituency alone, there has been a £2.4 million real-terms cut in schools funding, even allowing for the fact that, as a rural area, we are a net beneficiary of the fairer funding formula. The net impact on us has been £2.4 million of cuts—£190 per child has been lost from schools funding in Westmorland and Lonsdale. Headteachers in my community talk explicitly about losing teaching posts—indeed, about making some teachers redundant—and getting rid of teaching assistants. They talk about having smaller establishments, meaning the merging of classes and reductions in the options available, particularly at secondary school. Any country’s greatest asset is its people, especially its young people, so to underfund our schools in this way—to undervalue our greatest asset—is not just cruel but incredibly stupid. Investment in our education is an investment in our country’s future.
Teachers are committed professionals. They do what they do not for the money—there isn’t a right lot of it in the profession—but because they are passionate about making a difference in our young people’s lives, so it breaks their heart to see the impact of these cuts on the quality of education. They also see cuts that affect children in other parts of the public sphere. In Cumbria, because of a cut in public health funding, all school nurses have been abolished. Only 75p per child is spent on preventive mental healthcare across our area. Three years after it was promised, there is still no specialist one-to-one eating disorder service for young people in our community. Just before Christmas, £500,000 was sneaked out of public health spending. That affects the community as a whole, but particularly our young people.
Nowhere are cuts in schools funding more noticeable, though, than in special educational needs. Of course, the first 11 hours of special educational needs provision are paid for by the school. One small high school in my constituency with fewer than 500 pupils spends £105,000 a year on supporting those children. That comes from its main school budget. We penalise schools that do the right thing and advantage those that do not. Will the Minister fund special educational needs directly, rather than damaging schools?
I will give the last word to a highly respected headteacher in my constituency, who wrote to me just yesterday:
“In the last two years we have made reductions to teaching and support staffing, with no reduction in the overall workload. All we get is hackneyed and frankly quite pathetic suggestions from the DFE on how to economise…I love my job, but…I do not wish to be head of a school in a state system that is en route to economic meltdown.”
This Government are demoralising our teachers and letting down our children. That must change.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I thank everyone for their contributions, which I found incredibly powerful. We hear so much about the cuts as numbers; it makes such a difference when we hear what they actually mean, so I am going to take the advice of the hon. Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge) and talk a little about outcomes.
Here are a few outcomes for the Government to ponder. First, 15.93% of children with special educational needs are excluded, compared with 3% of those without such needs. Pupils identified with special educational needs accounted for around half—46%—of all permanent exclusions and 44% of fixed-period exclusions. Pupils who have an EHCP statement are five times more likely to be permanently excluded than those without SEN. Pupils on SEN support are six times more likely to be excluded than those without SEN.
I have a few more outcomes for the Government to hear about. The latest school workforce statistics show that in England schools have 137,000 more pupils, but 5,400 fewer teachers, 2,800 fewer teaching assistants, 1,400 fewer support staff and 1,200 fewer auxiliary staff. Students are also being taught by less experienced staff. According to Unison, 70% of teaching staff were doing work previously done by higher-grade staff and half of those doing the extra work were not trained to do it.
Another outcome is that fewer support staff mean that support staff make up half the school workforce and are the lowest paid in the public sector. Since 2013, despite the increase in pupil numbers, there has been a 12% reduction in the number of science technicians and a 10% cut in the number of teaching assistants in secondary schools. What does that mean? It means there is less support for our children with special educational needs, who desperately need it.
I am not suggesting for one moment that schools or teachers have suddenly become cruel and that that is why exclusions for children with special needs are rocketing, although I have mentioned to the Minister on numerous occasions that he needs to look again at his school accountability measures. However, the simple fact is that children with special educational needs and disabilities are expensive to teach. It has already been mentioned that schools are welcoming it when older, more experienced teachers leave, because that can save money; it is not difficult to conclude that some schools may also welcome it when an expensive child with special educational needs is leaving—or the school may choose to develop ways to encourage the parents to send that child to the school down the road, rather than to their school. They know that they simply do not have the money needed to give that child the education they need.
The Minister will be pleased that, as a good Methodist, I will not for one moment suggest gambling or placing a bet with him, but the comment made by the Minister for Academies—that he would bet schools “a bottle of champagne” that he could find them savings—was a real slap in the face for many headteachers. In my quest to be helpful, I have a few suggestions for the Minister about how he could save money.
First, £4.3 million has been spent on the troops to teachers programme, which so far has resulted in 69 teachers and apparently has £10 million waiting to be spent. LocatED has been set up to acquire land and buildings across England, as part of plans set out in the spring Budget to build 500 new free schools by 2020, and it has a budget of £2 billion. The regional schools commissioners programme originally had £4 million spent on it in 2014, but that has now risen to £31 million. The Department for Education spent £833 million on 175 sites for free schools. Twenty-four of those sites cost £10 million, and four of them cost £30 million.
I shall keep my remarks brief because there are Members who still want to speak.
As the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson)—a friend in this respect— said, we spent Saturday morning being assailed by governors and headteachers in Gloucestershire. It was a salutary experience, if not a harrowing one, because the message, which we have heard loud and clear from everyone here, is that it is very difficult out there at the moment. Most Members, if not all, would agree that it is more difficult than it was previously.
We had our own debate about Gloucestershire on 30 January, which the Minister responded to. I will not rehearse the same arguments now, but I will give him some specific ideas that came from Saturday’s meeting, which the Government could do fairly quickly. It was unanimously agreed that two things would help special needs across the board, at both mainstream and special schools. First, the additional needs budget should be ring-fenced, because schools feel that too often it does not reach the areas that it should. It is important that it reaches the schools that need it.
Secondly, there is the issue with the £6,000 for the education, health and care plan. That is a perverse incentive. As is happening in Gloucestershire, it means that there is a huge rise in the number of children being taken out of school to be home educated, as well as in the number of exclusions. Sadly, in the south-west we are now top of the tree, which is unusual as we have usually been in the average range.
I contend that those two issues have arisen because we are not getting quick enough diagnoses, which would make parents confident that their children were getting the support that they needed. Can the Minister make some noises? Clearly, this is about talking to the Treasury, but it is a specific funding request—not just about more money in education. It could be targeted in the way that we were led to believe would make a dramatic overnight difference to schools in Gloucestershire. A lot of their deficits have begun to arise from that.
I hope the Minister will respond to that, think about it, and go out and try to allay some of the fears of those schools. Schools do not believe that there is an understanding of how bad things have become. All schools —even grammar schools, dare I say it—stand to gain if there is clarity over how the SEN funding mechanism could be targeted at children who need it, and quickly. Then we could deal with some of the other, wider problems.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist), who made some excellent points, and I congratulate her on this debate. I declare an interest as vice-president of the Local Government Association.
Prior to this debate, I received messages from parents, teachers and staff at schools in my constituency, who are rightly concerned. We know the statistics, even if the Government often seem unwilling to accept them. The Institute for Fiscal Studies showed that school funding is down by £1.7 billion in real terms since 2014-15, while one in four primaries and one in six secondary schools have had their funding cut in cash terms this year.
According to the National Education Union, in my constituency the per-pupil funding between 2015 and 2018 has dropped by £347. When we discuss the numbers and the scale of cuts, we must remember the impact on staffing and resources and what that means in practice for our schools and our children. Last week, I met the headteacher of a school in my constituency who was worried about the cuts she was being forced to make, and the impact it would have on the children she and other staff members were trying to support, especially those with additional needs who were awaiting assessments or specialist provision.
A headteacher of another local primary school contacted me about the £1 million deficit the school is facing as a result of increased costs to schools, uplifts in pension contributions and the planned fair funding formula. The school is about to cut six teaching assistants who currently support SEN children and it will need to make further reductions to try and prepare for a 9.3% cut in overall funding.
Meanwhile, a year 5 teacher wrote to me following an hour-and-a-half stock audit at his school, which was done to limit the stock they use. For example, six glue sticks were to be used per half term. The teacher is worried about what happens next and the headteachers told me they were unsure how they will manage to maintain their currently good provision. Does the Minister have any answers? What does he say to the 10 schools, the children and their parents in Birmingham that now close at lunchtime on Fridays because they cannot afford to stay open for longer?
Constituents and school staff have contacted me about this debate. They are not asking for more money to support children, but they are increasingly asking for the savage cuts to be less vicious, and asking whether the cuts can be graduated to try and minimise the negative impact they are having—and will have—on children and young people. Let me be clear: I am asking for more money.
As a mother with two children at school, I think this is a shocking state of affairs and a situation of which the Government should be thoroughly ashamed. The Government have cut funding while expecting schools to do more. Schools are meant to manage the increasingly complex needs of children with mental health problems, special educational needs and disabilities. The LGA estimates that councils are facing a high-needs funding shortfall of £472 million in the 2018-19 financial year and that the funding gap could rise to £1.6 billion by 2021.
With schools close to breaking point, having already cut resources, staff and opening hours, how are they meant to support children and young people with complex needs? The Children’s Commissioner said that the Government’s plans required quadrupling funding to ensure there are no gaps and black holes for children who need support with their mental health. Does the Minister agree that in order to invest in prevention as well as treatment of symptoms, schools must be sufficiently resourced? Can he tell is what steps are being taken to achieve that?
I thank all the Members who have taken part in the debate and the more than 100,000 people who signed the petition. Last year, I surveyed more than 30 schools from across my constituency to try to understand the scale and impact of Government cuts to our children’s education. I was shocked to learn that since 2015 more than 80% of schools in my constituency have been forced to cut basic educational provision such as books, equipment and teacher training. The same number reported that they have had to make staffing cuts owing to funding pressures. Most damningly, every one of the schools surveyed in my constituency reported that they were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their current levels of funding.
Despite the best efforts of our hard-working school leaders to protect pupils from cuts, it is becoming more and more difficult. We know all too well by now that cuts to schools hit the poorest children the hardest. Current levels of funding risk robbing a generation of working-class children of their future. A primary school headteacher in my constituency recently got in touch to raise a number of concerns that illustrate the crisis in schools well. That headteacher represents a school in one of the most deprived parts of my constituency. Despite that, the school achieves excellent results, coming in the top 2% of schools for progress in maths and the top 5% for English.
The headteacher told me that the school achieved those results by working closely with families to support their needs, and by trying to ensure that the children have the resources they need to thrive and achieve. They believe that through support to the whole family children are given the best possible life chances, but she told me:
“I have built a strong, highly skilled and highly effective team to do this—families tell us how much they value the work we do. However, under the current climate of worsening school budgets this service is threatened. I am facing over the next few years a deficit budget. What do I cut? I know that the services we offer make a real difference to our children, but within a couple of years I will struggle to fund the very basics required to educate our children”.
How can the Minister justify putting hard-working educators in such a position?
As that example makes clear, schools with the potential to achieve the very best results are being held back by insufficient budgets. It is a scandal, actively undermining the hard work and progress made by schools in my constituency. Many other local primary schools recently wrote to me expressing similar concerns.
Next week, the Chancellor will issue his spring statement. That is an opportunity for the Government to listen to the concerns of teachers and parents across the country and substantially increase funding for schools. I call on the Government to put an end to their unsustainable programme of education cuts—a programme that is placing an intolerable burden on the future of the country. If the Government are serious about the future direction of our country post-Brexit, they must start seriously investing in those who stand to inherit it.
It is a privilege to take part in this debate and to listen to my colleagues’ fantastic contributions. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) for introducing the debate, but I particularly thank the petitioners, without whom we would not be able to have it. It is a matter of regret that the Government have not seen fit to allow us time to debate the issue in the Chamber. Were it not for the fact that the petition was signed by so many people, we would not even be here today to discuss it now.
The message is crystal clear. I met chairs of governors in my constituency on Friday and I visit schools all the time. I have been a governor at several schools in my constituency. I went to school there and my children go to the same comprehensive school that I went to. I feel I have got to know many of the people who work in schools in Darlington well over the years. I went to school with someone who is now one of the headteachers, which makes me feel a bit old, I must say. I have never known the unhappiness among leaders in schools to be so great. I remember being a governor between 2002 and 2008, and there was sense of shared mission in the schools—that we could achieve something, narrow the gap, make sure that every child mattered and got what they needed, invest in buildings and the curriculum, and enrich the experience of school life for every child. There was a sense that we shared that common aim between us and were making progress. I am afraid that the shared mission now has become “How on earth do we make this budget balance?” That is not the mission that I want in schools in my constituency.
We have been talking about outcomes, and in the north-east we have the lowest achievement of English baccalaureate and the lowest number of young people gaining two A-levels. We have the highest number of young people with no job and not entering a college course at 16. Social mobility has stalled. My schools are not thriving, but struggling. Schools in Darlington are falling down the league tables. I should like to avail myself of the offer made on the Minister’s behalf by one of his party’s Back Benchers, who said he has an open door policy. Perhaps he could indicate whether he would be happy to meet me to discuss school performance in Darlington. The regional schools commissioner is invisible. The levers to effect change that were once available to the local authority and to me as the Member of Parliament no longer exist in the same way. Who will decide what is going wrong and intervene to put it right for schools in Darlington? It is not working. Whatever is going wrong needs to be identified and put right.
My head teachers are not a belligerent, ideological bunch. I am going to end with a quotation from one of them, Pete King at Mowden School:
“School leaders have previously tried to shield parents from the difficulty but because the situation is not sustainable, we now need parents to know. There simply are not the savings to be made that can make up for the huge shortfall in our funding, and it feels very unfair to our children and our staff.”
That is the message that is coming from everybody. Government Members may have been very polite about it, but it is the same message. Something is going badly wrong. The results that are wanted may be possible today, but, as the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) said, I seriously doubt that they will be achieved in five, six or 10 years’ time unless we put things right.
Thank you for calling me in this important debate, Sir Christopher. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman) for delivering such a powerful and cogent speech, which I completely agree with. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) and indeed the petitioners for initiating this debate.
Like many Members, I have been contacted by a lot of constituents—headteachers, teachers, support staff and parents—who have encouraged me to speak in the debate. I do not want to repeat arguments that other hon. Members have made this afternoon. The last time I was in this Chamber and it was so busy, it was during the debate on state pension inequality. Members were sitting on the window ledges. I hope that the Government will take note of this terrible injustice, which is one of a number that need to be addressed. Although I am straying from my script, I must say that when Government Members suggest that somehow we have arrived at the current funding crisis by chance or happenstance, we must be absolutely clear: it is deliberate policy. Conservative Members have gone through the Lobby to vote for austerity and cuts in school budgets—effectively, in real terms—and this is the consequence. It is not an accident but deliberate policy, and it is our gift to do something about it.
I am really disappointed that the promises made that all schools would have a modest increase in funding have not been delivered. When the truth is stretched thin enough, people start to see through it. Other Members have quoted lots of data about the number of schools that have not had a real-terms cash increase. Out of 243 schools in County Durham, 194 will face cuts and some will have very modest increases. Easington is not classed as an urban area, but it is a very deprived area, with large numbers of people facing all sorts of problems; I was at the opening of an extension to our food bank on Saturday. There is an argument that areas facing such challenges should be better resourced. I am not suggesting we should take money away from the affluent south, but I am suggesting that we should recognise that there is a cost, that needs should be met and that we must provide the necessary resources.
Class sizes in County Durham have gone up, as they have elsewhere. The local education authority has lost an astonishing £8.2 million between 2015 and 2020, which equates to a loss of £133 per pupil. In Durham, as elsewhere, budgets have been cut. Education is an investment in the future prosperity of our nation, and I urge Ministers to consider very carefully the points that have been put.
The hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane) has kindly agreed to forgo some of the time for his winding-up speech to allow time for the next speaker.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher.
When I came into this House, schools in York were the seventh worst funded in the country. However, we then proceeded to fall to the very worst-funded schools, and there have been serious consequences. My fear is that the lack of investment now will run through this generation of children as they prepare for later life. We know how much stress and strain children and schools are under at the moment. We have a broken system and we are breaking our children with the stress and strain we are putting not only on them, but on teachers. Colleagues of the Minister are piling more and more responsibilities on to teachers, such as dealing with mental health issues, because our child and adolescent mental health services are seriously broken too.
While we are talking about the amount of money that the schools are being allocated, we must remember the additional costs of pensions and national insurance, and the increasing amount of funding that they have to find for other things. In York, we have had the fourth biggest fall in staff numbers in our primary schools and the largest rise in class sizes in our secondary schools—significantly more than any other area. When I look at where the cuts have fallen in our city—the worst-funded in the country—they have fallen on the schools in the most deprived areas; Tang Hall Primary School will lose £559 per pupil.
There is a correlation with the consequences that that will create, but I also draw attention to the impact it is already having in terms of the attainment gap. As well as being worst funded, York also has the largest attainment gap in the country, at 31%. Three out of five children from disadvantaged backgrounds are not school-ready by the age of five, and that follows through in their schooling: 26% have an attainment gap at the age of 11. Only 40% of disadvantaged children reach expected standards in reading, writing and maths, and that figure has been static. As that moves through to secondary school, we see high absenteeism for children on free school meals, at 44%, so we know there is a correlation between attainment, funding, class sizes and attendance.
I ask the Minister to look at this issue and to see the consequences that are being built as a result of the cuts placed on our schools. Perhaps he could look again at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s report on the postcode lottery in schools, and its suggestion of an early excellence fund. We know the difference it makes when we fund early years, whether through Sure Start or through putting a right strategy in place for early years. It will set up a child for life and we need to see funding there.
I will touch on capital funding, because we have some serious issues in our school buildings. Tang Hall Primary School was 90 years old last November; it is so cold in the winter that the children have to wear hoodies just to keep warm, and their hands are so cold as they sit in those classrooms, yet they are boiling in summer. They need a new school. Tang Hall was top of the Building Schools for the Future list in 2010 and there is still no sign of a new school. Carr Junior School has water ingress and needs repairs, and St Wilfrid’s RC Primary School needs green space for its children. We have too many children trying to squeeze into schools. The spring statement is coming up; we need the funding now.
On a point of order, Chair, I failed to declare when I spoke earlier that I am a trustee of a local academy trust, the Palladian Academy Trust. I apologise for the omission.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for putting that on the record.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist). I always want to sing “Blaydon Races” every time I think of her constituency. I thought she did her duty diligently as a member of the Petitions Committee, and despite a barrage of interventions, she was very composed when she made her speech.
I thank Mr Andy Ramanandi, the headteacher of St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary School, and the group of headteachers, staff and parents who launched the petition we are debating. Over the last few weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have watched their Facebook video, explaining the scale of the impact of the cuts on their school. Headteachers such as Mr Ramanandi, Mr Malik and others who have been involved in the campaign are here today. Their efforts have ensured that cuts to school funding are being debated in this place again, and I commend them for their work. Is it not ironic that the headteacher of a school named for St Joseph, the patron saint of workers, will have to go back to Gateshead tomorrow to start consulting on redundancies to make people unemployed?
This has been a fascinating debate. Normal practice as shadow spokesman is to thank all the hon. Members on my side for the excellent speeches they gave today—“You did really well, well done everybody,”—but that is not what I am going to do. I want to highlight a few hon. Members on the Government side who spoke today. It seems that nearly every MP from West Sussex is in the room: the hon. Members for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and for Crawley (Henry Smith), the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), and the Minister himself—
Forgive me; the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), too. We know that that authority is having to cut—let me get my figures accurate—£8.9 million from the schools in their patches between 2015 and 2020. The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Royston Smith) spoke well about Southampton losing £4.9 million over the same period. The hon. Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge), my footballing partner, spoke of Suffolk losing £7.8 million over that period.
The hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr Wragg) spoke passionately about his schools in Stockport. Stockport, my neighbouring authority, is losing £6.4 million and a special school in Stockport has said just this week that it will have to cut Friday afternoons from its curriculum. The hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson), who like my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Dr Drew) represents Gloucestershire, spoke of cuts of £11.1 million. The hon. Member for Colchester (Will Quince) spoke about Essex—I was at St Dominic’s just the other week, and what a fantastic school it is—and the £29.8 million cuts faced there. Finally, there was a really powerful speech from the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), speaking about Hertfordshire having to cut £33.2 million from the budget. I will end my speech with what she said about the cake.
We can be in no doubt after what we have heard today about the impact of continued Government austerity on education. In fact, it is not austerity anymore; the Secretary of State has already said he wants to reduce spending on education and that he thinks it is too high. The policy is ideologically motivated. Education urgently needs investment across the board, and the Government must finally begin reversing the devastating cuts. Just look at how many right hon. and hon. Members have turned out today.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Education Secretary have both stated in the House of Commons that every school in England would see a cash-terms increase in its funding, but that flies in the face of the reality we have heard about today, what parents and teachers are telling us and what is happening on the ground. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has stated that it is simply not accurate, and the UK Statistics Authority has even rebuked the Education Secretary for his statistical inaccuracy. There has been a concerted effort by the Secretary of State and the Minister to fudge the figures and to deflect attention away from the school funding cuts that they have presided over. To add insult to injury, we have had a one-off £400 million for “little extras”, when schools cannot even afford glue sticks at the moment, as we have heard. The fact is that, across the country, schools are having to write to parents to ask for money.
If funding per pupil had been maintained in value since 2015, there would be £1.7 billion more in the system now. That means that 91% of schools still face real-terms budget cuts per pupil. Those in this Chamber know all too well the impact on the ground already. The average shortfall in primary school budgets is more than £67,000, and more than £273,000 in secondary school budgets. Our schools have 137,000 more pupils but 5,400 fewer teachers, 2,800 fewer teaching assistants, 1,400 fewer support staff and 1,200 fewer auxiliary staff.
I have spent far too many hours in this Chamber and the main Chamber, trying with my shadow Front-Bench colleagues and Members from across the House to get the Government to face facts and act. It beggars belief that the Government have ignored the School Teachers Review Body’s pay recommendations—the first time that has happened in 28 years. To make matters worse, the Government expect schools to meet the cost of the first 1% of the pay award from existing budgets.
As a former primary school teacher, I know the difference that a good teacher can make, with the right support and resources, to a child’s attainment and aspiration. We go into teaching because we believe in the value of education, we believe in its power to create social mobility and we believe in its ability to create ambition for all. This is about our children’s future and that of our country.
I will close with the words of teachers and teaching assistants from across the country:
“Last year the school I work at had to lose many of its teaching assistants due to lack of money.”
“I have to buy equipment and supplies for my job.”
“We do not have budget for staff training, resources or opportunities for children.”
“I am a qualified teacher now working and being paid as a teaching assistant, but I am being used to cover classes as the school cannot afford to employ supply teachers.”
“The Minister’s claim that more money is going into schools than ever before is pure sophistry.”
On a point of order, Sir Christopher. It was remiss of me not to mention that I am the founding director of a careers education company. In the interests of transparency, I share that with you now.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for putting that on the record.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I congratulate the hon. Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) on her opening speech, which was very good indeed.
There have been several very good speakers, including my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge), who pointed to rising standards in our schools. He is of course absolutely right: thanks in part to our reforms, the proportion of pupils in good or outstanding schools has increased from 66% in 2010 to 84% today. Our more rigorous primary school curriculum—on a par with the highest performing in the world—has been taught since September 2014. Since it was first tested in 2016, the proportion of primary school pupils reaching the expected standard in maths has risen from 70% to 76% in 2018, and in reading from 66% to 75%.
Our primary school children have achieved their highest ever scores on international reading tests. When we introduced a phonic check in 2012, just 58% of six-year-olds taking it reached the expected standard. That figure is now 82%. More children are now on track to read more effectively than when we came into office in 2010. The attainment gap in the primary phase between the most disadvantaged pupils and their peers, as measured by the attainment gap index, has narrowed by 13.2% since 2011. In secondary schools, our more rigorous academic curriculum and qualifications support social mobility by giving disadvantaged children the knowledge they need to have the same career and life opportunities as their peers. I thank the 452,000 teachers—10,000 more than in 2010—who have delivered these higher standards in our schools. I also thank the 263,000 teaching assistants, of which there are 49,000 more than in 2011, and the 263,000 support staff, of which there are 129,000 more than in 2011.
To support these improvements, the Government have prioritised school spending while having to take difficult decisions in other areas of public spending. We have been enabled to do that by our balanced approach to the public finances and to our stewardship of the economy, reducing the unsustainable annual deficit of £150 billion, which was 10% of GDP in 2010, but 2% in 2018. The economic stability that that provided has resulted in employment rising to a record 32.6 million and unemployment being at its lowest level since the 1970s, giving young people leaving school more opportunities to have jobs and start their careers.[Official Report, 21 March 2019, Vol. 656, c. 10MC.]
That balanced approach allows us to invest in public services across Government. Core funding for schools and high needs will rise from almost £41 billion in 2017-18 to £43.5 billion in 2019-20. That includes an extra £1.3 billion for schools and high needs, announced in 2017, that we invested across 2018-19 and 2019-20, over and above plans set out in the spending review.
Since 2010, 825,000 new school places have been created in our schools. One of the first decisions we took on coming to office in 2010 was to double basic-need capital spending, reversing the cuts of 100,000 school places that we saw under the last Labour Government.
Will the Minister give way?
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 the Member for Arundel and South Downs (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 the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (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.
I will not give way for the moment. The inequities are precisely why we introduced the national funding formula. A similar point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Henry Smith). My hon. Friends will be aware that funding in West Sussex will increase from £425.8 million in 2017-18 to £459.3 million by 2019-20. That is an increase of £33.5 million or 7.9%. It is an increase of 4.9% per pupil. The argument is made that there are more pupils, but we are also increasing funding on a per-pupil basis.
Will the Minister give way?
I will not give way just now.
The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) should be aware that, in her constituency, funding has risen from £45.9 million in 2017-18 to £50.6 million in 2019-20. That is an increase of 10.3% overall and of 9.5% on a per-pupil basis. The hon. Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor)—
I will not for the moment, if my hon. Friend will forgive me. I want to respond to the very serious points made by hon. Members during the debate. If there is time at the end of that, I will of course give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr Wragg), who always has important issues to raise. I am always very cognisant of his expertise as a former teacher and as a member of the Select Committee on Education.
The hon. Member for Edmonton should be aware that funding for schools in her constituency has risen from £89.2 million in 2017-18 to £91.3 million. That is an increase of £2.2 million. It is an increase of 2.5% overall and of 3% on a per-pupil basis.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove asked about funding for the increase in the employer contribution to teachers’ pensions. That will rise to 23.6%, so 23.6% of the salary will be paid by the employer into the teacher pension scheme.[Official Report, 21 March 2019, Vol. 656, c. 10MC.] We propose to provide funding to meet the additional teachers’ pension scheme pressures in 2019-20 for maintained schools, academies and FE colleges whose staff are part of the teachers’ pension scheme. That proposal includes centrally employed teachers and teachers at music education hubs. We have recently closed a public consultation on the proposal. We will now assess the replies and publish a formal response alongside announcing funding in due course.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Royston Smith) made similar points about taking a serious approach to the debate. He would acknowledge that in Southampton, Itchen funding has increased from £60 million in 2017-18 to £62 million in 2019-20. That is an increase of 3.3%, and 2.3% on a per-pupil basis.
The hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) should be aware that funding in her constituency has risen from £44.2 million in 2017-18 to £47.8 million in 2019-20. That is an increase of 7.6% and of 6.3% on a per-pupil basis. The hon. Member for Bury North (James Frith) should be aware that funding in his constituency has risen from £61 million in 2017-18 to £64.8 million in 2019-20. That is an increase of £3.8 million or 6.2%, and of 4.7% on a per-pupil basis.
My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Will Quince) will be aware of course—he always is on these issues—that, in his constituency, schools are being funded to the tune of £72.7 million in 2017-18 and that that is rising to £76.4 million. That is an increase of 5.1% and of 3.1% on a per-pupil basis. He raised the issue of FE —[Interruption.]
Order. It is disgraceful that there are Members sitting in this Chamber who are not listening to the Minister. They have taken advantage of participating in a debate and they are setting a very bad example to people up and down the country who believe that this should be a democracy in which people are able to listen to the arguments. The Minister is on his feet, and I order people not to interrupt any more.
Thank you very much, Sir Christopher.
My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester raised the issue of FE funding. We have protected the base rate of funding for 16 to 19-year-olds until 2020 at £4,000 per pupil and we continue to provide extra funding to add to that base rate; an example is the £500 million of funding for T-levels.[Official Report, 21 March 2019, Vol. 656, c. 10MC.] We plan to invest nearly £7 billion during the current academic year. However, we are aware of the financial pressures on school sixth forms and other providers of education for 16 to 19-year-olds and will continue to look carefully at funding for that age group in preparation for the spending review.
I point out to the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) that in her constituency we are spending £82.3 million in 2017-18 and that is rising to £85.4 million in 2019-20. That is an increase of 3.8% and of 2.5% on a per-pupil basis. I could not miss out the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) of course. Funding in her constituency is rising from £42.9 million in 2017-18 to £46.2 million in 2019-20. That is an increase of 7.9% and of 4% on a per-pupil basis.
My hon. Friend the Member for Crawley raised the important issue of special needs education. When we state our commitment to supporting every child to succeed, it is important to be clear that that applies, without reservation, to children with special educational needs and disabilities. That is why we have reformed the funding system to take particular account of children and young people with additional needs, and introduced a new formula. We recognise the concerns that have been raised about the costs of making provision for children and young people with complex special educational needs. We have increased overall funding allocations to local authorities for high needs year on year. We have also recently announced that we will provide £250 million of additional funding for high needs across England over this financial year and the next. High-needs funding is now over £6 billion, having risen by £1 billion since 2013.
We have also announced other measures to do with capital: a £100 million top-up to the special provision capital fund for local authorities in 2019-20 for new places and improved facilities.
Of course, we recognise that schools have faced cost pressures in recent years. That is why we have announced a strategy setting out the support, current and planned, that we will provide to help schools to make savings on the £10 billion of non-staffing spend across England. It provides schools with practical advice about identifying potential savings that they can put back into teaching. That includes deals to help schools to save money on the products and services that they buy. Schools spend £75 million on advertising their vacancies, so we are also launching a free teacher vacancy listing website to help schools to recruit excellent teachers and drive down recruitment costs. We have created a benchmarking website for schools that allows them to compare their own spending with that of similar schools elsewhere in the country. That will help them to identify whether and where changes can be made to direct more resources into high-quality teaching.
To give the hon. Member for Blaydon time to wind up the debate, I will finally just thank hon. Members for their contributions to this important debate. We are determined to have a world-class education system that allows every child to achieve their potential, regardless of who they are or where they live.
I am not entirely sure what to say in the two minutes that remain. I am really disappointed with the Minister’s response, because he is saying to headteachers such as Mr Ramanandi and others that their experience is not valid. That is not what we are all finding. It is not just the headteachers; all of us in the Chamber, from every party, have made the point that we know that schools in our area need additional funding. The whole point of this debate was to ensure that that issue was raised, so I am sorry that the Minister appears not to have addressed it. I hope very much that he will think again, and I hope that he will have a day in the north-east, as I invited him to do, and visit Mr Ramanandi’s school and others in Gateshead, and perhaps visit Darlington at the same time, to see what is going on. Headteachers are telling us that they have real difficulty in making their budgets balance, and I for one understand where they are coming from. I hope that the Minister will think very hard and push for additional resources in the comprehensive spending review.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered e-petition 232220 relating to school funding.