James CartlidgeMain Page: James Cartlidge (Conservative) - South Suffolk)
Department Debates - View all James Cartlidge's debates with the Department for Education
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.
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.
Break in Debate
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.
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?
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?
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.