School Funding Debate

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Department: Department for Education

School Funding

Liz Twist Excerpts
Monday 4th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Department for Education
Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab) - Hansard
28 Feb 2019, 2:14 p.m.

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.

Catherine McKinnell Portrait Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab) - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:32 p.m.

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?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:32 p.m.

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.

Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con) - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:32 p.m.

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?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:33 p.m.

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.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con) - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:33 p.m.

Before the hon. Lady moves on, can she give us an idea of the percentage increase that she thinks would now be sufficient?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:33 p.m.

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.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab) Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:33 p.m.

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Sir Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con) Hansard

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:33 p.m.

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.

Mr Jim Cunningham Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:35 p.m.

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?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:35 p.m.

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend.

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con) - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:35 p.m.

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:35 p.m.

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.

Sir Hugo Swire Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:36 p.m.

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.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:36 p.m.

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.

Maria Eagle Portrait Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab) - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:30 p.m.

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?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:38 p.m.

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?

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:41 p.m.

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?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard

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.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab) - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:42 p.m.

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?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:43 p.m.

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.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab) - Hansard

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?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard

Yes, I most certainly agree with my hon. Friend on that point.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Ind) Hansard

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?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:39 p.m.

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.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:46 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way.

Break in Debate

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:46 p.m.

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?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:46 p.m.

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.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con) Hansard

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.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:47 p.m.

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.

Dr Rupa Huq Portrait Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab) - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:49 p.m.

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?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:59 p.m.

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.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby (Lewisham East) (Lab) - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:59 p.m.

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:59 p.m.

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?”

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab) - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:59 p.m.

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?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:59 p.m.

Yes, I most certainly agree with my hon. Friend.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:59 p.m.

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?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:59 p.m.

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.

Mike Hill Portrait Mike Hill (Hartlepool) (Lab) - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:59 p.m.

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?

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard

That is a very distressing tale to hear. There is certainly a huge impact on schools and pupils locally.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:59 p.m.

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.”

Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire) (Ind) Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:59 p.m.

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.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:56 p.m.

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.

Sir David Crausby (in the Chair) Hansard

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.

Break in Debate

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 7:25 p.m.

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.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 7:29 p.m.

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.

Resolved,

That this House has considered e-petition 232220 relating to school funding.

Sitting adjourned.