Having campaigned for fairer school funding for over 10 years, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown condemns the proposals in the consultation which in fact would reduce funding for two thirds of schools in The Cotswolds and calls for some very radical changes as the weighting for deprivation and other measures in the consultation is too high.
For reasons that will become evident to the House, I am particularly grateful to have caught your eye in this debate, Mr Speaker. I commend the Secretary of State for tackling this issue, because it is quite clear from the debate that, in a modification of the Lincoln dictum, on this issue one can only please some of the people some of the time. Inevitably, when there is no more cash around, there will be winners and losers. Unfortunately, my constituency is one of the big losers.
I campaigned with the f40 group for over 10 years, and the absolute sun on the horizon was the national funding formula, but now that the consultation on the formula has arrived I find that my schools will actually get less money. In Gloucestershire, we will get a 0.8% cash-terms increase this year, and in the Cotswolds, there will be a 0.3% cash-terms increase. Two thirds of my schools will get a cut, and a third of them will get a very small increase.
In Gloucestershire, schools were already very efficient. They had amalgamated a lot of back-office functions and had formed partnerships. The secondary schools had done everything they could to become academies, being among the earliest in the country to do so. Gloucestershire is therefore a very efficient county, but we now find that our schools will get cash-terms cuts. That is on top of the Government having imposed limits on above inflation increases in relation to funding teachers, the national minimum wage, pensions, national insurance and procurement. A cash-terms cut for over half my schools means a real squeeze on education in Gloucestershire.
I should pay tribute to the parents and governors of my schools, because the vast majority go well beyond the extra mile to give my children the very best education. As a result, on very meagre funding, we get reasonable results in Gloucestershire. However, the figures I have given from the consultation will put Gloucestershire down from 108th to 116th in the f40 league. That is simply unacceptable because it means that some teacher posts will definitely be lost, and it is likely that some of my smaller schools will close.
Will my hon. Friend do what I am doing, which is to encourage all my governors, teachers and parents to feed into the consultation? I suspect there are some anomalies because it is the same in my area, in that we expected more and it has not been delivered.
I do urge all people to do so. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) is sitting beside me, and I am sure that all Gloucestershire’s MPs will feed into the consultation. I am also sure that many of my aggrieved headteachers, parents and governors will do so.
It is inevitable that some of my secondary schools, which face some of the largest cuts, will have to reduce the breadth of the curriculum they currently offer. That would be unfair because every child in the country should have roughly the same breadth of curriculum in their schools. I accept that that is often difficult in smaller secondary schools, but it will be very hard for children and their parents to bear if their A-level choices are no longer available as a result of Government policy.
I simply say to my hon. Friend the Minister that I know this is a consultation, but I am looking for some very radical changes. The weighting for deprivation and other measures in the consultation is too high, and the basic pupil funding should never in any circumstances be cut.
Earlier in the same debate
In my constituency, which already has one of the lowest-funded education authorities, two thirds of schools will receive a cut and a third will receive a maximum increase of 0.3%. That situation will undoubtedly lead to teacher losses and probably school closures. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to look at the situation? This might be only a consultation, but the proposal needs a radical overhaul?
I recognise my hon. Friend’s concerns. I am happy to talk to him one to one about his local community, as I have done with other colleagues. We are undertaking the consultation so that we can ensure that we get the new formula right. It is important that the formula works effectively on the ground. Alongside it, we will make sure that we protect the funding for deprived communities so that we can use that mechanism to tackle the attainment gap. We have also made sure that an element of our formula follows children who start from further behind, for whatever reason. Low prior attainment is properly addressed in the formula to make sure that if a child needs additional investment to help them to catch up, wherever they are in the country, that investment is there.
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