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House of Commons Hansard
04 July 2017
Volume 626

  • (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State if she will make a statement on the Government’s plans for the public funding of education.

  • This Government are determined to ensure that all pupils regardless of where they live receive a world-class education. Over the past seven years, we have made significant progress. There are now 1.8 million more children in schools that are rated good or outstanding than there were in 2010. Today, we saw an eight percentage point rise in key stage 2 results, as pupils and teachers rise to meet the challenge of the new, more demanding, curriculum and assessments.

    Looking beyond schools, the Government have prioritised funding for all phases of education. At the spending review, we announced that we will be investing an additional £1 billion a year in early education entitlements, including funding for the new 30-hours’ entitlement and funding to increase the per child rate that providers receive. We protected the national base rate per pupil for 16 to 19-year-olds in sixth forms, sixth form colleges and further education colleges in England. In the spring Budget, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced new investment in technical education for 16 to 19-year-olds, rising to an additional £500 million per year.

    We have maintained funding for the adult education budget, which supports adult skills participation, in cash terms at £1.5 billion per year. We have implemented reforms to higher education to drive greater competition and teaching standards. Together that adds up to a comprehensive package of support for education at all stages of life.

    We want to ensure that every school has the resources it needs, which is why we have protected the schools budget in real terms since 2010. We set out in our manifesto our intention to increase funding further as well as to continue to protect the pupil premium to support the most disadvantaged pupils. We recognise that schools face cost pressures beyond the total amount of funding going in and we know that there are two crucial questions. First, we know that how schools use their money is important in delivering the best outcomes for pupils, and we will continue to provide support to help schools to use their funding effectively. Secondly, we know that how funding is distributed across the country is anachronistic and unfair and that the current system is in desperate need of urgent reform.

    We have gone further than any previous Government in reforming school funding. The second stage of our consultation on a national funding formula for schools closed in March and I am grateful to the 25,000 people who responded, as well as to hon. Members who contributed during the more than 10 hours of parliamentary debates on school funding and during many face-to-face meetings over that period. It is important that we consider carefully how to proceed and, as outlined in our manifesto, we will make sure that no school has its budget cut as a result of the new formula. We remain committed to working with Parliament and introducing proposals that will command consensus. We will set out our plans shortly.

  • I thank the Minister, but there is no sign of the Education Secretary. And where is the Prime Minister? She isn’t running her party any more, Mr Speaker —she is running away from her party. The Education Secretary put in a bid for extra money for schools this weekend, not at Cabinet but on the front page of the Torygraph, and no wonder when Arlene Foster got £1 billion—she must be the most expensive right winger since Cristiano Ronaldo. Will the Minister confirm that that was an increase in school funding of £150 per pupil in Northern Ireland? And is there any extra Treasury funding for education in the rest of the country, or not?

    The Minister has said that the new funding formula will avoid cash cuts, so where is the funding for that coming from? New money, or just cuts elsewhere? When he says that no school will lose out, can he confirm that that is in cash terms, not real terms? The Conservatives promised an extra £4 billion for schools in their manifesto. Is that now Government policy, and how much of that is for each year? They were going to raise the money by scrapping infant school meals. Is that still policy? Will the Minister provide universal free breakfasts in primary schools, and does he finally have proper costings for that? Is he still planning to fund new and expanded grammar schools, or has that now been abandoned as well?

    The Education Secretary was not the only one haggling with the Chancellor in the Sunday papers. Her predecessor, now the Environment Secretary, said that he always listened to public sector pay bodies. He must have forgotten that he actually abolished the school support staff negotiating body. Will the Minister now look at reinstating a pay body for support staff, and does he support lifting the 1% pay cap in education?

    The First Secretary of State also called for a national debate on tuition fees, so will the Minister give us one on the Floor of the House on the Government’s latest fee hike, which they sneaked through during the election campaign? Finally, will he centrally fund any safety measures for school buildings, and update the House before the recess, as well as looking at student halls? Just two years ago, the Government were elected on a manifesto that promised no cuts to the funding of any school or any pupil. Will they finally meet that promise?

  • We are spending record amounts on school funding: £41 billion this year, rising to £42 billion in 2019-20 with increasing pupil numbers. We will respond to the consultation shortly, but the public can be confident that what we promise in our response will be deliverable and will be delivered.

    Most economic commentators know that the wild promises made by Labour during the general election to spend billions of pounds a year of taxpayers’ money nationalising the energy industry, the water industry and the rail industry, and billions of pounds on promises across a range of spending areas, will simply add more than £50 billion a year to our annual deficit, leading to a crisis of confidence among those who Labour expects to lend the Government that money. That in turn would lead to catastrophic damage to our economy, an economy that today, under this Government, has produced strong economic growth, record numbers of jobs and the lowest level of unemployment for more than 40 years. A strong economy funds public services; economic chaos leads straight to the International Monetary Fund and to emergency cuts.

    The hon. Lady asked a number of questions. The School Teachers Review Body has submitted its 27th report to the Secretary of State, and it makes recommendations for the 2017 pay award for teachers and school leaders. We continue to consider the report carefully, and we will publish it, together with our response and a draft revised schoolteachers pay and conditions document, as soon as possible. The hon. Lady asked about universal infant free school meals. We have listened carefully to the sector’s views on the proposal to remove infant free school meals, and we have decided that it is right to retain the existing provision. Universal infant free school meals ensure that children receive a nutritious meal during the day, which saves hard-working families hundreds of pounds a year and boosts educational achievement, especially among children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

    The hon. Lady also asked about fire safety in schools. We are conducting a survey of all schools to find out what cladding they have on their buildings. For schools over four storeys or 18 metres that have cladding we are asking fire inspectors to conduct an urgent inspection of fire safety.

  • Order. In view of the level of interest and the other business that I have to accommodate, I appeal to colleagues to ask brief, preferably single-sentence questions. I call Tim Loughton.

  • While appreciating the fact that the Government have done more to address the fair funding formula, the Minister knows from his own county, which is the worst-funded shire county in the country, that heads face urgent decisions. In view of the fact that the consultation has been put back a year, can we have an urgent steer on whether the formula is going to be resolved before the recess, because these challenges face heads now?

  • I welcome my hon. Friend’s question, because it was precisely to deal with historical underfunding of counties such as West Sussex and other f40 counties across the country that we went ahead and consulted on a national funding formula. Other Governments who were in office before us should have done that. I accept his concerns. We have made announcements about 2017-18, and we will respond to the second phase of the consultation shortly. We will have a response to that in the normal course of events.

  • The Queen’s Speech has seen U-turn after U-turn, with flagship policies ditched, including the policy on grammar schools, to appease Back Benchers. Those U-turns make an absolute mockery of the Prime Minister’s “strong and stable” mantra. We welcome the U-turn on the decision to scrap free school lunches but, again, we regret that the decision was made not with the interests of pupils at heart but to protect a fragile Queen’s Speech from a weakened Government.

    In their manifesto, the Tories planned to save £650 million from ending free school meals and use it in the schools budget. It is now incumbent on the Government to provide an urgent explanation of how they will stand by their manifesto pledge to make sure that no school has its budget cut. Where will the £650 million come from, or have they decided to scrap that additional funding?

  • I have already responded to that point. We have made a commitment that no school will lose funding as a consequence of moving to the national fair funding formula. We will respond in due course to the consultation, and then the hon. Lady will find the answers to all her questions. I would tell her, however, that today we have published key stage 2 results that show an eight percentage point increase, based on a new, more demanding curriculum that is on a par with the best curricula for primary schools in the world. I urge her to look at where the Scottish education system is compared with what is happening in England.

  • The solution to this is fairer funding. Does my right hon. Friend agree that those who argue for greater funding must be honest about where it is coming from? Every five minutes that our proceedings continue, national debt, already at £1.7 trillion, increases by £400,000. People who argue for more funding are arguing for more debt being loaded on to children in our schools.

  • When we came to office in 2010, we inherited an annual budget deficit of £150 billion— we were spending £150 billion more in that year than we were receiving in income, and that £150 billion is equal to about 9.9% of the total income of the country. Due to the hard work of the Government and the people of this country, and the sacrifices people have made, we have reduced that deficit to about 2.5% of GDP—about £50 billion a year. Notwithstanding those efforts, we have managed to protect core school funding in real terms, and we are spending record amounts on schools—£41 billion this year.

  • I invite the Minister to come to Huddersfield to look at per pupil funding and to hear what teachers, headteachers and support staff think of what he has said today. Morale is very low indeed in the teaching profession, and that is largely down to him and his Government.

  • As I said, we are spending record amounts on our schools—£41 billion this year. We do understand that schools are having to face cost pressures, with higher employers’ national insurance contributions and higher employer contributions to teacher pensions, as well as having to fund the 1% pay rise. But we would not have had to make those sacrifices and deal with those efficiencies if we had not inherited a record budget deficit in 2010. If we had not dealt with that record budget deficit, we would not have the strong economy we have today, with record levels of employment and the lowest unemployment in 40 years.

  • Will the Minister of State confirm what this means for Tatton schools in particular and Cheshire schools in general? Will there be no cuts in their funding?

  • It is good to see my right hon. Friend back in her place, and I am happy to confirm that no school will see a cut in funding as a consequence of the reforms to our national funding formula.

  • Will the Minister protect the budgets of schools such as Helsby High, in my constituency, in real terms? Helsby High faces a £700,000 shortfall because of his so-called fair funding formula. It is not fair, and we need increases in real terms.

  • The new national funding formula comes in in 2018-19. As I said in my opening comments, no school will see a cut in funding as a consequence of moving to the national funding formula. What the hon. Gentleman is alluding to is the cost pressures on schools that occurred between 2016 and 2017 and that will occur over the next four years. We have already incurred about 3% of those cost pressures, and we will incur between 1.5% and 1.6% of them over the next three years—those are figures from Institute for Fiscal Studies. We are helping schools to tackle those cost pressures, but there would not be those pressures if we did not have to deal with the historic budget deficit we inherited in 2010. Those cost pressures are being borne right across the public sector, but because we are prudent with our public finances, we have record employment numbers and record opportunities for young people when they leave our school system.

  • The Minister is rapidly becoming my favourite Minister. At the beginning of the consultation period, every school in Southend was going to lose out, but he listened, and that is no longer the case—there is more funding overall. However, will he look specifically at bulge funding where there is a need in the medium term but not the long term to provide extra places?

  • I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind comments. I hope the same response will come from Opposition Members. [Interruption.] Perhaps in due course. He is right that we have to deal with growth in pupil numbers, and there are provisions in the new funding formula for growth, but we will take his views into account when we respond to the national funding formula.

  • I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) on tabling this urgent question. Once again, we are seeing delusion from Ministers and Conservative Members. This discussion, and the warnings from headteachers this morning, are not about the way in which the cake is being cut, but about the size of the cake per pupil. The size of the cake is being reduced year on year because of increased costs. When will Ministers actually meet the shortfall from the real-terms cuts in schools so that headteachers do not have to cut back on teachers and teacher support staff?

  • I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question, because she has said something we have been trying to make clear for a long time—that there is a distinction between the national funding formula and the overall level of school funding. She was being honest and making that distinction very clearly. The national funding formula is a way of distributing our funding across the school system in a fairer way, based on the first-stage consultation, which allocates significant funding on a per pupil basis for deprivation and low prior attainment—all principles that were universally agreed on when we consulted on the first measure. I have accepted that there are cost pressures facing our school system, arising from things such as increased pension contributions, general inflation and higher employers’ national insurance contributions. We have already said that no school will lose funding as a consequence of introducing the national fair funding formula, and we will respond to the consultation in due course.

  • I thank the Minister for recognising that the current system is flawed, and funding should be focused on where the need is. Will he assure me that funding will also go to places such as Medway, which will need further school places because it has been charged with delivering an historic number of new homes over the next 15 years?

  • My hon. Friend takes a great interest in education, and she is very experienced in the field. She is right that, as pupil numbers increase, so we are increasing the number of school places. Over the last Parliament, we created over 500,000 new school places to deal with the increasing population of primary school pupils. We intend to create another 600,000 school places over this Parliament. That is in direct contrast to the last Labour Government, who cut 200,000 primary school places at a time when we knew there was an increase in the birth rate.

  • May I take the Minister back to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), because it is absolutely the crux of this? If we introduce fair funding at a time when there are greater cost pressures on schools, those that lose under the funding formula will lose doubly because of the cost pressures. May I urge the Minister to lobby the Treasury to get the extra money to grow the cake? He will have the support of the Opposition if he does.

  • I hope we will have the hon. Gentleman’s support for the new funding formula, because we have said that no school now will lose under it. Hon. Members should not forget that we were very clear and transparent: we showed the effects of the national funding formula on every school’s budget, based on 2016-17, to show people how it would affect them. It was axiomatic that there had to be losers and winners when we applied the formula to that current year. But now we are saying that no school will lose funding under the formula, even if they did when we produced the spreadsheet showing how the formula would apply. The hon. Gentleman is right that we could have decided not to introduce the new funding formula at a time when schools were facing cost pressures, but we took the view that it was more important to address the unfairness in the way school funding was distributed at a time of fiscal constraint than at a time of more ample school funding.

  • The Minister knows that Bradford district has some of the lowest outcomes in the education system, yet the Government planned to cut funding for the district in their original proposals. That included funding to every school in my constituency, leading Cottingley Village Primary School to say a week before the general election that it was considering closing on Friday afternoons—I am sure the timing was entirely coincidental. Will the Minister therefore confirm that no school in my constituency or the Bradford district will lose out on funding and that there is no need for any school to close on a Friday afternoon? That proposal is causing a great deal of angst and concern among the parents at Cottingley school.

  • I am happy to give my hon. Friend that confirmation. As we said in the manifesto, and as I have confirmed today, no school will lose funding as a consequence of moving to the new fairer national funding system. We are helping schools to tackle the cost pressures they face. We are helping them with how to manage their budgets. We are introducing national buying schemes to help schools to spend their non-staff spend in a more efficient way. We expect to save about £1 billion across the school system as a consequence of the national buying schemes we are introducing.

  • No doubt the Minister agrees that given the financial pressures, all policy decisions should represent clear-cut value for money, and I therefore welcome the reported U-turn on grammar schools. Given that the financial case for free schools is iffy, at best, will the Government put a stop to their expansion, especially in areas with surplus places?

  • The free schools programme has been hugely successful, with 29% of those inspected rated “outstanding” by Ofsted. Of the mainstream free schools approved since 2014, 86% have been in areas where there was a need for more schools, and the remaining 14% in places where parents are unhappy with the quality of the school places.

  • The independent PISA––programme for international student assessment—results show that England has the best educational outcomes in the United Kingdom, and Wales, which has been run by Labour for nearly 20 years, has the worst. Is it not about time that Labour Members started to celebrate our policies, which are working, and look rather more critically at their own?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As I have said, the key stage 2 results published today show an increase of eight percentage points in standards of reading, writing and maths. We have also seen an increase in the proportion of children passing the age-six phonics check, with 58% passing it in 2012 and 81% passing it last year. That means that as of last year 147,000 more six-year-olds are on track to becoming fluent readers than would have been the case had we not introduced our phonics policy.

  • Will the Minister please answer a direct question with a direct answer, because this is incredibly frustrating for Opposition Back Benchers? Will he say whether schools in Hull West and Hessle will actually see a cut in per pupil funding?

  • No school in the hon. Lady’s constituency will see a cut in per pupil funding as a consequence of the move to the new, fairer national funding formula.

  • My right hon. Friend will recall, probably with gloom, my question to him two or three weeks before the general election, but, as Arnie Schwarzenegger would say, “I’m back,” and I want to ask him the same question. He told me that in Staffordshire the new funding formula would mean that two thirds of my schools would benefit but one third would receive a cut. Is he now saying that that is not the case and that all schools in Staffordshire will benefit?

  • I am very happy to see my hon. Friend back in his place. He is absolutely right that no school in his constituency will see a cut in funding.

  • Could the Minister stop playing games? What schools care about is the total amount of money they have to invest in their pupils, so will he just level with the public and admit that he has not protected per pupil funding? It is insulting to constituents to pretend otherwise. What will he say to children in my constituency who are facing a 10% cut in their funding by 2021?

  • They are not receiving a cut in funding. That is the whole essence of this debate, which, in my view, has not been fairly conducted. As we have said, we are spending record amounts of money on school funding—£41 billion this year rising to £42 billion next year—and we are moving to a fairer way of distributing that funding. We said in our manifesto that even where the new fairer funding system would have resulted in a cut in funding to some schools, that will no longer be the case, so no school will see a cut in per pupil funding under this Government.

  • It must be wrong, historically, that children in Gloucestershire receive almost half what the highest-spending London authority receives. Will the Minister therefore tell us, so that I can reassure my local parents and governors, when we are likely to see the fair funding formula announced?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are moving to the national fair funding formula in 2018-19. The consultation, which closed on 22 March, had over 25,000 responses, and we will be responding to it very shortly.

  • Erdington is rich in talent but one of the poorest constituencies in the country, and yet under the Government’s own conservative figures, 32 out of 33 schools will suffer a per pupil funding cut of £115. What does the Minister have to say to despairing headteachers facing desperately difficult decisions as to which teachers and which teaching assistants they sack, holding back the life chances of children who deserve the best possible start in life?

  • I have enjoyed visiting schools in Erdington with the hon. Gentleman. I have seen some very good practice in the schools that he took me to. As I have said, under the new national funding formula no school will lose funding on a per pupil basis. I have given that commitment in response to this question and I will give it every time an hon. Member asks me. I have acknowledged that there are cost pressures facing schools. Those cost pressures start in about 2016-17—the year that has just gone. That was about 3% of cost pressures, and the figure will be roughly between 1.5% and 1.6% per year for this year and the next two years. We are helping schools to deal with those cost pressures, which apply right across the public sector, in terms of how to manage staff budgets but also how to manage non-staff spend. That is why we are introducing national buying schemes and school hubs to purchase products and services such as energy and water together to help them deliver efficiency.

  • I am immensely grateful to the Minister. I am minded to move on at approximately 1.15 pm, which ought to allow for another 10 questions and answers, assuming that both the question and the answer are moderately brief.

  • Can the Minister confirm that the many primary schools in Amber Valley that are set to gain under the fairer funding formula will get the full gain in year 1, or will it be spread over several years after that?

  • When we consulted on the national fair funding formula, we said that we would limit gains to 3% in order to ensure that any schools that were losing funding did not lose more than 1.5% per pupil per year, so I cannot give my hon. Friend that reassurance, but we will respond to the consultation shortly.

  • Is the Minister aware of the impact that increased national insurance contributions and pension contributions are having on schools in Enfield, Southgate, resulting in cuts in the classroom and impacts on learning and on assisting children with behavioural issues?

  • As I have said, we are spending record amounts of money on school funding, but there are cost pressures. One of those cost pressures, which the hon. Gentleman has identified, is the increased employer contribution to the teachers’ pension scheme. That is part of a range of measures that are helping to tackle our historic budget deficit, which we have reduced from 9.9% of national income to 2.5% of national income, and which we have to eliminate if we are to keep the economy strong. We are determined to continue with that.

  • Will the Minister work with colleagues across Whitehall to persuade councils to prioritise house building in parishes and towns where schools are facing falling rolls and a resultant shortage in funds?

  • My hon. Friend raises a very important point. We need more house building across the country to help young people get on to the housing ladder, and we are ensuring that as funding follows the pupil, as pupil numbers rise, so the funding to those schools rises.

  • I represent Crewe and Nantwich, where Cheshire East Council is the worst-funded in Cheshire. My concern is that a primary school in Crewe is cutting six teaching assistants, including the only teaching assistant who can speak Polish. We have a new reception class starting in September with 23 EAL—English as an additional language—children who will have no support. I would like to invite you to come to Crewe and Nantwich and speak to headteachers, because they really are very, very concerned.

  • I do not think the hon. Lady wants me to visit the school, but I am sure she wants the Minister to do so, which might be more beneficial.

  • Well, perhaps I can come on a subsequent occasion, if the hon. Lady is so generous as to invite me.

  • I would be delighted to visit the school with the hon. Lady, and you are very welcome to join us, Mr Speaker. It was precisely to tackle underfunding in schools in areas such as her constituency that we introduced, and consulted on, a national fair funding formula. For too long, too many areas have been underfunded. That is what the new national funding formula is designed to tackle. Now, on top of that, we have said that even where schools in other parts of the country would lose under that formula, they no longer will.

  • A fair funding formula is needed for our schools in Dorset and Poole, which are, respectively, the eleventh-worst and second-worst funded local education authorities. The principle should be uncontroversial, but can the Minister reassure my schools, parents and teachers that the formula is on track and tell us when it will be introduced?

  • We are determined to press ahead with the national funding formula. There has been widespread support for the principles underlying the operation of the new funding formula. Deprivation and low prior attainment are key factors, and a large element of per-pupil funding is the same right across the system. We want to go ahead with the new formula, and we think that it attracts widespread support. We have announced that no school will lose funding under the new formula, and it is being introduced precisely to help historically underfunded areas.

  • Will the Minister stop using this Orwellian double-speak about an increase in the budget? We know what we are talking about. In real terms, and per pupil, the budget has not increased in the last seven years, teachers have had a £3-per-hour cut in their wages and morale is at rock bottom. Will the Minister at least admit that we need urgent action to increase funding and reverse the cuts that have already taken place?

  • It is Orwellian to say that there has been a cut in funding when there has not. All along, I have acknowledged that there are cost pressures affecting schools over the four-year period.

  • What are you doing about it?

  • What we are doing is helping schools to manage those cost pressures, which exist because we are having to tackle an historic budget deficit. That is imperative if we are to maintain a strong economy that delivers record numbers of jobs. We have maintained school funding overall in real terms, and it has continued to rise as pupil numbers rise.

  • Half of schools in Basingstoke have been losing out for years as a result of the current funding formula, and that has compounded the problem of increased costs that schools face. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that as a result of his proposed changes, this unfairness will stop not only in Basingstoke, but throughout Hampshire?

  • Yes, I can give my right hon. Friend that assurance. Certain local authorities, from up and down the country, have suffered from underfunding for more than 12 years, and their funding formula is based on out-of-date data. That is unfair, and we are determined to tackle that unfairness. On top of that, we have announced that no school will lose funding under the new formula.

  • The schools funding formula is a total red herring. Before it has even come in, schools are having to lay off staff, increase class sizes, cut back on the curriculum and cut back on enrichment opportunities; and headteachers are struggling to recruit and retain good staff. Instead of talking about a formula that is yet to come in, when will the Minister tell us what he is going to do about the cuts that are already being made, and when will he recognise that education is the best economic policy that there is?

  • We do believe that education is the best economic policy that there is. That is why we are improving standards in our primary schools. We have improved the curriculum and the teaching of reading and mathematics. We have revised, reformed and improved GCSEs, so that children leave our schools with qualifications and an education on a par with the best in the world.

    Whatever the hon. Gentleman likes to say, we have protected school funding in real terms. I do acknowledge that schools face cost pressures over a four-year period from 2016-17, and we are helping schools to deal with those cost pressures. Those pressures are being faced right across the public sector, and they are there because we have to deal with the economic mess left by the last Labour Government.

  • Given that during the general election campaign, headteachers from all over the country wrote to parents to say that per pupil funding would be cut quite dramatically, what will my right hon. Friend do to make sure that parents receive the good news that there will be no reductions in per pupil funding?

  • We will do our best to convey the message that no school will lose funding under the new national funding formula, and I will rely on my hon. Friend to do the same in his constituency.

  • Yesterday, parents of pupils at the Kingsway Academy received a text message referring them to the website of the Northern Schools Trust, where they were told that their school would be closing. The Northern Schools Trust says that the school is not financially viable. Its sudden closure leaves a black hole of a quarter of a million pounds in the local authority’s financing, and there is great disruption across the area. Is that any way to run a school system?

  • I will look into the specific case that the hon. Lady has raised. Schools have to consult before any closure occurs, and there is a process that schools have to go through. I will look at the matter, and I am very happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss it.

  • It is not just about money, though, is it? The Labour party thinks that it can throw money at the problem, but that did not work when they were in government, when the number of pupils studying the core subjects necessary to get a good job fell by half. Have this Government got more good news on that?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When we came into office in 2010, only one in five pupils took the EBacc combination of core academic GCSEs. The figure is now two in five, and we want it to rise further.

  • Eighty-nine per cent. of my primary schools and all my secondary schools have told me that they are planning for real-terms cuts over the next five years. In one school the nurture unit, where children who are under pressure can take some time out, is threatened with closure. How will that help children’s mental health in schools?

  • We take mental health in our school system extremely seriously, and we will publish a Green Paper on young people’s mental health before the end of the year. We want to ensure that every child is taught about mental wellbeing and the mental health risks posed by things such as the internet. We take the matter very seriously, but, as I have said repeatedly in my response to this urgent question, no school will lose funding under the national funding formula.

  • It was notable that the shadow Education Secretary did not mention standards in schools once. In the county of Nottinghamshire, which is one of the worst funded in the country, standards are rising and 90% of my young people now go to good or outstanding schools; that figure is 30% higher than it was in 2010. Thousands of young people come out of the city of Nottingham, where pupils receive 25% more funding, to go to school in the county, because standards there are higher despite schools receiving less money. Will the Government continue to focus relentlessly on standards in education?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Academic standards are key in our schools, and standards of behaviour are hugely important in underpinning a rise in academic standards. That is why we have focused on improving the curriculum in both the primary and secondary sectors.

  • The Government’s current plans mean cuts of over £600 per head for students in Liverpool’s schools. Is the Minister now saying that schools will face no cuts at all, in real terms, in any aspect of Government funding?

  • What we have said is that there will be no cut in per-pupil funding as a consequence of moving to the national fair funding formula. I have acknowledged that cost pressures—equivalent to 3.1% of the total schools budget in 2016-17, and to between 1.5% and 1.6% of that budget over this year and the subsequent two years—will affect schools in the hon. Lady’s area and in other parts of the country over a four-year period, as a result of higher employers’ national insurance contributions and teacher pension contributions. Those cost pressures, which are replicated across the public sector, exist because we are having to deal with the budget deficit. It is imperative that we do so if we are to continue to have a strong economy. [Interruption.] The shadow Education Secretary suggests from a sedentary position that we have had seven years to deal with that deficit. It was an historic deficit, and it will take as many years as it takes to get it down to zero.

  • Order. We must now move on. I know that there is extensive interest in this subject, but these matters will be treated of on subsequent occasions.

    In a moment, I shall call Seema Malhotra to make an application for leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration under the terms of Standing Order No. 24. The hon. Lady has up to three minutes in which to make such an application.