31 OCT 2018

School funding

I have written before on School Funding but I make no apology for coming back to the subject now. It is an important one. Different aspects of funding for education have been hotly debated for some time and still are. I have raised many questions and had meetings with Ministers and schools in the constituency over time to do what I can to support our schools and sixth forms. I have been involved with a group called the f40 group which challenges the formula used for government funding. This formula has been weighted to areas of under privilege. Whilst this is understandable in some ways it has probably gone too far and has left Oxfordshire, an area of very high cost, as one of the 40 lowest funded education authorities. I remain committed to work to support our educational establishments.

As I said in the House of Commons last week, there are various figures being quoted by different campaign groups lobbying on different aspects of school funding and quoting a range of sources. It is not easy to get to what is really going on when each group, including the Department for Education, publishes only headline figures. The f40 group in fact published considerable detail. In order to help me get some dispassionate facts on the reality of the situation, I have turned to the non-partisan experts in the House of Commons Library to look into this for me. Once I have their research I will be able to make my own assessment and determine what action to take going forward.

However, I want to raise another point. First, I do not believe that any group – either a campaign group or those in the Department for Education – is lying over the figures and I find completely disingenuous the suggestion being made that the Department is showing deceit and dishonesty in this. Such accusations are neither constructive nor helpful in working together for the benefit of our young people. I am urging that going forward this confrontational approach can be changed into a more collaborative one so that we can properly understand the issues and work to make appropriate changes within budget constraints.

As it is, earlier this year, we announced the biggest increase to teachers' pay since 2010: a 3.5% increase to the main pay range, 2% to the upper pay range and 1.5% for school leaders. We will be funding this with £508 million over two years, over and above the core funding allocations schools have received, to cover the difference between the 1% that schools would previously have been budgeting for, and the pay award. The £187 million for this year's pay award is going out to local authorities and academies now. We also intend to fully fund schools and academies for the increased costs of teachers' pensions, planned for September next year.

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