HELEN HAYES MP: “NEW NATIONAL FUNDING FORMULA WILL SEE 70 pc OF LONDON SCHOOLS GET CUTS TO FUNDING”
The new national funding formula will see 70pc of London’s schools receiving cuts to funding, Duylwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes has told a Parliamentary debate.
I am not arguing that schools elsewhere in the country—or indeed in outer London—should lose out as a consequence of the funding formula; what I am interested in is a funding formula that is fair for all schools.
The new national funding formula will see 70pc of London’s schools receiving cuts to funding. The proposal comes at a time of unprecedented budget pressures in our schools as a consequence of a series of unfunded costs: the national minimum wage increase; employers’ pension contributions; employers’ national insurance contributions; inflation; and, for local authority schools only, the apprenticeship levy. In that context, the additional cuts introduced by the schools funding formula will be unsustainable for many schools in London. London Councils calculate that the combined impact of introducing the national funding formula at a time of wider budgetary pressure means that collectively, London schools will lose £360 million in 2018-19.
The Conservative manifesto pledged that the funding accompanying every pupil into school would be protected, but the National Audit Office is clear that per-pupil funding has not been protected in real terms. In London, the proposed national funding formula will clearly break that pledge further. The cuts will not fall evenly but will fall disproportionately on areas of London with the highest levels of deprivation. Therefore, while Croydon Central will gain £4.4 million for its schools, West Ham stands to lose £4.4 million, East Ham loses £3.6 million and Bethnal Green and Bow loses £3.5 million.
I moved to London in 1996. At that time, parents in the same situation as I am in now, with their oldest child approaching secondary school age, were often trying to do one of three things: move close to a high-performing state or church school; move out of London to a part of the country where schools were better; or educate their children privately. Children whose parents were unable to make any of those choices often attended local schools, which despite the best efforts of their teachers substantially failed generations of children. In my constituency at that time, we had William Penn boys’ school and Kingsdale school, both of which were failing schools that became notorious. William Penn subsequently closed and successfully re-opened as the co-educational Charter School, and Kingsdale was completely remodelled under a change of leadership. Those are now outstanding and good schools respectively.
I have spoken with many parents in my constituency who attended failing schools as children. They remember the crumbling buildings, leaky roofs, shortages of books and materials, very large class sizes and poor discipline. They tell me that any success in their educational outcomes was due to the hard work that they and their teachers put in and happened despite, not because of, the funding and policy environment in which the schools were operating.
The situation could not be more different across London now: 94 per cent of London schools have been judged to be good or outstanding by Ofsted. While London schools were the worst in the country in the 1980s and 1990s, they are now the best. That transformation was achieved through a combination of political leadership, appropriate resourcing, stringent accountability and—most importantly—the hard work of teachers, governors, support staff and parents. I think I speak for all London MPs from across the House when I say that we are deeply proud of our schools and everything they deliver for London children.
Our schools in London deliver for every child. They are not reliant on selection, and as a consequence London children also benefit from being educated in a diverse environment, which helps to build understanding and community cohesion. My children are receiving an excellent education alongside children from every possible walk of life, and their lives are enriched as a consequence. It is that approach, not grammar schools, that delivers the social mobility the Government say they want to see…….
…….Chief among them are mental health issues, which are growing in part as a consequence of the pressures children face on social media. They feel the need for additional support in school that students can access, but they are already unable to afford that.
I wrote to every headteacher in my constituency to ask about the impact that they anticipate the national funding formula will have on their school. I want to share just two examples of their feedback today.
A primary head wrote to me and said,
“in order to balance the budget this year we had to lose six members of staff. Prior to this academic year we employed one Teaching Assistant per class. This year we have a Teaching Assistant per year group. I can see a time when schools will not be able to afford Teaching Assistants at all. Our building is shabby because we cannot spare the funds to redecorate and carry out minor repairs. Cuts in funding will mean that Headteachers will become more and more reluctant to accept pupils that put a strain on the budget.”
A secondary headteacher wrote to me and said:
“Effectively our budgeting will be reduced by £500,000 in real terms in the next three years…it will make it very difficult for us to continue to provide a high quality education for our students, and will undoubtedly affect our ability to support student achievement and wellbeing. It will also have a negative impact on the workload of our staff who already work incredibly hard day in day out to support our students.”
Those are experienced headteachers, looking at a spreadsheet in the cold light of day and working out the choices they will have to make to accommodate the Government’s funding cuts…..
Seventy per cent. of schools’ budgets are spent on staff, so it will be teaching assistants, speech and language therapists, learning mentors, family support workers, school trips, sports clubs, music specialists and teachers that will have to be cut. Heads across my constituency say that the formula does not work. London schools also face a recruitment crisis, fuelled by the high cost of housing and childcare in the capital, as well as the Government’s failure to meet teacher training targets. More than 50pc of London heads are over the age of 50, and the current budgetary pressures, combined with the new inspection regime and changes in the curriculum, are making it harder and harder to recruit. Further reductions in funding will only exacerbate the situation, making it harder for schools to retain experienced teachers and creating a level of pressure in the profession that will cause many hard-working teachers to look elsewhere.
The Government’s stated aim in revising the schools funding formula is fairness. I agree with that aim. There are problems with the current formula in some parts of the country, because of the embedding of resourcing decisions made by local authorities many years ago and their use as the basis for calculating future increases. However, there is nothing fair about a proposal under which funding will be cut from high-performing schools in deprived areas. A fair approach would take the best-performing areas in the country and apply the lessons from those schools everywhere. It would look objectively at the level of funding required to deliver in the best-performing schools, particularly in areas of high deprivation, and use that as the basis for a formula to be applied across the whole country.
London schools should be the blueprint for education across the whole UK….Children are growing up in a time of great global change and uncertainty. We feel that today perhaps more than ever, as article 50 is triggered. They need to be equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence to navigate and compete in a post-Brexit economy. Our schools are essential to that, and to ensuring that children make the maximum possible contribution to the economy and public services in the future.
I ask the Minister to go back to the Treasury and to negotiate again. Spending on schools is an investment that the Government make in the future of our economy. It would take just 1% of the education budget to ensure that no school loses out through the introduction of the national funding formula. I ask him please to think again and not to put the success of London schools and their ability to deliver for future generations of London children at risk.
Responding at the end of the debate to Nick Gibb’s comments (please see separate story) Helen Hayes added: “This has been a high-quality debate. The strength of feeling and the passion are clear, and Members have represented the interests of schools in the constituencies very powerfully indeed. There is no disagreement on the principle of fairness for school funding. The concerns that have been expressed this morning are about the impact of a funding formula that will see schools in London losing funding on top of the existing severe cost pressures they are suffering.
The Minister continually refers to total sums of money and the ranking of schools according to their allocation, but that is not the concern. No member in this chamber is concerned about where their local authority sits in the ranking of authorities across the country. We are concerned that our schools have the funding they need to deliver the excellent outcomes for our children that they deliver at present. Higher levels of funding are good value when they deliver for children in deprived areas.
The point we are making is that the Government’s approach is putting the quality of education in London schools at risk. That is of grave concern. It is simply disingenuous of the Minister to dismiss the concerns of headteachers in London as a response to inaccurate campaign data. They are looking at their spreadsheets and telling us that the Government’s approach is not working. There is nothing fair about a formula that cuts funding for high-performing schools in deprived areas.
I conclude the debate by reiterating the powerful words of my right hon. Friend Mr David Lammy (Lab Tottenham);
“When London slips back…the nation slips back”.
I urge the Minister to reflect on those words and to think again about the impact that the funding formula will have on the quality and performance of London schools.
Question put and agreed to. Resolved: That this House has considered schools funding in London.
Grammar schools: During the debate Helen Hayes said: The issue with grammar schools is not what they deliver for the children who are able to access a place there. The evidence across the country shows that children from deprived backgrounds who do not go to grammar schools in areas that have them do demonstrably worse in their education.