School funding problem won’t be solved by ‘an Elastoplast solution’: Tory committee chair
Investment hasn’t kept up with rising cost pressures
‘It is unarguably the case that rising cost pressures have not been matched by the sort of investment that would allow them to be met without impacting upon the quality and delivery of education in our schools,’ said Robert Halfon, chair of the Education Select Committee on 3 July during a debate on school spending.
Piecemeal funding neither coherent nor effective
Funding has been too piecemeal, he said: ‘an initiative here and an initiative there’. It was ‘too atomised to be coherent and effective.’
It was true, Halfon said, that there had been ‘record levels of overall investment’ in schools. However, it was equally true that schools faced ‘real-terms reductions in per pupil funding…partly because there are simply more pupils in the system.’
Funding doesn’t match what’s needed
In other words, the money going into education hasn’t matched what schools need to spend in order to teach a larger number of pupils.
Halfon urged the Government to ‘move towards a practical solution not just for schools, but for further education, which has, without any sense or logic, been chronically underfunded for many years.’
Pupil-premium money is increasingly being used to ‘shore up’ schools’ overall budgets, he warned.
£1.3m ‘top-up’ was ‘Elastoplast solution’
Halfon was underwhelmed by the recently-announced £1.3 billion ‘top-up’. It was an ‘Elastoplast solution’ to a future problem that ‘could become serious if not seen to.’
Schools minister Nick Gibb said the sticking plaster was an ‘additional £1.3 billion investment’. But that isn’t so, as former education secretary Justine Greening made clear when she announced it. This seeming largesse isn’t new money but is diverted from other parts of the education budget.
Misleading inspection data given another airing…
Before Gibb’s intervention, Tory MP Craig Tracey, trotted out the tired refrain:
‘There are now 1.9 million more children being taught in schools rated good or outstanding than in 2010.’
This was misleading, said MPs Emma Hardy (Lab) and James Frith (Lab), both referring to the recent EPI report.
…but schools minister changes the chorus
Gibb avoided repeating the ‘1.9 million more children blah, blab’ claim. Instead, he trumpeted:
‘Sixty-eight per cent of schools were judged good or outstanding by Ofsted in 2010, compared with 89% today.’
That’s a slight improvement on the Department for Education spokesperson who last week said 66% of schools in 2010 were good or better. Gibb used the correct figure of 68%. Pity, then, that he inflated the proportion ‘today’. Ofsted data published on 27 June showed 86%, not 89% were good or better at the end of March.
Call for ten-year plan for education and more emphasis on skills
Halfon wound up the debate by urging schools minister Nick Gibb to support a ten-year plan for education. He hoped there would be an increased concentration on ‘social capital and skills’ as there had been on ‘academic capital’.
It’s unlikely Gibb will take any notice of a call to increase emphasis on skills. He hates the word.