School funding in England is a ‘national emergency’, said Tim Loughton, Conservative MP and former Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Education, said in the debate on school funding yesterday.
‘I genuinely feel that we are at the precipice,’ said another Tory MP, Will Quince. There may be more money going to schools, he said, and the Government had issued ‘a helpful toolkit on saving money’. But, he warned, ‘there is now no fat left to trim’.
MP after MP spoke about how inadequate funding was affecting schools in their constituencies. MP after MP quoted heads at breaking point.
What was the schools minister’s response to Loughton’s ‘national emergency’?
Schools minister Nick Gibb padded out his speech with the usual oft-repeated soundbites: the rising proportion of pupils in good or outstanding schools, the increase in the proportion of primary pupils reaching ‘expected standard’, ‘highest ever score’ in international reading test (forgetting, of course, that this was a modest increase on the dramatic improvement in 2011 before the imposition of phonics screening).
Gibb turned his attention to funding. In ‘real-terms per-pupil funding for five to 16-year-olds will be more than 50% higher that in 2000’. That’s twenty years ago – and the increase in funding happened during Labour years. It’s declined since 2010. Undeterred, Gibb battered MPs who’d complained with statistics showing how per-pupil funding in their constituencies had risen, or would rise.
Winding up, Liz Twist, Labour MP for Blaydon, who had called the debate in response to a petition, said she had been ‘really disappointed’ with Gibb’s contribution. He was, she said, telling heads who had contacted MPs ‘that their experience is not valid’.
‘That is not what we are all finding. It is not just the headteachers; all of us in the Chamber, from every party, have made the point that we know that schools in our area need additional funding. The whole point of this debate was to ensure that that issue was raised, so I am sorry that the Minister appears not to have addressed it.’
EXTRA: 'Parents are being increasingly asked to pay for teachers' salaries and school repairs', a Times investigation published today reveals. This is no way to run a state education system.