Queen’s Speech Debate: Education

27th June 2017

Speaking in the debate on the Queen’s Speech, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown calls for fairer school funding for Gloucestershire.

I start by paying sincere tribute to the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Lesley Laird). I can see from her demeanour that she will sincerely and diligently represent her constituents. I also pay tribute to my new hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson). It is great to have both Members in this House: it sends a clear message to the people of Scotland that a referendum to divide this united nation is most unlikely to happen. I am grateful to see them both in this House.

I would like to start where the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) started, and pay tribute to the teachers and governors in my schools. They do a great job on behalf of our children. I was delighted that the Conservative manifesto pledged an extra £4 billion for education over the course of the Parliament. That is an increase in real terms, so there is no reason why any school budget in England and Wales should decrease. Before I am reprimanded by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), let me say that I am with him absolutely: we have to live within our means. Austerity only means living within our means.

We in this House have been struggling for too long with an unfair education funding formula. In Gloucestershire, the key stage 3 funding differential means we receive £3,700 per pupil, while the highest spending London authority receives £7,200 per pupil—a difference of £3,400. That cannot be fair. The new funding formula announced in our manifesto will go a long way to ending that unfairness. I was very encouraged by the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education. It seems that she is well on top of this problem. When she publishes the proposals, I believe they will be fairer to less well funded areas like Gloucestershire. Under the proposals published in the previous Parliament, I heard from one of my head teachers that they were going to have to cut £400,000 from their budget, meaning the loss of 14 teachers. That is unacceptable for the children of our county.

I want every child in this country, from nursery school to postgraduate training university course, to have the very best education in the world. That is how this country will succeed in the world, and how we will increase productivity and trade. I pay sincere tribute to both my constituency neighbours in Gloucestershire for two things they have done—one each. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) has secured the real prospect of bringing a cyber-park to Cheltenham, which will bring huge opportunities for our talented and bright youngsters. My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) has brought university-level training for nurses to the University of Gloucestershire—another real prospect for our youngsters. These are the sorts of opportunities I want to see in our country today.

There is a lot to do in education and there is a lot to do to explain how the money for our schools will be raised, but we owe it to our children. We want to be the world’s best when it comes to education. We welcome the new technical institutions, we welcome the new T-levels, and we want workplace visas for the brightest and best foreign students who come here from around the world.

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Earlier intervention in the same debate

I congratulate the Secretary of State on giving way to me. May I commend her on the increase in standards in education? To improve those standards still further—the current funding formula is unfair and depends on a lottery code—does she agree that every pupil and every school deserves fair minimum funding?

As my hon. Friend knows, we are absolutely committed to making sure that we have fair funding across our schools. We had an extensive consultation that received 25,000 responses, which we have gone through. We are pulling together what that means for the right way forward. He is right to point out that many schools in his local community have been systematically underfunded, which is not tenable in a country where we want all children to receive consistent investment and a consistent opportunity to make the most of themselves. We are determined to introduce our plans to ensure that schools are fairly funded, wherever they are.

 

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