Bob Neill MP: Education in London costs more
3 min read
Co-Chair of the APPG for London, Bob Neill MP, writes ahead of a Commons debate today, that levels of funding for education in London must be maintained, as the Department for Education consults over a new National Funding Formula for schools.
We all remember the media stories twenty or so years ago that painted London’s schools as places of considerable underachievement, truancy, and in a sadly high number of cases, crime. Since then, we have witnessed a truly remarkable turnaround. Our capital now has the highest percentage of schools rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in the country, and its pupils consistently outperform their peers at both Key Stage 2 and GCSE.
This change has been made possible by successive governments recognising the significant, and in some instances, unique, pressures primary and secondary schools in London face, allocating funding accordingly. Put simply, education in London costs more.
There are soaring building and maintenance costs, budgets are consumed by higher staff wages, and the funds needed to address a mixture of problems ranging from deprivation, child protection, cross-borough mobility and teaching English as an additional language result in a status-quo that requires a far greater expenditure than anywhere else. To flesh out this claim, you only need to look at the 26.4% of students who are eligible for free school meals in inner London – far higher than any other region – to see why the capital, for very good reasons, receives a greater allocation under the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG).
With the Department for Education recently finishing the first of a two part consultation on a new National Funding Formula for schools, it is essential, if this good news story is to continue, that levels of funding in London are maintained. That is why, on behalf of the APPG for London, which I co-chair with Steve Reed, I have secured a Backbench debate today to look at the consultation, and the broader funding problems affecting education in our capital, in greater detail.
Let me be clear: this isn’t an ‘us vs them’, London-centric issue, and it certainly isn’t about pitting pupils of one area against another in a game of pecuniary snakes and ladders. All schools should be properly resourced and there are strong arguments to be heard from other large cities, such as Manchester, as well as some coastal towns who have comparably high deprivation, not to mention the sparsity issues confronting schools in rural communities. Nor are we saying that the DSG, as it stands, is free from criticism. Its inconsistencies in the distribution of funds, and rigidity on things like SEND transport, need looking at, and the Government should be congratulated on grappling with these problems.
What we’re arguing is that, regardless of where a pupil is being schooled, no one should lose out as a result of this policy. Rather, school funding in Britain should be scaled up to London’s level than redistributed down to everyone else’s, with preliminary analysis showing this would require a £521 million increase to the schools budget (the equivalent of 1.7% of the current total).
I hope the Government takes on board these concerns when implementing the new Formula, bearing in mind the repercussions this could have in other policy areas, such as skills and apprenticeships, if our young people are leaving school without the tools they need to scale the next step.
For the sake of pupils around Britain, not just London, we can’t afford to get something of this importance wrong.
Bob Neill MP is the co-Chair of the APPG for London & the Chair of the Justice Committee. He is the Conservative MP for Bromley and Chislehurst.
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