Owen Paterson highlights gap in funding of Shropshire and London schools
Shropshire schools do very well: "Shropshire has 141 primary schools, 22 secondary schools and two special schools. In 2007, Shropshire performed ahead of the national average on all 11 indicators for seven-year-olds. The pattern of results in Shropshire has largely mirrored or exceeded national changes. This year, we again secured top grades against the five every child matters outcomes. Shropshire’s performance has remained ahead of the national average for 11-year-olds in English, mathematics and science. Its performance has also remained ahead of the national average on eight of the nine available indicators for 14-year-olds and has moved further ahead in the key level 5-plus indicator in English and mathematics. For 16-year-olds, the indications are that the results for GCSE or equivalent are likely to be the best ever recorded in the county. All results of the seven available indicators have improved over the 2006 county figures, and they have moved further ahead of the equivalent national figures in six of the seven indicators. Shropshire is ranked either first or second on all the main indicators. Attendance in Shropshire continues to be over the national average, and Shropshire’s permanent exclusion rates remain low in comparison with other authorities in the west midlands. That splendid track record is all the more remarkable when one considers that Shropshire is the second lowest funded of all 34 England upper-tier authorities. Shropshire’s guaranteed unit of funding per pupil for 2007-08 is £3,551."
But Shropshire pupils get half as much taxpayer investment as Inner London pupils: "I am not calling for a single penny more in taxation to be levied for education. Shropshire’s hard-working taxpayers are already taxed quite enough. My criticism is of the formula that distributes so much less taxpayers’ money back to Shropshire per pupil from Whitehall. The City of London receives £7,089 per pupil and Tower Hamlets receives £6,028, as against Shropshire’s £3,551. Perhaps a direct comparison would be with Ealing, which, with an almost identical number of pupils—39,250—receives £4,634 per pupil but in a much less sparse area. If Shropshire’s children received Ealing’s funding per pupil, they would have an incredible £42,486,428 extra. I repeat that I do not want a penny extra to be raised in tax, but I would like the Minister to explain how these extraordinary disparities come about. Does he believe that it is fair that a child in the City of London should receive back from general taxation twice what a child in Shropshire receives?"
The rural system of school competition may explain the Shropshire performance: "I hope, however, that the Minister recognises that the current system of education works well. That situation is very much due to the number of small schools that provide local education and parental choice. Having visited every school in my constituency in recent years, I can confirm that competition among schools guarantees higher standards as schools strive to satisfy parents, knowing that those parents often have an alternative so long as they possess a car."