14 Dec 2007 13:06:10

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."

More from Hansard here.  Hat-tip to EU Referendum for spotting this contribution first.

12 Dec 2007 09:05:23

Michael Gove highlights Labour's education failings

Gove_michael_in_parliament Extracts from the response of Michael Gove MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Schools, Children and Families, to Ed Balls' "Children Plan."

Labour's approach has failed Britain's children: "The Secretary of State is right that our children face a world that is full of greater opportunities and greater risks than ever before. However, the background to the children’s plan, sadly, is a world in which our children are falling behind those of other nations. Last week, we discovered that we have fallen from fourth to 14th in the international league tables for science, from seventh to 17th for reading, and from eighth to 24th for maths. How does the Secretary of State explain why we were in the top 10 for all those subjects when the children sitting the tests had the majority of their education under a Conservative Government, whereas we plummeted down the rankings, relegated to the second division, when those sitting the tests had all their education under a Labour Government? Is not every external audit of our education system a story of Labour failure? Is not it time to acknowledge the limitations of the top-down micro-management and political interference of the old Labour approach and embrace genuine reform?"

Today's statement is a missed opportunity: "I fear that today will be remembered as a great missed opportunity for the Government. Instead of a clear picture for our children’s future, we have an underwhelming collage, with items stuck on any old how and no underlying vision. Why are there no proposals to give parents the right to take their children from a failing school and place them in a good new school? Why is there no determination to give teachers the power to impose effective discipline by excluding disruptive pupils without having teachers second-guessed by those outside the school? Why, instead of giving more schools academy-style freedoms to innovate and drive up standards, is the Secretary of State still restricting the freedoms of existing academies?  Is not it the case that, ultimately, instead of a broad and deep vision, we have a disappointingly hesitant and patchy programme, which betrays an itch to intervene but no grasp of the genuine problems? Is not it clear that, unless we learn from abroad and reform our education system to meet the challenge of global competition, we will fall further behind and the Government will fail future generations?"

More from Hansard here.

26 Oct 2007 01:00:00

Bernard Jenkin initiates EDM on Brown's plan to confiscate surpluses of well-run schools

Jenkinbernard "That this House notes that school balances have been charged in the past; expresses concern at Government proposals for a universal five per cent. levy on unspent balances to be imposed on schools in England; further notes that many schools prudently plan for the future and save for special projects; considers that schools should not be penalised for building up balances to cover planned education projects that will deliver the best possible education to students; stresses that excessive school balances have fallen in the past five years; further notes that the National Association of Head Teachers has stated that attempting to cut surpluses already committed to projects would be unacceptable and that the Association of School and College Leaders has said that schools should not be penalised if they have a significant balance when it is part of their planned expenditure programme; and calls on the Government to take into account the legitimate concerns of schools, head teachers and governors in consulting on the Draft School Finance Regulations 2008."

Read the other signatories here.

14 Oct 2007 23:59:00

Limiting the LSC's unaccountable power

Hayesinparliament John Hayes MP welcomes an amendment on Thursday that he proposed to the Further Education and Training Bill. It restricted the Learning and Skills Council’s proposed move to sack college principals without needing consent from a Minister:

"The original version of the Bill would have granted sweeping new powers to the Learning and Skills Council to intervene in further education colleges. I raised that on Second Reading with the then Secretary of State, who has now moved on to other things—I will not say greater things. At that stage the Secretary of State said that he did not think that the powers would be used anyway, as they had not been used in their current form. We did not think that was good enough. Throughout Committee and in the other place we pressed Ministers to mitigate the powers, in the interests both of colleges and of proper parliamentary scrutiny and accountability.

The response to those concerns finds form in the Government amendment. It will mean that to intervene, the LSC must have the express permission of the Secretary of State. That means that people in this House will be accountable for decisions made in that regard, as we feared that, under the original form of the Bill, they might not have been. Moreover, the LSC will report annually on how their intervention powers have been used, and that report will be subject to appropriate scrutiny. Furthermore, the Minister has confirmed that at any stage during the process, if any individual feels that the powers have not been used reasonably or appropriately, the Secretary of State will be able to intervene and stop the process—at its beginning, middle or end. That is, in effect, a right of appeal, and I felt that that was important.

In addition, I am assured by the Minister in private discussions and in writing that the powers are not an extension of existing powers."

More from Hansard here.