London education funding debate
On Wednesday I spoke in a debate on education funding in London. The Government's national funding formula for schools will result in the budgets of London schools being reduced and I am particularly concerned about the impact that this formula will have on schools in Tottenham, as the Borough of Haringey receives less funding than other inner-London boroughs.
I argued that instead of raiding other state schools' budgets, the real issue in education is how the gap between the state sector and private schools can be closed. You can read my full speech below or on Hansard here.
"The Minister has heard a lot today about the need to level up funding. All Members recognise that there are real challenges for young people growing up in what would traditionally be described as white working-class environments—certainly in the seaside towns, and also in rural parts of the country. There are also many cities beyond London where there are real concerns about the educational picture and the league tables show that there is a lot to do.
However, the real challenge in our education system is not the gaps between state schools but the gap between state schools and private schools. That is why we have heard a lot about levelling up. The funding per pupil for students attending private schools is still double and more—[Hon. Members: “Triple!”] Indeed, it is triple the funding for young people attending state schools. The ambition of all Governments, of whatever party, ought to be to reduce that gap, not to raid the budget of state schools.
A lot has been said about the success of education here in London, and it has indeed been a success story in the recent period. I was proud to support the London Challenge when it started, and we have certainly seen advances in London, including in my borough, but let us not go too far. Some 60% of young people in London on free school meals do not get five A to C grades in their GCSEs, and there is still a lot of work to do.
This city represents a larger share of our country’s GDP than at any time since 1911, and its competition is with Shanghai, Bombay, Berlin and Bonn. It is with a lot of countries that are investing in their education systems, not raiding schools’ funds. I know that when the Minister looks at the programme for international student assessment league tables, he will see where London stands—he will see that if we muck up the alchemy in London, my God will we undermine education in this country!
In respect of young people with English as a second language and families who have real needs because they are newly arrived in this country, if we change the formula just a bit we can see a huge slip-back in performance. I was at school in the 1970s and ’80s as part of the African-Caribbean community in this country, and I think it is largely agreed that there were significant failures in education for that minority community. We now see the repercussions of that ricocheting across our country.
We also ought to remember the review that the Prime Minister asked me to undertake over the year. More details were published recently. It is wonderful that we have seen a reduction in the number of young people attending young offenders institutions in this country, but there has been no reduction for black, Asian and minority ethnic young people—a lion’s share of them from London. In fact, things have gone the other way. Look, too, at our pupil referral units; there is a lot to do here in London.
Alongside all the issues that have been mentioned, there is the real issue of churn in our communities, because of the major housing crisis affecting the city. Housing is overcrowded. The vast majority of the young people we are concerned about are in private accommodation and move somewhere else every six months, across borough boundaries. A funding formula that does not take that mobility into account is in real danger of compounding problems, not alleviating them.
Let us think about context. There is a housing crisis. So many Londoners speak English as a second language. Real deprivation still exists right across London. There are the concerns, which we talk about in this place, about guns, knives and gangs in this city. Given all that, I say to the Minister that he should tread very carefully when it comes to making the sort of reductions to London’s funding over the next period that we have been hearing about. We will see a slip back. We will slip down the tables nationally, and our competitors in other countries will overtake us. The Government have to look again and find ways to level up the picture. They should remember that the real conversation about education in this country is not within the state sector, but between the state sector and the private sector."