Fairer Funding for West Devon's Schools

SINCE being elected to parliament in 2005, one of the issues that has caused me the greatest frustration as a Devon MP is the unfair schools funding system that puts our local schoolchildren at a serious disadvantage.

Early in 2007, I made a speech in the House of Commons, in which I said that Labour had created two Englands: the largely urban England represented by Labour MPs, and the rural England represented by Conservatives and others.  Between 1997 and 2008, Labour increased funding for most urban areas by over 25 per cent more than for the Shire Counties such as Devon.

 Devon is the sixth lowest-funded council in the country, based on funding per pupil.  Each schoolchild in Devon receives for their education from the Government £480 (9.4%) less than the national average.

For too long, the school funding system has been based on historical data that was out of date and no longer reflected pupils' needs. Just last month I met the principals and governors of several of our primary schools around Tavistock to discuss their concerns about this issue and last year, I brought the Secretary of State for Education to the constituency to listen to local heads' concerns.

He was impressed with their message and went away telling me that he would act to remedy the disadvantage. I have placed strong pressure on the Government to remedy this historical anomaly.

For 2013-14 Devon's Schools Block Grant rate per pupil is £4,156 compared to a national average of £4,550. Our early years funding rate is £3,663 compared with a national average of £4,282.

However, at last, in the spending review last summer, the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, announced that he would consult on how to allocate money for schools in a fairer way than before.

 Last week, the Government finally confirmed that in 2015, the first huge step towards delivering this fairer national grant formula will be taken.

This will be the first time in a decade that funding has been allocated to our local areas on the basis of the actual characteristics of pupils and schools, rather than simply on the basis of historic levels of spending. Under the Government's proposals, Devon will receive an increase in funding of 4.5%; that is an additional £16.2 million or £189 per pupil.

 We are able to deliver this significant increase within our protected schools budget and by virtue of additional money from the Treasury, which was confirmed by the Chancellor in his budget statement last week.

So, while this is only the start of the transition to fairer funding and eventually to a new national funding formula, it is the biggest step towards a fairer deal for Devon's schools for decades.