A succession of Conservative MPs and former cabinet ministers have piled pressure on the education secretary over school funding in the House of Commons.
Damian Hinds faced warnings from his colleagues about financial problems around everything from rural schools to special education needs and disability (SEND) during education questions this afternoon.
One Conservative backbencher said schools in his area were “having to take drastic measures just to stay afloat”.
In response to the concerns, ministers acknowledged funding pressures on schools, but said school funding in England compared well internationally.
Andrew Rosindell, Tory MP for Romford, cited parents and teachers at Squirrels Heath Infant School in his constituency “who have told me only today that among many others schools in the London Borough of Havering they are having to take drastic measures just to stay afloat”.
Mr Hinds responded: “I totally acknowledge the pressures there are on school budgets, that it is difficult to manage these budgets.
“It is also true that if you look at us compared to other countries in the world, we do spend relatively high amounts on state education at both primary and secondary.”
Esther McVey, who sat in the Cabinet with Mr Hinds until her resignation last November, asked him to “look again at school funding in rural areas, particularly Cheshire, and push for further funding at the Spending Review”.
Mr Hinds told her: “I am very conscious, of course, of the issues around rural schools and smaller schools and we have, of course, made adjustments for that in the national funding formula”.
Her concerns about the financial position of rural schools were echoed by fellow Tory Antoinette Sandbach, representing Eddisbury, who said schools in Cheshire “are still underfunded compared to more urban parts, especially London”.
Mr Hinds responded by saying that the number of pupils eligible for free school meals was “materially higher” in London than in Cheshire.
And Philip Dunne, Tory MP for Ludlow, asked whether the DfE’s pilot of school efficiency advisors included rural schools.
'Not enough money for SEND'
Priti Patel, who resigned as a cabinet minister in November 2017, raised concerns about funding for SEND.
She said Essex County Council was seeking to transfer money from the schools block to the high needs block “as there is not enough money for children with special educational needs”.
She added that this “will have a knock-on impact on educational funding across Essex”.
In response, schools minister Nick Gibb pointed to the extra £250 million for high needs funding that the DfE announced in December, and added: “We will work closely with the Treasury as we prepare for the next Spending Review to ensure that we secure the best funding settlement possible to address this and other school funding issues.”