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Tory MP accuses ministers of being 'cloth-eared' on school funding

Parliament is urged to 'put Brexit on the backburner' and focus on education funding

Anne Main MP has criticised the government on school funding

A Conservative MP has told schools standards minister Nick Gibb the government looks "cloth-eared" on school funding by repeating “the same mantra over and over” instead of admitting there is deep-rooted problem.

Anne Main said she hoped to persuade ministers that there was a funding crisis and that Brexit cannot be used to repeatedly kick the issue into the long grass.

Opening a debate on school funding today, she warned that school budgets were under immense strain because of “real terms cuts in per-pupil funding.”

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She highlighted National Insurance contributions, employer pension contributions and an ageing building stock as being among the demands on school finances.

Ms Main also highlighted a survey by the headteachers' funding group WorthLess? which revealed that 94 per cent of schools were now providing services to young people that used to be paid for by local authorities.

And she criticised the Treasury for failing to fully fund the most recent pay rise for teachers.

The St Albans MP voiced disappointment that no more school funding had been found following a Westminster Hall debate she led in October last year.

She said: "I can only hope the minister answering today – and it’s the same minister – does not dust off his October speech because, quite frankly, it wasn’t that helpful at the time.

“Being told the same mantra over and over again but not admitting there is a deep-rooted systemic problem means the government, I am sorry to say, minister, looks cloth-eared.

“I hope we can persuade the minister that this is a funding crisis and it needs addressing. Brexit cannot keep being used repeatedly as an excuse for kicking this can into the long grass.”

She told MPs in the debate it was time to put Brexit on the backburner and to focus on young people's futures.

Responding, Mr Gibb said the Treasury will have heard her message on school funding.

He said: “I can give her the assurances she seeks that both the secretary of state and I are working hard to prepare our Spending Review bid when that process starts later in the year to ensure that we have the best bid possible for schools for high needs and for post-16 funding.

“The government is determined to create a world-class education system that offers opportunities to every child regardless of their circumstances or where they live and I share the views of many in this debate that schools must have the resources they need to make this happen.

“That is why we are investing in our schools, we are delivering on our promise to make funding fairer so investment is going to the right place and helping schools to make the most out of every pound they receive.”

Earlier this year, education secretary Damian Hinds said that schools had a strong case going into the next Spending Review.

He also told heads at the Association of School and College Leaders conference that he had heard their message on school funding "loud and clear".

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