I have, since first elected in 2005, campaigned for fairer funding for rural schools, and have achieved some success – with changes to the national funding formula to include some provisions for the additional cost rural areas face.
But we have such a patchwork of small rural schools in South Shropshire that they will always benefit from increased funding given low pupil numbers. So I was very pleased the Prime Minister announced plans to ensure every secondary school receives at least £5,000 per pupil, and every primary school at least £3,750 next year – putting primary schools on the path to receiving at least £4,000 per pupil the following year. There is also £700 million extra for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in 2020/21, to help ensure every child can access the education support they need.
This is part of an overall package in which schools in England will receive a significant cash boost, with over £14bn invested in primary and secondary schools between now and 2022/23. This will bring the schools budget to £52.2bn in 2022/23.
We are fortunate that most of our schools in South Shropshire continue to perform very well. I have been visiting schools around the constituency in recent months, with particular focus on those who improved significantly their Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 3 results, to see where best practice can be learned from.
Further education and sixth form colleges are also set for a £400m boost in funding, of particular help to Ludlow College. This is the single biggest annual uplift since 2010, with specific funding to help colleges deliver expensive but crucial subjects like engineering, which lead to higher wages and, ultimately, a more productive economy.
I am also very pleased that the Government is enacting Jeremy Hunt’s plan to increase the starting salaries for teachers. Subject to the School Teachers’ Review Body process, the government plans to increase teachers’ starting salaries by up to £6,000 - with the aim of reaching £30,000 by 2022-23. This would make starting salaries for teachers amongst the most competitive in the graduate labour market, encouraging more people into the profession.
The Teacher’s Pension Scheme is also one of the most generous on offer, and from last month, the government is fully funding increased contributions into the scheme, so that school leaders can focus as much of their resources as possible on the front line. It means teachers will get an employer contribution of 23.6% on top of their salary towards their pension every year to ensure the scheme is fully funded.
These steps are welcome, and taken together will help build on the record of improving educational standards since 2010. As at March 2019, 85 per cent of schools have been judged good or outstanding by Ofsted, compared to just 68 per cent in August 2010. So things are moving in the right direction. But this new funding will help us go even further in ensuring every child has the best possible start in life.