Serious and competing demands on budget

Date: Monday 20th November 2017

Sir, I would like to thank Mr. Doak for his recent letter regarding the issue of the Government’s funding of schools. I have in the past responded to similar letters and would reiterate my huge respect for teachers and my understanding of the real concerns.

But perhaps I should have used a little plainer language in my last letter because — unsurprisingly — I reject Mr. Doak’s accusations.

The fundamental issue is that he ignores the serious and numerous competing demands on the Government’s budget. Inflation is a fact, and our finances continue to be squeezed, putting pressures on every single department — all of which have legitimate and compelling claims to importance. That includes everything from health to policing to education.

Our resources come from the British people through government taxation and these resources must be shared among many important priorities.

Yet even so the Government continues to increase school funding. (Anyone wishing to receive a copy of the school funding projections for Penrith and the Border is very welcome to e-mail me at rory< the IFS is clear that with our new investment of £1.3 billion the schools budget will now be maintained in real terms per pupil from this year to 2019-20.

This extra money comes from savings in our free schools program (we will work more collaboratively with local authorities to provide free schools); savings from our main capital budget, the majority coming from the healthy pupils capital program, reflecting reductions in revenue from the soft drinks industry levy; and other savings. The key point is that, in the end, it equates to more money for our pupils.

Importantly, I would like to encourage constituents to look beyond the deeply misleading campaigns and websites that are encouraging a very damaging and distorted narrative.

For example, the claim that 88 per cent. of schools will have their funding cut, is simply wrong: the formula provides cash gains in respect of every school. The claim that schools will lose more than 30,000 teachers between 2015 and 2020 is also wrong: in fact, we expect the number of teachers to increase over this period.

As ever I would like to encourage any concerned constituents to contact me directly, and I will be glad to share information — direct from the Department for Education — to allay any fears they may have. Yours etc,

RORY STEWART

(MP for Penrith and the Border)

www.rorystewart.co.uk