MP’s column - Reform needed for fairer funding

The schools within our constituency are providing the vital public service of educating the scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs of the future and they are doing a remarkable job of it.

So many are now rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. In the recent debate on the Queen’s Speech, I was proud to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth’s High School in Gainsborough and to raise a concern brought to me not just by their headmaster but by a number of educators and parents from within our area.

The issue of unfair funding between schools is one that has arisen over decades as a result of a historic postcode lottery which can leave similar schools from different parts of the country with wildly different resources at their disposal. While it may be encouraging that the budget for schools is set to rise by a billion pounds over the next two years, we must also realise that the system used to allocate school funding must be reformed if we are to achieve some degree of fairness in our education system and give schools in Lincolnshire the resources that they thoroughly deserve.

To go on increasing education budgets indefinitely without taking this necessary step would be contrary to the ambition of building a fairer society, where success is based on merit rather than privilege; something to which this Government has repeatedly affirmed its commitment.

As such, it is welcome news that the Department for Education plans to press on with this reform.

I have also outlined in debates, however, the importance of keeping in mind the national debt when discussing potential decisions to increase funding.

Presently, the amount of money we as a country owe increases at a rate of over £400,000 every five minutes and when we speak of fairness we must also consider fairness across the generations. To fail to address the budget deficit is to commit to loading more debt onto the children in our schools and to future taxpayers further down the line.

Sustainability must be at the core of all of our investments in public services.

It is in this light that I believe we should also look at the issue of the public sector pay cap.

If a policy such as this is to change, then it is important that the Government is able to show properly how it will be funded and the place to do this is in a Budget; not an uncosted wish-list attached to the Queen’s Speech by an opposition party.

The public sector pay restraint has played a key role in the last two governments’ deficit reduction strategy and it is important to consider that it has helped to protect thousands of jobs and services.

Average pay in the public sector continues to be comparable with that in the private sector and retains the significant benefit of substantial employer pension contributions.

It is, therefore, paramount that we remain measured and responsible in our approach to funding all our wonderful public services.

Sir Edward Leigh MP

Gainsborough constituency