Neil Parish MP uses education debate in the House of Commons to welcome the extra per pupil funding for Devon’s schools by this Government but also looks to the next Parliament to do more for rural education funding.
Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend for leading this debate. In Devon, we have now seen £193 in extra funding per pupil. That is great news, but there is still a big gap to fill, especially with so many small rural schools and a sparse population. We do a very good job with very poor funding. I look to the next Parliament to do better.
Mr Speaker: Order. May I point out to colleagues that in addition to the hon. Member for Worcester and the Front Benchers, who need briefly to speak, there are on my list nine colleagues who wish to speak? The hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to make a full contribution, but I know he will find that helpful to weigh in the balance.
Mr Walker: I thank my hon. Friend, who has always been a great champion for rural areas.
F40, the cross-party campaign formed more than 20 years ago to represent the lowest-funded areas, used to rail against a gap of hundreds of pounds in funding between rural areas and their urban areas, and in Worcestershire, local MPs spoke out against a gap that doubled during the 13 years of the previous Labour Government. Until the current year, it had never once declined. When the gap started, there was no justice in the fact that similar schools serving similar catchments with similar levels of deprivation on different sides of a random border could receive wildly different funding. As the gap has widened, so the challenge for schools to raise the attainment of all their pupils has become greater and the challenge to hold on to their best teachers bigger. Although the pupil premium has helped some schools in F40 areas, it has also added to the disparities by piling targeted funding for deprivation on top of the untargeted funding that went before.