The Rt. Hon. Gavin Williamson MP
Secretary of State for Education
20 Great Smith Street
Sent via email
Thursday, 15 July 2021
Our ref: 20210715JC
Re. Inequalities in education funding
I am writing to you following the National Audit Office’s recent damning report on school funding in England. I am concerned that if the worrying trends which the report highlights are not reversed, we could see a worsening gap in educational attainment.
The report finds that per-pupil funding has only risen by 0.4% in real terms since 2015/16. Against a backdrop of rising costs, it comes as no surprise that more and more teachers are having to subsidise school funding by paying for stationery and equipment out of their own pocket.
Whilst per-pupil funding has remained largely unchanged overall, a marked divide between the richest and poorest has manifested itself. Since 2017/18, we have seen a 1.2% real terms cut in per-pupil funding for the most deprived fifth of schools. This compares to a 2.9% real terms increase for the least deprived fifth of schools. These startling statistics bring to light the fact that educational funding is failing those who need it most.
Furthermore, schools in my constituency have raised with me the fact that the Pupil Premium Grant has remained frozen for the 2021/22 financial year, resulting in a cut in real terms. With inflation expected to climb substantially, our schools are being left with an ever-growing mountain of financial pressure.
The coronavirus pandemic has also risked a further worsening of the educational attainment gap. Inequalities in access to appropriate IT equipment, broadband and suitable home working environments have meant that pupils from more deprived backgrounds have fallen further behind than their peers. The allocated catch-up funding falls far short of what is needed to ensure that every pupil is able to make up for lost learning.
If we are to build back better, we cannot afford to leave any pupils behind. Chronic underfunding over the last decade has left our schools in dire need of more investment as they prepare for a pivotal upcoming academic year. I urge you to act now to reverse the loss of funding suffered by the most deprived schools and ensure that pupils’ postcodes do not determine their educational attainment.
Gill Furniss MP
Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough