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Plans to cut Birmingham school budgets by £20 million could get even worse if Conservative MPs have their way

Planned cuts to Birmingham schools are designed to make funding fairer for other parts of the country, but some Tory MPs are pushing for more.

Primary school pupils
Primary school pupils

Prime Minister Theresa May faces a rebellion over a plan to change school funding and take £20 million away from Birmingham schools - from Conservative MPs who think it doesn’t go far enough.

Planned funding changes give more cash to schools in smaller towns and rural areas, which currently tend to receive less money than schools in the big cities.

Figures published by the Department for Education in December 2016 showed that schools in Birmingham will lose £20.1 million under the plans, from a city-wide budget of £852 million.

But Mrs May and Education Secretary Justine Greening are under pressure to rethink the plans from Conservative MPs who say it still doesn’t do enough to close the funding gap.

Schools set to gain money tend to be wealthier and rural areas, which also tend to be represented by Conservative MPs and councils. But they argue that the changes should be even bigger.

MPs expressing concern include Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham in Shropshire, where school funding would increase by £1.4 million under the Government’s plans.

Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski
Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski

Speaking in the House of Commons, he asked Education Minister Nick Gibb: “Under these proposals, some Shrewsbury schools will benefit and others will lose. Overall as a country, we still see the extraordinary situation in which, on average, Shropshire pupils can get as little as half that of inner-city children.

“How can he justify parts of the United Kingdom continuing to get almost double what we get in Shropshire?”

Many other Conservatives have also publicly attacked the Government’s proposals for not doing enough.

Examples include Andrew Bingham, Tory MP for High Peak in Derbyshire, where funding will increase by £10 million.

He told the House of Commons: “I recently met many of my local headteachers in the High Peak, and they are concerned about the new national funding formula.”

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Conservative MP for The Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, told an Education Minister in the Commons: “Gloucestershire has suffered for years under the current system. . . will he look carefully at the unfair proposals he has brought forward in the funding formula.”

This is despite the fact that Gloucestershire stands to gain by £2.3 million.

And Jo Churchill, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, which will gain £10 million, told Ministers the change didn’t go far enough, saying: “We in Suffolk are grateful for the uplift, but I, like many others, have campaigned for fairer funding - my children deserve to be treated equally.”

MP Steve McCabe
MP Steve McCabe

The only way to meet demands from Conservative MPs would be to pump more money into the total school budget nationally - with the new money going to their areas - or to impose even bigger cuts cities such as Birmingham, so that the money can be transferred to rural areas.

Birmingham Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe (Lab) said: “What I don’t understand is how taking money away from children in Birmingham can be described as fair funding.

“Headteachers in my constituency are telling me they won’t be able to balance the books as it is.

“If you take any more money away from Birmingham schools then the Secretary of State will be putting up for-sale signs at schools all over the city.”

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