October 17: Time is up for school funding lottery

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WHY should a pupil in Hull receive £400 a year more in school funding than a student half a mile down the road in the East Riding?

Though this disparity is by no means unique, it is indicative of a system no longer ‘fit for purpose’.

If there was a straight-forward answer, however, it would have been found by now. And that is the quandary with the proposal by Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart, chairman of Parliament’s influential Education Select Committee, to see future funding for schools being based on pupil numbers rather than being skewed in favour of areas with below-average exam results.

For, while Yorkshire could benefit to the tune of £40m a year, other regions will miss out. Will the Government countenance this? And, of course, there will be winners and losers locally – Barnsley, North Yorkshire and East Riding could be the biggest beneficiaries while Bradford, a city with some of the worst GCSE results in Britain, could be deprived of £16.9m.

It is true that the current lottery, an amalgamation of decades of botched policy-making, favours urban areas over the more rural LEAs – this was highlighted on these pages last week by Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, who says that this historic imbalance does not justify the children of his constituents losing out. He is right. The scale of these discrepancies can no longer be justified and schools, in an ideal world, would receive funding which equated to pupil numbers and which was then topped up to finance specific schemes to tackle under-performance.

As pressure grows on the Tories to honour their pre-election promise of fair funding for all, it is also imperative that Yorkshire has sufficient world-class teachers to lift the county off the foot of national league tables. For, without inspirational leaders in the classroom, schools will struggle – irrespective of their budget levels.

HS2 and the North

HAVING promised to head a One Nation government that delivers the Northern Powerhouse, it is now imperative that David Cameron and George Osborne honour this commitment and avoid the ambivalence of the Thatcher and Major administrations when traditional industries were disintegrating. The Rotherham steel summit, held in the wake of the closure of the SSI plant in Redcar and further job losses in Scunthorpe, was a case in point – the communities concerned need sustained support from Ministers in order to attract, and grow, those businesses which will create a new generation of jobs in an evolving economy.

However, while some will contend that this investment should take precedence over a HS2, this short-sighted stance fails to take account of the bigger picture. If it is to become easier for people to find work, they need a public transport system which is commensurate with the train and bus services that are taken for granted in London and the South East.

This will not happen, however, without the advent of high-speed rail. Not only will it be easier, and quicker, for people to travel between Britain’s main cities, but it will free up capacity so more trains can operate on commuter routes across this region. Because of this, Mr Osborne must stop dragging his feet over the funding for the proposed HS2 College at Doncaster. Not only is this critical to developing the engineering skills that will underpin the largest infrastructure project ever to be undertaken in the UK, but it is integral to the revival of Doncaster and South Yorkshire – two areas that are still paying the price for previous Tory neglect.

Show of support: Big boots to fill atCountryside Live.

AS THE custodian of the Great Yorkshire Show and Countryside Live, Bill Cowling left big boots to fill when he stepped down as Honorary Show Director. After all, he is the man who made sure that these two events at the Harrogate Showground became the shop window for Yorkshire’s farming fraternity.

Yet Mr Cowling’s successor, Charles Mills, is already in the fortuitous position of being able to announce a 22 per cent increase in advance ticket sales for this weekend’s Countryside Live celebration. And this is important. As the Government pays ‘lip service’ to the importance of the rural economy, and the plight of dairy farmers, it’s up to families to show their support by visiting such showpiece events and buy purchasing local produce wherever possible. If not, farming will be an even less attractive proposition to future generations – and Britain will be more dependent on food imports. Is that what the country wants? It’s food for thought.

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