Bristol MP Chris Skidmore calls for action to be taken over 'educational Berlin Wall'
SCHOOLCHILDREN across Bristol are receiving thousands of pounds more funding than others on the same street, MPs have been told.
Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore said there was an "educational Berlin Wall" on Soundwell Road in east Bristol because of the complex way schools are funded.
Claiming this led to huge disparities between neighbourhoods, he hit out at "leafy" parts of Bristol where schools were funded more than deprived parts of his constituency.
The Tory MP pointed to Soundwell Road, saying one end attracted £1,000 more funding per pupil than the other, because it lay in the Bristol City Council area, rather than South Gloucestershire.
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He said: "Funding for a pupil on one side of Soundwell road in South Gloucestershire council is £4,487, but for a pupil on the other side of the road it is £5,469. ]
"That differential is £982 ... the differential is growing. Three years ago it was only £468."
He was speaking in Parliament as MPs urged ministers to change the way schools are funded to ensure equality across the country.
Local authorities receive cash to manage their education budgets according to a funding formula that has been branded "opaque and illogical".
Councils can decide how they allocate the cash, meaning similar schools in different areas can receive different amounts.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has pledged to introduce a new national funding formula.
Quoting official studies of deprivation which are based on small "super output areas", Mr Skidmore said: "Who are the Government, and who are we, to suggest that a pupil in leafy, wealthier areas such as Stoke Bishop and Clifton are worth nearly £1,000 more than pupils in areas such as Cadbury Heath and Kingswood, which are within the bottom five per cent of lower layer super output areas?"
Funding should be assessed more locally, he said, going further than looking at whether children receive free school meals, to identify "genuinely deprived areas".
In areas like Soundwell Road, he said: "We have the equivalent of an educational Berlin wall. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, I say to the Minister, 'Tear down that wall!'"
Shadow Education Minister Karen Buck said Labour recognised that school funding was "extremely complex", adding: "We recognise there is a case for further reform and we recognise that, that reform of course is far harder to achieve when funding is as tight as it now is."
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said one of the options outlined would cost £99 million, "not an insubstantial sum in the current financial climate".
He acknowledged that the current school funding system was in "desperate need of reform" and had not kept pace with the change in demographics, but stressed the need for any change to be introduced gradually.
And Mr Gibb pledged further reform, to end the "absurd inequities" stating the Government was "committed to reforming the funding system so that it is fair, transparent and reflects the needs of pupils across the country".
Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, hit back at Mr Skidmore's claims.
She said: "The wards Chris Skidmore mentioned are miles from Soundwell Road and the relative affluence of those areas is very different to the lives of so many of my constituents and for people in east Bristol where deprivation remains high.
"Bristol continues to face more challenges than South Gloucestershire and our schools, though improving, were under-performing, and this is rightly recognised in the funding.
"There may well be differences in wealth within South Gloucestershire but if Chris Skidmore is concerned some children there do not receive the appropriate level of funding, the answer cannot be to take much-needed funding away from Bristol."