Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
I welcome the statement and give the Secretary of State 10 out of 10 for progress and a huge gold star for listening to the concerns of Members on the Government Benches and, no doubt, on the Opposition Benches. This morning, I was at the George Spencer Academy, an outstanding academy in my constituency—that is not my view, but the Ofsted rating. The reality is that it will not be replacing eight teachers and a librarian because of the difficulties with its budget. I hope that today’s announcement will go some way towards rectifying that.
The complaint of that academy is not the formula, but its rising costs. There are huge rises in pension and national insurance contributions, which nobody begrudges. Although it is a small part of the piece, I urge the Secretary of State to look at why local authorities are putting the apprenticeship levy on our schools. That cannot be right. It is not a lot of money, but it is very meaningful for school budgets.
It is important to get on with making more apprenticeships available for young people, including in sectors like education, but I recognise what my right hon. Friend says. It is important that my Department does more to work proactively with schools to help them deal with some of the cost base pressures they have been facing. I feel that best practice can be spread more effectively through schools when they are working out ways to do smart timetabling and smart procurement deals. We need to do that much more systematically in the future and if we do, I believe that we can get much more out of the budget we already have.