Nadhim Zahawi responds to MPs questions to the Department for Education in relation to his Children and Families portfolio.
Thank you, Mr Speaker—I will clear my throat. Maintained nursery schools support some of our most disadvantaged children, and they do experience higher costs than other providers. We will therefore be providing local authorities with supplementary funding of about £60 million a year after 2020.
With the two-year transitional funding ending soon and the comprehensive spending review not expected until the summer, maintained nursery schools in my constituency are desperately struggling to plan and budget for the future. Until secure and sustainable funding arrangements are put in place, will the Minister at least commit to further additional transitional funding to protect maintained nurseries across England?
The early years national funding formula for Greenwich has increased from £4.86 in 2016-17 to a provisional £6.17 in 2018-19. On top of this, in 2018-19, Greenwich will receive about £690,000 for its three maintained nurseries. My message to all local authorities is: do not do anything premature but wait for the spending review.
The law is clear: only children who are suffering, or at risk of suffering, significant harm receive child protection interventions. When it comes to support for children and families with wider needs, the statutory safeguarding guidance is also clear: local authorities should make a range of services available, including early help.
Looked-after children in secure accommodation have been subjected to more than 30,000 hours in solitary confinement over the past five years, in some cases for up to 23 hours a day. Leading medical experts have called for the Government to cease the practice immediately. Will the new secure academy schools be adopting it, and why is the Minister allowing such a contravention of children’s human rights to continue apace?
The hon. Lady has raised an important issue, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has also sought to address, and of which there has been some media coverage. Looked-after children are our responsibility: we are, ultimately, their parents. This is wrong, and should not be happening.
I echo the Secretary of State’s words; he has put on the record that every school should be a special educational needs and disability school. Investment in SEND has risen by £1 billion since 2013 to £6 billion. We have opened 34 new special free schools and 55 special free schools are due to open. In July, we gave local authorities the opportunity to bid for new special alternative provision schools in their areas.
Sixty-four per cent. of maintained nursery schools are in deprived areas, such as Sandbank in my constituency. Will the Minister give special consideration to this fact when deciding future funding?
We will certainly give that point special consideration. We are working with the sector to look at the additional value that it provides, and I thank all local authorities who are helping us with the work to look at the economic model before the SR.
There was not a single penny in the Budget for further education—a sector that has lost a quarter of its funding since 2010. What does the Minister say to Greenhead College, which serves my constituency and has written to me to say that it fears it will not be able to provide the education that our young people deserve if cuts continue?
Was the Minister as concerned as I was when Warwickshire County Council recently brought forward a strategy document stating that dyslexia would not constitute a special educational need? Is he as pleased as I am that that document has now been withdrawn?
Yes, I am.
Does the Secretary of State share my concern and that of Members across the House that The Observer identified a £195 million overspend by councils on high needs in the last year? Will he actually respond to my request that he agreed to in the summer to meet me to discuss special educational needs and problems in Derbyshire?
We recognise that local authorities are facing cost pressures on high needs, and I assure the hon. Lady that we are monitoring the impact of our high needs national funding formula on local authority spending decisions. We are also keeping our overall level of funding under review in the context of the next spending review.