Great news on education this week with big announcements on increased funding plans. Schools here and across the country are to get a boost of over £14 billion between now and 2022. This reflects the Prime Minister’s pledge to level up funding for rural and urban schools to £4,000 per pupil in primary and £5,000 in secondary education - a really big uplift for some of our schools - and I am really pleased to see it also includes £700 million for Special Educational Needs.
In addition, and something I have campaigned for to raise our local skills development capacity, an extra £400 million for further education and sixth form colleges will benefit Yeovil College, Wadham and Holyrood. This is on top of Yeovil College having recently received more funding by dint of being part of the Institute for Technology programme, and being selected to offer T-levels.
My wife is a teacher and I have two young children so education is something I think about a lot. I am also the vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Education, a cross-party group focused on supporting our schools and colleges, their pupils and staff. We are looking at various aspects of children’s wellbeing, their mental health and pressures, how time outdoors and exercise help. We welcome the Government’s commitment to more sport and outdoor activity in schools and will look to shape that constructively.
The issue of funding is never too far away from our work. I have talked regularly with local schools and Yeovil College about this and do understand the challenges, particularly from increasing demand with more pupils coming through, and costs. Some political games were played with a campaign at the last General Election spreading quite distorted information on funding considering the overall budget was already higher than it had ever been. I have kept making the point though to Government that pupils in the countryside deserve no less than their peers in cities so I am really pleased that is now being addressed.
During the leadership campaign I had discussions with Boris Johnson about this and was impressed by his passion to ensure our children get a great education wherever they happen to live. We also spoke about skills and vocational training in particular and we share an enthusiasm for technology driving the economy forward. When you invest in education you improve the future of the country and give people a better chance of fulfilling their potential. We are passionate about it, it is as simple as that.
I am pleased also to announce this week that the Prime Minister has made me Deputy President of the Board of Trade, to work with business and with Ministers in the Department for International Trade, advising on policy, boosting our competitiveness and scoping and promoting more opportunities, both with existing and new trade and investment partners. This gives me a great platform from which to keep promoting our area’s local businesses, which export more to the rest of the world than any in the South West other than Bristol and Swindon.