Hunt tells Yorkshire schools there is no new cash for improvement plan

Shadow Education Minister Tristram Hunt
Shadow Education Minister Tristram Hunt

Failing schools across Yorkshire will not be handed a funding bailout, the shadow education secretary has said.

Tristram Hunt has insisted improvements can be made across the region with teacher-led changes supported by a new wave of schools commissioners rather than handing over cash for a much praised improvement plan.

Mr Hunt did though offer hope to rural schools when he said there will be no “big bang reform” to the Government’s funding plan which has seen money taken from urban schools to help historically short-changed countryside schools.

His blunt assessment of the cash situation facing schools comes amid growing concern at a glut of depressing statistics facing the region.

In the most recent GCSE league tables Yorkshire had the lowest level of 16-year-olds getting to the five A* to C grades at GCSEs, including English and maths- 53.1 per cent of pupils.

And a recent look at the region by Oftsed inspectors found that parents in Yorkshire are less likely to be able to find a good school than any other part of the country.

One solution has been to set up a Yorkshire Challenge scheme, based on a multi-million pound London project in which teachers from good schools work with under-performing schools to change results in key subjects.

Mr Hunt said he had to be realistic about what his spending options were, though adding he would back strongly schools coming to with local plans.

“More and more areas are coming forward to look at the London Challenge as a model to sort out, to raise standards, and that is absolutely right.

“What we will do is provide in a sense the infrastructure for that through our directions on schools standards, through our school commissioners.

“In Yorkshire what the framework for that will be, we want local authorities to come to the Department for Education and say we in Bradford think this scheme will work, to have a school commissioner here promoting the challenge model here.

“It is great that schools are seeking to do this off their own back now, we will support them with some of the infrastructure and support system behind that. It can raise standards, it has been proven to.

“You need a broad enough geographical remit to make it work, so there are enough excellent schools involved, and you have those schools in Yorkshire that can share the knowledge between them.”

Despite that goodwill, there was a firm stance on new funding.

The Labour MP said: “Money matters, let us be very clear about that. But I have to be honest, I cannot go into the DoE and come out with large sums of new money for different parts of country.”

He added though that he would not set out to reform current funding plans, something which will be welcomed by rural schools but likely to upset urban MPs who feel they have lost out.

“Over time we want to move to greater fairness in the system, but we should be clear that money does matter but you can also see parts of the country with very little money achieving results.

“The challenge of schooling is often seen in costal towns, market towns, rural areas. We hope to move to greater fairness in the funding system, but what we will not do is come in and do a big band review of the funding formula. If the challenge is in outlying areas that needs to be reflected in the funding.”