Laws agrees to look again at Suffolk school places funding following meeting with MPs

Ben Gummer MP and Matthew Hancock MP launch the Conservative New Year Campaign outside the Old Custo

Ben Gummer MP and Matthew Hancock MP launch the Conservative New Year Campaign outside the Old Custom House in Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

Schools minister David Laws has said he will look again at Suffolk’s extra school places funding amid concerns a move away from a three-tier system and a projected surge in population has not been taken into account by Whitehall.

Suffolk MPs met the minister to highlight concerns that its settlement to pay for extra school places will fall from £11million in 2014/5 to just over £1m for the following two years.

They claim that the move from a three-tier education system and a rapid rise in the population in the area is not recognised by officials.

West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock, who has previously written to Mr Laws and organised the meeting, said that while there was currently a surplus of places at primary level, they were not real because middle schools were going through a phased process of closure.

He said that despite raising the issue with the Department for Education, the data had been ignored.

He also claimed that planning applications were being refused on grounds that the local authority cannot fulfil its obligations to provide school places.

Mr Hancock, who is an energy and business minister, said; “Today I organised a meeting alongside all the Suffolk MPs with David Laws, the ninister for schools. We made a strong case that Suffolk needs a fair capital funding settlement to provide enough good school places. We got the minister’s word that he will look again at the allocations for Suffolk. I will not stop fighting until our schools get a fair deal and every child in Suffolk has access to a good education.”

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Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley, Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, Ipswich MP Ben Gummer and Waveney MP Peter Aldous were also at the meeting.

Mr Ruffley said: “I pointed out that the very low departmental allocation for Suffolk may not have taken into account the fact the decommissioned school places arising in middle schools in the Stowmarket, Bury St. Edmunds, Thurston pyramids.

“I, and other Suffolk MPs, also asked whether the large increase in new homes had been fully reflected in Suffolk’s low allocation. David Laws MP said they would consider these points as a matter of urgency.”

Dr Coffey said it had been a constructive meeting and she was delighted that Mr Laws had agreed to look into it.

But she added that they should not get their hopes up at this stage.