Education is critical to unlocking future regional and national economic prosperity, and it is essential that we provide our children with high quality education to help them thrive and succeed.
I frequently visit schools in Torridge and West Devon to find out how I can help them and, the other day, I was delighted visit Bideford College to meet staff and students and to discuss the College. It also enables me to take up matters learned in these visits with the local education authority or with the Government. It was a pleasure to see the College at work again, to meet some of the staff and students, and to learn of the progress they are making, which Ofsted has recognised in its report last summer, formally classifying it as a good school.
School funding is essential to the improvement of our local schools and education. In the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor confirmed that schools will receive £2.3 billion of additional funding during both the 2023-24 and 2024-25 academic years. This will bring the core schools budget to a total of £58.8 billion in 2024-25, which is £2 billion more than was previously committed in the 2021 Spending Review. These increases represent the highest levels of real-terms funding for many years.
The Department for Education also committed to a long-term Schools Rebuilding Programme, renovating 500 schools in England over the next decade to provide excellent learning facilities for students across the country. In December 2022, the Government announced that a further 239 schools and sixth form colleges have been provisionally selected for the School Rebuilding Programme. The announcement of the next 239 schools for inclusion in the programme means 400 schools have now been selected so far. I was delighted to be able to help secure for Tavistock College a place on this Schools Rebuilding Programme, which will now see the complete renewal of its buildings in the next few years.
I meet my ministerial colleagues in the Department for Education regularly to ensure the needs and concerns of our local schools are championed in Westminster and indeed, I am meeting the Minister of State for Schools next week to discuss these matters. I am determined to ensure the benefits of government support and funding are felt by our children and that they have what they need for a good education.
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Also this week, Sir Geoffrey welcomed the announcement that Dartmoor National Park Authority will be receiving a much-needed additional grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, amounting to £440,000, after the MP went into battle to save the Princetown Visitor Centre.
This significant government funding boost for Dartmoor National Park comes after Sir Geoffrey held a series of meetings with the Secretary of State, Therese Coffey, and Minister for Natural Environment and Land Use, Trudy Harrison MP, upon receiving news that closure was contemplated of the Princetown Visitor Centre due to financial pressures faced by the national park authority. During the meetings, Sir Geoffrey impressed upon ministers the significance of the Visitor Centre and the National Park to local communities, and his deep concerns over the financial strains the Dartmoor National Park Authority was under.
Sir Geoffrey said: “I have been in intensive negotiations with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Minister for Natural Environment and Land Use to fight the battle for more resources for the National Park, upon being notified of the risk to the Visitor Centre.
“I am delighted that the National Park will be receiving £440,000 of additional government support to prevent the closure of the Princetown Visitor Centre. I recognise the vital importance of the Princetown Visitor Centre and of the DNP to our community. It is up to the DNPA now to work out a long-term future for the Centre and to concentrate on the other priorities, such as adequate numbers of rangers, that the public want.”