Today we had what is known as an opposition day, where the Labour Party get to choose what the House of Commons debates. They decided to have two short debates, one on the NHS and one on education.
Unfortunately, I was unable to take part in either debate because I had already put my name down to speak in the immigration debate tomorrow but I did sit in to listen to Labour's new education spokesman Andy Burnham. He has always struck me as one of best people on the Labour front bench - down to earth and in politics for the right reasons.
I found what he had to say today rather depressing however. He devoted a significant chunk of his speech to the issue of capital funding for schools (money to build new schools or refurbish existing ones, as opposed to revenue funding which pays for staff and running costs). He kept talking about the importance of having a needs-based approach, which sounded perfectly reasonable until it became clear what he meant:
"We should start where aspiration, expectation and ambition are lowest and transform what those children have."
Now I certainly agree that areas where attainment is lowest should be priorities for revenue funding and more importantly for reform. But surely when it comes to capital funding priority should go to those schools with delapidated buildings and those areas where the number of school-age children is increasing and there is an urgent need for more school places? Andy Burnham is proposing going back to the previous Government's Building Schools for the Future approach were some local authorities - mostly Labour-controlled ones - received hundreds of millions of pounds to modernise every school in their area and others, like Croydon, didn't get a penny. How on earth is that a needs-based approach?