Labour announces school funding plans

The party says it will increase spending in England’s schools by £10.5 billion by 2022/23.

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

Labour has laid its education funding cards on the table, pledging to pump billions of pounds into the school system over the next three years.

The party plans to increase spending in England’s schools by £10.5 billion by 2022/23, according to newly published documents.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a respected economic think tank, said that Labour’s proposals would mean a 15% real-terms increase in per pupil funding over the next three years.

The Government announced in the summer that it would increase school spending by £7.1 billion by 2022/23, an almost 8% increase that would return funding to 2009/10 levels, according to the IFS.

Labour’s manifesto says that its funding settlement “will ensure pupils are taught by a qualified teacher, that every school is open for a full five days a week, and maximum class sizes of 30 for all primary school children. We will also fund more non-contact time for teachers to prepare and plan”.

The School Cuts coalition, a group of education union, has welcomed Labour’s funding pledge.

It said: “With this announcement, Labour has now committed to a plan that reverses the cuts to education; provides additional money to properly address historic underfunding; and makes it possible for all schools to ensure minimum standards of educational provision are in place such as a class size limit of 30 and a qualified teacher for every class.”

The manifesto is also set to deepen divisions between Labour and private schools, as it sets out measures to cut tax breaks for the sector.

A row was sparked in September after the party passed a resolution at its conference which put forward sweeping plans to overhaul private education and “integrate” fee-paying schools into the state sector.

The move was immediately met with outrage from private school leaders, who have vowed to fight any such move.

Labour’s manifesto says that the party intends to “close the tax loopholes enjoyed by elite private schools and use that money to improve the lives of all children”.

The party also pledges to ask the Social Justice Commission “to advise on integrating private schools and creating a comprehensive education system”.

Mike Buchanan, executive director of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents about 250 leading private schools, said: “Independent schools already contribute significantly to local and national economies, including paying their taxes.

“Any further tax is putting politics before pupils and will have serious unforeseen consequences.

“It will hurt hard-working parents, drive up class sizes and pile further pressure on state school budgets.

“We are particularly worried about the effects on vulnerable children.”

Other education measures in Labour’s manifesto, some of which are already known, focus on the party’s plans to create a national education service.

The party is pledging to give all two to four-year-olds 30 hours of free pre-school education, recruit almost 150,000 additional early years workers, scrap primary school SATs and Ofsted and increase funding for post-16 education.

Also included is Labour’s key pledge to scrap university tuition fees.

The manifesto says: “Labour will end the failed free-market experiment in higher education, abolish tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants.”

New analysis by the IFS calculates that the total cost of Labour’s higher education policies would be around £7 billion per year, assuming no changes in student numbers.

Jack Britton, IFS senior research economist, said: “Labour’s plans will largely benefit students who go on to have the highest earnings.

“If student numbers stayed constant, they would cost the taxpayer £7 billion per year.

“But it is plausible that free higher education would increase student numbers, and hence student number caps may have to be re-introduced to avoid costs rising in an uncontrolled fashion.

“But this would risk harming access to higher education among those from poorer backgrounds.”

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