Cameron accused of planning real-term cut in school spending

David Cameron and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan in a science classroom at Kingsmead School in Enfield, London.
David Cameron and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan in a science classroom at Kingsmead School in Enfield, London.
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DAVID Cameron was accused of planning a real-terms cuts in spending on state schools in England, after he announced that funding per pupil will be frozen in cash terms over the next five years if Conservatives win the general election.

The Prime Minister announced that spending per pupil will not be cut, but will not rise in line with inflation under Tory plans. He insisted this will mean more money for schools overall because of rising pupil numbers.

However the director of the economic thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson, said that Mr Cameron’s pledge represented “quite a watering down” of the “ring-fence” protection offered to schools by the coalition government over the past five years.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said Conservative claims of protecting the schools budget were” unravelling”.

Yesterday Mr Cameron set out plans for what he termed an “all-out war on mediocrity” in the state education system. Schools judged by regulator Ofsted to require improvement will be forced to convert into academies and put forward plans to achieve “good” or “outstanding” status or face takeover by outside experts with a track record of turning round failing schools, he said.

Critics pointed out that many of the schools which require improvement are already academies. Ofsted published two inspection reports for Yorkshire secondary schools yesterday. The Sheffield Springs Academy - one of the first academies to open in Yorkshire in 2006, and the Kings Science Academy, in Bradford, one of the county’s first free schools are both rated as requiring improvement.

Setting out the Conservative spending pledge for the next Parliament, the Prime Minister added: “Good school places need money and we will make sure our schools are properly funded.

“With a Conservative government, the amount of money following your child into the school will not be cut. In Treasury-speak, flat cash per pupil. And as the number of pupils in our schools is going up, that means the amount of money going into our schools will do so too.”

The Prime Minister confirmed that the Tory commitment would mean government support per child would not keep up with rising prices over the next five years.

He added: “I accept that is a difficult decision for some schools, because the amount of cash per child is not going up by inflation. The amount of cash is staying the same,.

“But I think that schools have demonstrated, brilliantly, over the last five years that they can be more efficient, they can be more effective, they can make their budgets, they can particularly make their budgets work better because many of them are now academies, and have greater freedoms and greater abilities to run their schools in the way they see fit. I think this is a realistic and sensible, practical way to make sure we go on delivering a great education for young people, but without putting too much pressure on the budget.”

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: “The Tory claims on protecting schools are unravelling as David Cameron has been forced to admit that his plans will see a real-terms cut to spending on schools. The truth is that you can’t protect schools when you have plans to take spending as a share of GDP back to levels not seen since the 1930s.” Earlier in the day Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said every child should know their 12 times table when they leave primary school - but refused to answer a sum herself on live television.

Nicky Morgan has unveiled a new policy which would see all children aged 11 have to pass tough tests as part of a “war on illiteracy and innumeracy”.

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