Conservative school spending plans ‘would mean a real-terms cut’

30 May 17

Conservative school spending plans would result in a real terms cut while Labour would increase real terms expenditure, experts have concluded.

Two separate reports on the education pledges of the main parities were published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Education Policy Institute (EPI) on Friday last week.

Both studies conclude that the Conservative manifesto pledge would result in a cut of around 3% of spending per pupil between 2017/18 and 2021/22.

Labour’s commitments would increase spending per pupil by 6% compared with present levels and leave spending per pupil in 2021/22 1.6% higher in real-terms than its historic high in 2015/16, both reports said.

While the Liberal Democrat plans would protect spending per pupil in real-terms at its 2017/18 level, the EPI estimated it would provide a 1% increase per pupil over the next five years.

Luke Sibieta, associate director at IFS, said: “The commitments made by each of the main parties would imply quite different paths for school spending in the next parliament.

“Labour would increase spending per pupil by around 6% after inflation over the course of the parliament, taking it to just above its previous historic high in 2015.

“Proposals from the Conservatives would lead to a near 3% real terms fall in spending per pupil over the parliament, taking it back to its level 2010.”

These calculations are based on the stated funding pledges, consideration of inflation and forecast growth in pupil numbers.

For example, the Conservatives have promised to increase the school budget by £4bn in 2022, but taking account of inflation brings that to a real-terms increase in the schools budget of around £1bn compared with the level in 2017–18.

But then adding the costs of growing pupil numbers turns the Conservative promise into a real-terms cut in spending per pupil of 2.8% between 2017/18 and 2021/22.

Labour have promised a £25bn package for education, which covers a range of initiatives, while the Lib Dems have committed to providing an extra £7bn over the course of the next parliament.

The EPI report states the Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals “appear to be promising the biggest boost to school budgets”, Lib Dems offer a small real-terms increase and the Tories manifesto indicates a real-terms cut.

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