William Eichler 26 May 2017

Tory manifesto proposals could see school budgets cut, think tank says

School spending plans outlined in the Conservative Party manifesto could see school budgets cut by 7%, financial experts say.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a leading think tank, has published a comparison of manifesto proposals on school spending in England.

Under current plans for school spending, spending per pupil is set to fall by about 6.5% — 8% if additional costs are included — between 2015–16 and 2019–20.

While the Tories have pledged to increase the overall schools budget by £4bn by 2022, the IFS said this amounted to a £1bn real-terms increase once inflation was factored in.

The think tank’s analysis found that once this was combined with the forecast growth in pupil numbers this equates to a real-terms cut in spending per pupil of 2.8% between 2017–18 and 2021–22.

Adding this to past cuts makes for a total real-terms cut to per-pupil spending of around 7% over the six years between 2015–16 and 2021–22.

Labour have committed themselves to reversing real-terms cuts to spending per pupil since 2015 and then protecting it in real-terms over the course of the next Parliament.

The IFS found Labour’s plans would increase school 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.

Under the Liberal Democrats commitment, spending per pupil would be frozen in real-terms over the course of the Parliament, which would require a total increase in the school budget of around £2.2bn compared with today.

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

‘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.’

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