Chancellor pledges education is still a priority

Karen Thornton, Warwick Mansell, Jon Slater and Cherry Canovan report on the fall-out from Stephen Byers' resignation

EDUCATION remains a priority in long-term Government spending plans, Chancellor Gordon Brown has pledged.

It will receive "the priority it requires to deliver further substantial improvements in our schools, colleges and universities" in July's comprehensive spending review, he said.

His comments came after Peter Mandelson claimed this year's Budget - which included a five-year plan for the National Health Service - left only pound;1.2 billion in 20034 to be shared between education, transport, defence and crime.

Carl Emmerson, of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said education spending for 20034 was already set to rise by 8.2 per cent. Mr Brown could use a share of the pound;1.2bn to increase that allocation.

The key will be allocations in the years 2004-6.

Mr Emmerson said: "The Government can still fulfil its pledge. However, it is likely that if education is a priority, other departments will have to find savings."

Serious concern is now being voiced among council education leaders over whether fundamental changes to the schools funding formula can be introduced next year.

But essential details, including how to calculate the needs of individual schools, remain to be resolved, a conference organised by the Confederation of Education Service Managers heard.

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