Brown's big spender

24th March 2006 at 00:00
The Chancellor's Budget offers state schools funding on a par with the independent sector. Michael Shaw reports

When teachers return to work on Monday they will find their schools are Pounds 440 million richer. Chancellor Gordon Brown this week took on Tony Blair's mantle as the champion of education in a budget designed to pave the way to his premiership.

Teacher unions were delighted by his rhetoric, which they believe promises a return to old Labour values with the party firmly on the side of state education. Mr Brown is to raise spending per pupil in England's state schools to private school levels.

Direct funding to schools, which heads can decide how to spend, will increase by pound;440 million next week and double for secondaries between now and next year.

Capital investment in state schools - cash for buildings and teaching equipment -will reach pound;1,000 per pupil by 2011, exceeding the current private school average.

The Association for Teachers and Lecturers said it was hard to gauge how much of the money was new because of projects such as the Building Schools for the Future programme, but reckoned the pound;8 billion pledged for capital spending in 2010 was significantly larger than before.

The bonanza was contrasted with Mr Blair's controversial Education and Inspections Act, which looks to private sponsors and trust schools to lift standards.

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

"By targeting high class sizes and the invidious gap between state and private school spending Gordon Brown has shown that he understands the needs of school communities. It is exactly the kind of vision we want."

Mr Brown - who referred to his own schooling at a state school in Fife - is yet to reveal when spending on state schools is to rise from pound;5,000 a pupil to exceed the pound;8,000 a pupil private-school average.

He said: "We know the educational benefits of more individual attention, small group teaching and tutoring ... easier to get where the overall teacher-pupil ratio is low. Our long-term aim should be to ensure for 100 per cent of our children the educational support now available to just 10 per cent.

"To improve pupil-teacher ratios and the quality of our education we should agree an objective for our country that stage by stage, adjusting for inflation, we raise average investment per pupil to today's private-school level," he said.

From next week the amount a typical primary receives directly will increase from pound;31,000 to pound;44,000, while the sum given to a standard secondary will rise from pound;98,000 to pound;150,000 - then go up to Pounds 190,000 next year. A large secondary in a difficult area will receive Pounds 500,000 from next year.

While private senior schools have a teacher for every nine pupils, state secondaries have one for 16.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said Mr Brown's capital spending pledges announced this week would close less than 10 per cent of the pound;3,000 per pupil gap between state and private funding.

Ruth Kelly, Education Secretary, said: "Our children deserve the same standards of education in the state sector as children in the private sector. As resources do become available our commitment is to schools first and will be as long as that gap remains."

News 2 Leader 22

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