MPs wary of chancellor's funding pledge

27th October 2006 at 01:00
An influential Parliamentary committee has criticised the Chancellor's pledge to bring school spending up to private sector levels and called for the government to be clearer about what its education "efficiency savings"

really amount to.

Gordon Brown, garnered plaudits in his budget speech this year for saying he would raise the pound;5,000 per pupil spent in state schools to the Pounds 8,000 per pupil spent in independent schools, a boast he repeated at last month's Labour conference.

But this week MPs on the Commons education and skills select committee echoed other critics of the announcement saying that without a timescale, or any definite commitment to increase expenditure they do not know when it will be met.

The MPs said: "The policy is an aspiration rather than having been developed with a timetable in conjunction with the Department for Education and Skills. Future policy announcements should have a more substantial basis."

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that meeting the pledge would cost pound;17 billion in real terms and would be achieved between 2014-22 depending on the growth in education spending.

David Bell, DfES permanent secretary, also pulled out the rug from under the Chancellor during a select committee hearing in June, when he warned that future spending settlements were likely to be tougher. "It is going to get tighter," he said. "I don't think there is any doubt about that."

The MPs challenged the department's assertion that it will achieve pound;4.3bn of efficiency savings. "We do have doubts about whether quantifying them in cash terms is helpful," they wrote.

"It's a moot point the extent to which the gain, which accrues from a teaching assistant taking on tasks previously undertaken by teachers (and thereby freeing them for preparation or teaching), can be given a monetary value."

The committee also criticised the department for making changes to the format of its annual report which made it hard to keep track of funding and policy changes.

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