Conservative pledges 2017
‘Record – and fair- funding for schools’
(The Conservative Manifesto, 2017, p4)
Evidence/ data check
- Total cash funding is at a record level (BBC News, 2017), Real-terms spending per pupil is not and has been frozen since 2015-16. As such, any increases have come as a result of more pupils in schools, not a rise in per pupil funding. (Britton et al, 2017).
‘While we will make funding fairer over the course of the parliament, we will make sure that no school has its budget cut as a result of the new formula. We will increase the overall schools budget by £4 billion by 2022, representing more than a real terms increase for every year of the parliament. We will continue to protect the Pupil Premium to support those who need it.’
(The Conservative Manifesto, 2017, p51)
Evidence/ data check
- While this £4bn may represent a real-terms increase in total, no commitment is given on funding per pupil. Britton et al (2017) estimate at least £4.8 billion is needed by the end of parliament to reverse the real-terms per pupil effect of the freeze, so more than the Conservatives have outlined. This indicates a fall in real-terms per pupil spending will still occur under the Conservatives, estimated at 3 per cent over 2017-18 to 2021-22 (Vaughn, 2017).
- The extra £4bn on schools in England will be used in part to support schools that were due to lose out under the proposed NFF. The Conservatives estimate around £650million of this will come from ending the current provision of free school lunches for all infant pupils in England. Free breakfasts will be offered instead, at an estimated cost of £60million, saving the party £590million to reinvest in schools (Whittaker, 2017).
- Research by Crawford et al (2016) notes that free breakfasts improve attainment, they also improve behaviour and concentration and, unlike free school lunches, are associated with reduced absences. They achieve all this for around one-tenth of the cost per pupil of universal free school meals (Dearden et al, 2017), backing up the Conservatives manifesto claim that there is ‘good evidence that school breakfasts are at least as effective in helping children to make progress in school.’
- However, the claim that offering free school breakfasts will only cost around £60million has been questioned, as it is based on an expectation of low take-up (of around 24 per cent) and low staffing costs (Nye, 2017). Increases in either of these would obviously lower the Conservatives' savings from the policy change.
- Further funds will come from ‘better systems’ for the student loans companies, saving an estimated £200million, departmental efficiencies, saving £160million and the soft drinks levy, estimated to generate £10million (Whittaker, 2017).
BBC News Education. (2017). Reality Check: Is education spending at a record level? Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39302746 [23 May 2017]
Britton, J. and Sibieta, L. (2017). Labour’s Proposed Boost to Education Spending. Institute for Fiscal Studies. Available at https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/9208 [23 May 2017]
Conservative Manifesto. (2017). Available at https://www.conservatives.com/manifesto [23 May 2017]
Crawford, C., Greaves, E. and Farquharson, C. (2016). Breakfast clubs work their magic in disadvantaged English schools. Institute for Fiscal Studies. Available at https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/8714 [23 May 2017]
Dearden, L. and Farquharson, C. (2017). Free school meals for all primary pupils: Projections from a pilot. Institute for Fiscal Studies. Available at https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/9202 [23 May 2017]
Nye, Philip. (2017). Can free breakfasts for all primary pupils really be delivered for £60m? Education Data Lab. Available at http://educationdatalab.org.uk/2017/05/can-free-breakfasts-for-all-primary-pupils-really-be-delivered-for-60m/ [24 May 2017]
Vaughan, F. (2017). Tory £4bn spending pledge ‘will mean 3% cut to school budgets’. i News. Available at https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/education/tory-4bn-spending-pledge-will-mean-3-cut-school-budgets/ [23 May 2017]
Whittaker, F. (2017). Conservative manifesto: Infant lunches scrapped, but schools get £4bn. Schools Week. Available at https://schoolsweek.co.uk/conservative-manifesto-infant-lunches-scrapped-but-schools-get-4bn/ [23 May 2017]