Liberal Democrats pledges 2017
‘Schools in England are facing an unprecedented funding crisis, with rising pupil numbers and an inadequate financial settlement means that real-terms per-pupil funding is being squeezed. At the same time the Conservatives’ flawed approach to the National Fair Funding Formula means some schools will lose out even more… Liberal Democrats/ will reverse all cuts to frontline school and college budgets, protecting per pupil funding in real terms, introduce a fairer NFF with a protection for all schools, so that no school loses money. Protect the Pupil Premium. Over the parliament, this means nearly £7 billion more for school and college budgets.’
(The Liberal Democrates Manifesto, 2017, p26)
Evidence/ data check
- While a breakdown of funding is not given in the manifesto, the party have previously outlined £6.9bn of spending as below (Farron, 2017):
- Protecting per pupil funding in real terms in schools (£3.3bn)
- Protecting further education per pupil funding in real terms (£660m)
- Ensuring no school loses out from the National Funding Formula (£1.26bn)
- Protecting the pupil premium in real terms (£415m)
- Investing in continuous professional development for teachers (£165m)
- Barnett formulae funds for devolved nations (£1.1bn)
- Britton et al (2017) estimate reversing the Conservatives’ cuts to date and then maintaining school spending per pupil at this higher level would, in real-terms mean at least £4.8 billion will be needed by the end of parliament, so more than the Lib Dems have allocated. It is not clear in their manifesto if they are intending to reverse all real-terms cuts to date and keep funds at this level, or just ensure no future real-terms per pupil cuts, which could explain some of the difference.
- Britton et al (2017) estimate ensuring no school loses out from a national funding formula in real-terms could cost £325 million up to 2019–20. The Lib Dems funding is for the next five years, so covers a longer period than the IFS estimate, but even so is far higher than the IFS estimate.
- The Liberal Democrats have previously said the money would come from reversing cuts to capital gains tax and the marriage tax allowance (Simons, 2017).
‘…extend free school meals to all children in primary education and promote school breakfast clubs.’
(The Liberal Democrates Manifesto, 2017, p30)
- All state school educated pupils in the first three years of primary school already receive free lunches, under a scheme introduced by the Coalition Government.
- Dearden et al (2017) estimate extending this to all primary pupils will costs around £800m a year, assuming a 90 per cent take up of the offer and a cost of £2.30 per meal. IFS also note there would be other upfront costs from one-time investments, such as renovating school kitchens and cafeterias to provide additional meals. They estimate this could be as much as £225 million. The Liberal Democrats have previously estimated it will cost around £450 million to extend free meals to all junior school children in 2018-19, rising to £725 million in 2021-22, so far below the IFS estimate.
- Research on the impact of offering free school meals to children is mixed. A small pilot study evaluated by the IFS showed free school lunches resulted in a slight improvement in pupils' attainment, but it was unclear if this impact would be replicated nationwide. There was also no change in absences or children's weight (Coughlan, 2017). As such, there are questions around whether offering free school lunches to all primary pupils provides value for money.
- Evidence in support of free school breakfasts is stronger, showing that they improve attainment, behaviour, 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), suggesting they provide more value for money,
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]
Coughlan, S. (2017). Corbyn promises free primary school meals for all. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39504339 [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]
Farron, T. (2017). £7 billion extra for schools under Liberal Democrat plans. Liberal Democrats. Available at http://www.libdems.org.uk/schools-bidgets-7-billion-liberal-democrats-plans [23 May 2017]
Liberal Democrates Manifesto. (2017). Available at http://www.libdems.org.uk/manifesto [23 May 2017]
Simons, N. (2017). Lib Dems Promise To Reverse Schools Cuts With Extra £7bn In Education Funding. The Huffington Post. Available at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/lib-dems-promise-extra-7bn-in-education-funding_uk_5911c241e4b0104c73526d3c [23 May 2017]