POLITICS

Jeremy Corbyn Promises To Halt Tory School Cuts And Reduce Class Sizes In £20bn Education Manifesto

Free lifelong skills learning, student maintenance grants too

09/05/2017 22:31 BST
Christopher Furlong via Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to halt Tory cuts to school budgets and reduce class sizes for under-8s in a radical £20bn education plan.

In another bold pitch to voters in the 2017 general election campaign, Corbyn will promise a Labour government would reverse planned tax breaks for big business and instead spend the money on a new National Education Service for young and old.

Maintenance grants for students would be restored and a new scheme for free, lifelong skills training would be introduced, he will say at the policy launch in Leeds.

The plans will be funded from the £20 billion that will be raised by reversing the Tories’ planned cuts to corporation tax.

Labour has previously announced extending free school meals to all primary age children will be funded by levying VAT on private school fees.

Corbyn and his team will seek to exploit a recent wave of anger among parents and teachers over planned budget cuts to schools across England.

Schools are having to slash staff, change the subjects they offer, cut school trips and clubs to cope with a new funding formula overseen by Education Secretary Justine Greening.

Senior Tory MPs have lined up to criticise the formula, which shifts money from areas with deprivation to more rural constituencies.

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Education Secretary Justine Greening.

Speaking alongside Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, the Labour leader will reveal key pledges to:

- halt the cuts to school budgets with a real terms increase in funding

- reduce class sizes to under 30 for all five, six and seven year olds

- introduce free school meals for all primary school children

- restore education maintenance allowance for sixth form college student

- bring back student grants for university students

- scrap fees on courses for adult learners looking to re-train or upskill

Ahead of the launch on Wednesday, Corbyn said: “People of all ages are being held back by a lack of funding for education, and this in turn is holding back the economy by depriving industry of the untapped talent of thousands of people.

“The Conservatives have spent seven years starving schools of funding, meaning headteachers are having to send begging letters to parents to ask for money.

“They have also cut support for students and forced colleges to increase fees. It’s created a downward spiral that is bad for the people being held back and bad for the economy.”

PA Wire/PA Images
Angela Rayner with Jeremy Corbyn.

Rayner added: “Our plans for a new National Education Service show there is a clear choice at this election. Between the Tories who have broken their promises to parents and children, or a Labour party with a real plan for education for the many not the few.

“We will invest in schools and in our young people, ensuring no primary pupils go hungry during the day, reducing class sizes so children can learn and teachers can teach, and restoring the maintenance allowance and grants for students in both further and higher education.”

Labour says it will ensure all schools “have the funding they need”, estimated to cost £5.66 billion across the UK by the end of the parliament, including £4.8 billion for English schools.

The party estimates that preventing any losses under the proposed national funding formula in every year after the first will cost around £335 million.

Even former Chancellor George Osborne joined in the chorus of criticism with a front page of the Evening Standard earlier this month highlighting the Tory revolt over the proposals.

As part of its pledge to reduce class sizes, Labour will promise a £8 billion capital investment to ensure schools have the number of places they need and £13 billion to ensure that school buildings are up to standard.

The party will scrap fees on courses for adult learners looking to re-train or upskill by promising to increase the adult skills budget to £1.5 billion by the end of the parliament and increase course funding by an average of 10 per cent year on year.

Although the National Education Service was one of Corbyn’s key ideas in his Labour leadership campaign, it had been assumed to have been shelved.

Other planks of his proposals, including more teachers, an arts ‘pupil premium’ and universal public childcare were not included in the pre-briefed plans.

David Gauke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, hit back that the plans were just not workable as the funding didn’t add up.

“Jeremy Corbyn can’t deliver any of this – they’re just made up promises on the back of nonsensical spending plans. He’s spent this damaging tax rise on businesses on 12 different things and he’s already dropped  numerous things he’s said he’d do before.”