Labour: “Generation of children left to pay price for government incompetence”

Andrew Kersley

Labour has accused the government of leaving “a generation of children to pay the price” for its “chronic incompetence” as a new study shows that the Tories imposed the largest school spending cut in 40 years.

The new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found that per-pupil spending in English schools fell by 9% in real terms between 2010 and 2020 as a result of Tory-led government funding cuts.

According to the paper, the new national funding formula is set to increase spending in deprived areas by 3-4% less than in wealthier areas. The IFS says the gap will leave poorer schools badly placed to deal with the challenges of Covid.

Commenting on the study, Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said: “The Tories have slashed school budgets for the first time in decades, leaving a generation of children to pay the price for this government’s chronic incompetence.

“The cuts that they imposed on schools were a dangerous false economy that simply made it harder for them to respond to the ongoing pandemic, with the most disadvantaged areas hit the hardest.

“This incompetence cannot be allowed to continue, and the government must ensure that schools, pupils, and staff are given the support they need in the months and years ahead.”

The IFS study details that between 2000 and 2010, the extra per-pupil funding of the most deprived schools grew by nearly 10% – but in the following decade, the rise in funding for poorer pupils was entirely reversed.

Covid-19 has posed a variety of challenges to the education sector, with one report from earlier this month suggesting the pandemic may have widened the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers by as much as 75%.

Labour called on the government earlier this month to implement a ‘Close the Gap’ strategy that would address the educational inequalities made worse by the coronavirus pandemic in recent months.

Commenting on the release of the new IFS report, NEU head Dr Mary Bousted said: “This is a historic failure of the nation’s children. It is also striking that despite government rhetoric of ‘levelling up’ the reverse is true.

“It is those schools that serve children from the poorest backgrounds which have had their funding cut the hardest… Children only get one chance to go to school but a whole generation of pupils have had the whole of their time in school blighted by cuts.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson faced a public outcry in August when the government’s algorithm for allocating exam grades disproportionately downgraded disadvantaged students.

Although the government eventually U-turned, Labour has since urged them to release all documents relating to the “fiasco” after Ofqual officials said that the Education Secretary ignored official advice when creating the controversial system.

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