Boris Johnson is promising a cash boost totalling more than £14bn for primary and secondary schools over the next three years.
The prime minister revealed the increase ahead of next week’s spending review, where Chancellor Sajid Javid will announce updated budgets for government departments.
In an interview with Sky News, ahead of Mr Javid’s speech, Mr Johnson appeared to commit himself to fiscal rules drawn up by former Chancellor Philip Hammond.
The prime minister vowed to “continue to keep debt coming down every year” despite his series of spending pledges, including on the NHS, police and now education, since entering Number 10 in July.
Downing Street had previously said the rules, which require the government to balance the nation’s books by the mid-2020s and to ensure that debt is falling as a share of GDP by the end of this parliament, were “under review”.
During the Conservative leadership campaign, during which he made a pledge to reverse Conservative education cuts since 2010, Mr Johnson was also reported to have been considering loosening Mr Hammond’s controls on public spending once in power.
The cash boost for schools will see an extra £2.6bn for 2020/21, £4.8bn for 2021/22 and £7.1bn for 2022/23, compared to funding levels for this year.
By the end of the period, the schools budget will total £52.2bn.
The prime minister told Sky News the objective of the money is to “level up across the country”.
“The effect is – I hope – not just to give every school an increase, both primary and secondary, but to make sure the schools allowed to fall furthest behind are seeing the biggest uplift.”
He added: “I can’t think of anything more fundamental for society than education spending.”
Mr Johnson denied, under his leadership, the Tories were ditching their commitments to fiscal discipline.
He claimed extra public spending would be funded by an intent to “grow this economy with a proper supportive approach to business and industry and enterprise”.
“Wait to see what Sajid Javid announces – the fiscal headroom, the tax revenues have been coming in to enable us to make these commitments,” the prime minister added.
Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner claimed the government’s announcement “comes nowhere close to meeting the prime minister’s pledge to reverse the Tories’ education cuts, let alone matching Labour’s plans to invest in a National Education Service”.
“Instead, it is yet another con trick by a politician who shown time and again that you just can’t trust his promises,” she said.
“With the chancellor only committing to a one-year Spending Round schools are being told to wait years for desperately needed funding, and the truth is that the government’s figures would prove an absolute fantasy after the damage done by a disastrous no-deal Brexit.
“Pupils with special educational needs and disabilities are struggling to access the help they need, and yet today the education secretary hasn’t even offered enough to cover half of the funding shortfall and not for another year.
“Today’s announcement completely ignores the impact of cuts on vital services like nursery schools and Sure Start centres or adult learning and training, and school buildings will continue to crumble as cuts to capital funding continue.”
As part of the government’s promise, every secondary school will receive a minimum of £5,000 per pupil next year, with every primary school getting a minimum of £4,000 from 2021/22.
It will ensure that per-pupil funding for all schools can rise at least in line with inflation
There will also be £700m extra for children with special educational needs and disabilities in 2020/21.
Mr Javid said: “We said our priorities were police, healthcare and education, and that’s what we are delivering at next week’s spending round.
“Because of the hard work of the British people to put our finances in order, we can now invest in their priorities.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson hailed the more than £14bn spend over three years as “the largest cash boost in a generation”.
“In addition to this package, schools will receive £4.4bn over three years to cover rising pension costs and ensure they can focus their resources on the front line,” he added.
Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told Sky News the government’s plan appeared to be a “genuine increase” in education funding and would meet the prime minister’s promise to reverse previous Tory cuts.
“It’s an increase which, within three years, will be enough to restore school funding per pupil to what it was back in 2010,” he said.
“It’s quite a big increase, actually, over the next three years. Looked at the other way, that means there’s been no increase over the 12 years since 2010 [to 2022/23].
“So, it’s a clear change in direction, it’s a clear increase in funding for schools and it’s a significant increase over the coming period.”
However, the IFS boss warned the prime minister’s commitment to keep debt coming down every year could be blown off course by a no-deal Brexit.
“If the economy contracts, as the Office for Budget Responsibility, or the Bank of England or the International Monetary Fund expect it would in the context of a no-deal Brexit, then it will be very difficult – perhaps impossible – to keep to that pledge,” he added.
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