Labour reveals plan to ‘poverty proof’ schools as headteachers say budgets are at ‘breaking point’
Free healthy breakfasts would be served to all primary school children under a Labour proposal to “poverty proof” England’s schools and reduce the number going hungry.
Labour will detail plans to improve education, including by recruiting 20,000 more teachers, capping primary class sizes at 30 and investing £7bn repairing school buildings.
The free breakfast programme would also be piloted in secondary schools in an attempt to boost children’s education chances, if Jeremy Corbyn’s party wins the 12 December election.
All secondary school children whose families receive Universal Credit would get free school meals, while the cost of uniforms would be capped and grants to help families afford these would be returned.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner will announce the plans to “poverty proof” schools on 5 December.
“Rising child poverty under the Tories is an absolute scandal, and it is a disgrace that their plans will push it to a 60-year high if they win this election,” she said, citing Resolution Foundation research.
“Labour will tackle child poverty while driving up standards in schools by providing extra support to the children who need it most.”
The party has pledged to recruit nearly 20,000 more teachers, while “ensuring around 25,000 currently unqualified staff” are fully trained during Labour’s first term.
Rayner said Labour would “close the gap in funding” for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, providing extra funding to “reverse deficits” in the high-needs budget.
And she added the party would “fully reverse cuts” to the pupil premium, and boost spending on it above inflation to support the most disadvantaged pupils.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) economic think tank has said that Labour’s proposals would mean a 15% (14.6%) real-terms increase in per pupil funding over the next three years.
General secretary of the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) Paul Whiteman said school budgets “are at breaking point”.
“Labour’s additional £7 billion to tackle repairs is very welcome and is equivalent to National Audit Office’s estimate of what it would cost to return all school buildings to satisfactory or better condition,” he added.
“However, on recruitment, Labour are well short of the 47,000 secondary teachers and 8,000 primary teachers that are needed by 2024 in order to keep pace with growing pupil numbers.”
Conservative Schools Minister Nick Gibb defended the Tories’ track record on schools.
“Conservative education reforms are improving standards in our schools, meaning children can get a better start in life” he said.
Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Layla Moran said: “While Labour have attempted to copy the Liberal Democrat policy to employ 20,000 more teachers, they have no hope of meeting this target.
“With thousands of EU teachers coming to work in schools each year, Labour cannot square these promises with delivering Brexit.”
Featured image via Rwendland/Wikimedia
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