Schools ‘forced to beg for donations despite end of austerity pledge’

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Schools are being forced to “beg for donations” and are slashing subjects in a bid to save cash despite the Prime Minister’s pledge to end austerity, MPs have heard.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner told ministers that despite Budget promises of extra funding, “austerity isn’t over for our children”.

The comments came as Labour used an Opposition day debate to move a motion calling on the Government to reverse all the cuts to education funding since 2010.

Ms Rayner said that the Chancellor’s £400 million capital bonus for schools to buy “little extras” was “incredible”, adding that the Education Secretary Damian Hinds “urgently” needed to demand more cash.

She said: “He’s taken billions of pounds from our schools and now he offers them a white board.

“What use is a white board without a teacher to use it?

“No doubt if we did face Brexit food shortages, his solution would be: Let them eat cake.”

She added: “I’ve heard the heartbreaking stories for myself too many times, schools begging for donations, vital support staff lost, children with special educational needs and disability suffering the most, the school week being cut, subjects dropped with those like sports and arts first to go.

“Austerity isn’t over for schools.”

Ms Rayner told MPs that Labour would fund extra education spending through corporation tax.

She said: “At the General Election we had costings within our manifesto – the Conservative Party made no costings and said nothing about the bung they were giving the DUP to prop up their Government.

“We would reverse the big corporation tax cuts that were given away by the Conservatives, we said that, we fully costed it, and 95% of UK taxpayers would not pay a penny more but those at the top would pay a little bit extra.”

Replying for the Government, Mr Hinds said: “This year we’ve given every local authority more money in cash terms for every pupil in every school while allocating the biggest increases to schools that have been most under-funded.”

The current Government he said was “investing more than any previous Government” in childcare and early years education around £6 billion by 2020.

He added: “I am conscious that 16 to 19-year-old funding has not been protected in the same way since 2010 as five to 16.

“But we are making sure this balance will be there through public policy by developing the high quality routes for technical and vocational education through T-levels and apprenticeships.

“In our exchange yesterday (Ms Rayner) said Labour policy is no threat to any new or existing school but she did not, she cannot reconcile this with her explicit stated policy to stop the free schools programme and bring all publicly funded schools back into the mainstream public sector and impose the Orwellian sounding common rule book across the school system.”

Education investment he argued would “under threat” from Labour.

Labour’s Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) claimed the Education Secretary had “failed” his negotiating test with the Treasury.

He said: “The Secretary of State’s first major test was to lead the education sector’s negotiations with the Treasury in the run up to the Budget and on any basic evidence the Secretary of State seems to have failed that test spectacularly.

“Not only did he fail to secure any meaningful increase in funding for our schools and sixth form colleges but the complacent attitude of little extra language that the Chancellor of the Exchequer used suggests that he hasn’t even been able to convince the Treasury of the scale of the funding needs of the school system in England.

“That is profoundly worrying with comprehensive spending review negotiations beginning to happen at the moment.”

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