No new money, but the Tories have learnt their les­son on schools

The Daily Telegraph - - News - Michael Dea­con Sketch

One rea­son for the elec­tion em­bar­rass­ment, some Tories be­lieve, is school fund­ing – or a lack of it. Across the coun­try vot­ers shared hor­ror sto­ries about schools un­able to af­ford the heat­ing bill, text­books, or even sta­tionery. Some schools took to beg­ging par­ents for cash and es­sen­tial items. One school in East Sus­sex re­port­edly asked par­ents to do­nate sticky tape, glue and lava­tory rolls.

Some­thing, clearly, had to be done. The Tories did not want to be go­ing into the next elec­tion on the back of a splash in the Daily Mir­ror about chil­dren hav­ing to write their own maths text­books, or PE be­ing taken by the school ham­ster.

Jus­tine Green­ing, the Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary, de­manded more money from Philip Ham­mond, the Chan­cel­lor. And, when she rose to make a state­ment in the Com­mons yes­ter­day, ob­servers nat­u­rally as­sumed that he’d agreed. There would, Miss Green­ing an­nounced, be an ex­tra £1.3bil­lion for schools. “Hear, hear!” neighed Tory back­benchers. Labour MPS scowled silently.

As Miss Green­ing’s state­ment wore on, how­ever, it be­came clear that the Chan­cel­lor hadn’t opened his wal­let af­ter all. The money wasn’t new.

In­stead, Miss Green­ing ad­mit­ted, it would be funded in full from “ef­fi­cien­cies and sav­ings” within the De­part­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion.

Ef­fi­cien­cies and sav­ings. A whole £1.3bil­lion worth of them. What could her de­part­ment pos­si­bly find to cut, that would save such an enor­mous sum? Had they been over-spend­ing wildly on things we didn’t know about? A gold-plated de­part­men­tal wa­ter-cooler? Print­ers with ink made from uni­corns’ blood? A team-build­ing

‘Labour’s An­gela Rayner, the shadow ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary, gave credit where it was due. To her­self’

away­day to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion?

Not quite. Miss Green­ing ex­plained that she would cob­ble to­gether the sum by us­ing money pre­vi­ously al­lo­cated for other pur­poses – such as free schools, and a healthy pupils scheme. Gamely she vowed to “get the most out of the tax­payer’s pound”.

Labour’s An­gela Rayner, the shadow ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary, gave credit where it was due. To her­self. “I’ve spent a year ask­ing the Sec­re­tary of State to give our schools the fund­ing they need,” she blared. “So it’s nice to know I’m fi­nally get­ting through to her!”

Tory MPS stuck up for Miss Green­ing. “Can I mark her home­work to­day with a re­sound­ing tick! VG!” hooted Peter Heaton-jones (Con, North Devon). “I give her 10 out of 10, and a gold star for lis­ten­ing!” squawked Anna Soubry (Con, Brox­towe). Mrs Soubry was not to know that in or­der to reach Miss Green­ing’s tar­get of £1.3bil­lion the De­part­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion’s gold star bud­get has been scrapped. Mean­while, ticks have been ra­tioned to one per pupil per term.

Labour MPS doubted that the ex­tra money would be enough. James Frith (Lab, Bury North) said schools in his area needed new build­ings, new staff and smaller classes. Also, pupils needed “en­rich­ment ac­tiv­i­ties”. What “en­rich­ment ac­tiv­i­ties” are, I’m not sure. Per­haps sell­ing home-made lemon­ade out­side the school gates to raise money for some felt-tip pens.

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