Education & Family

Lib Dems pledge £5.8bn for England's school budgets

pupils Image copyright Getty Images

The Liberal Democrats will invest an extra £5.8bn in England's school budgets, the party's manifesto reveals.

School budgets and the pupil premium for disadvantaged children would rise to protect them against rising costs.

The party also promises 15 hours free childcare for two-year-olds in England and more access to flexible working.

However, while it plans to reintroduce maintenance grants for the poorest students, there is no commitment to abolish tuition fees in England.

Instead, the Lib Dems promise a review of higher education finance in the next Parliament "to consider any necessary reforms, in the light of the latest evidence of the impact of the existing financing system on access, participation and quality".

School budgets

Under the party's plans the devolved administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland would gain similar amounts which they could choose to spend on education, bringing the overall UK total to about £7bn over the next Parliament.

The party's manifesto says UK schools are facing "an unprecedented funding crisis" and pledges to protect per-pupil funding in real terms and introduce a fairer national funding system "so that no school loses money".

It also says the Lib Dems would scrap the planned expansion of grammar schools in England and give local authorities "clear responsibility for local school places planning".

The party also promises free school meals for all primary schools in England.

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The Lib Dems say too many teachers are leaving the profession.

They say they would end the 1% cap on teachers' pay rises and work to end "unnecessary teacher workloads".

There is also a pledge to ensure that all teachers are trained to identify mental health issues among pupils and that schools offer immediate access for pupil support and counselling.

Early years

The manifesto promises 15 hours of free childcare during term-time for all two-year-olds - currently 15 hours is available to the poorest 40%.

The party would then prioritise 15 hours of free childcare for all working parents in England with children aged between nine months and two years.

The early years pupil premium would increase from just over £300 to £1,000 a year per pupil.

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There is also a commitment to "raise the quality of early years provision", with every formal early years setting expected to employ at least one person, by 2022, with an early years teachers qualification.

It proposes to expand shared parental leave "with an additional 'use it or lose it' month to encourage fathers to take time off with young children".

"We would make paternity and shared parental leave a 'day one' right," it adds.

It says the party would encourage employers to provide more flexible working, "so that there is a presumption that work is flexible unless there is a clear business reason it cannot be".

The manifesto says its commitments for education and the family would be funded by increasing income tax by a penny and raising corporation tax from 19% to 20%.

'Underfunding'

The National Day Nurseries Association welcomed the manifesto but said pledges had to be properly financed.

Chief executive Purnima Tanuku said: "While the Lib Dems set out some ambitious and worthwhile aims in their manifesto, there must be sufficient investment and strategic planning for these to be deliverable.

"In offering all two-year-olds 15 funded hours of childcare per week, the Lib Dems are committing to an expansion of the current system which is already struggling with underfunding.

"It is at least heartening that the Lib Dems acknowledge that any childcare promises to parents must be properly funded for nurseries to remain sustainable as businesses, but in committing to longer-term goals to provide 'free' childcare for all from nine months onwards, they are in danger of being overly ambitious."

The Association of School and College Leaders said it welcomed the commitment to improve education funding from both the Lib Dems and the Labour party.

General secretary Geoff Barton said: "Labour and the Liberal Democrats have recognised the importance of ensuring that schools and colleges are properly funded, and we are sure that the public will expect the Conservatives to invest in the future of our young people too."

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