Billions more will be invested in schools in England over the next two years, the Chancellor announced, describing ensuring a good education for children as an economic and moral mission.
Jeremy Hunt said the government would invest an additional £2.3bn a year in schools over the next two years.
Announcing the increased funding during Thursday’s fall filing, he said “thank you” to principals, teachers and classroom assistants for their “brilliant work” which he said must continue in the current “difficult economic circumstances.”
He rejected calls to put VAT on independent school fees, saying it would be like “giving with one hand and taking away with the other”.
He said while it could raise around £1.7bn to boost basic funding for schools, some estimates showed it could also lead to up to 90,000 children switching from the independent sector to state schools.
He said the extra £4.6bn over the next two years was a practical move, not an ideological one, adding that the government wanted to see educational standards rise “for every single child”.
Mr Hunt said he remains concerned ‘that not all school leavers get the skills they need for a modern economy’.
He said: “As chancellor, I want to know the answer to one simple question: Will every young person leave the education system with the skills they would get in Japan, Germany or Switzerland?”
He said he had appointed Sir Michael Barber to advise on the implementation of the government’s skills reform programme.
School leaders widely welcomed Hunt’s announcements as “positive news for education,” but warned that the extra investment comes in the context of educational institutions that have endured “a decade of cuts in real terms.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), highlighted other problems facing the education sector, including “a teacher recruitment and retention crisis” which he said was mostly paid.
He said: “However, the devil tends to be in the details and we will look closely at the figures to fully understand the implications.
“In particular, we will look at where this leaves off with special education needs and post-16 provision who are both facing extraordinarily difficult financial circumstances.
“We recognize that this commitment to education is being made against the backdrop of a bleak economic backdrop but, to put it into perspective, this comes after a decade of real-term cuts to schools and universities.”
Barton said the government must develop a plan “that has more investment in education at its heart because this is vital to ensuring we have a workforce with the skills and knowledge to achieve that goal”.