Tough questions for manifesto promises

26 Apr 2010

 The Institute for Fiscal Studies has produced an invaluable analysis of the main parties' education promises.

They reveal some serious gaps in the information given to back up key manifesto pledges.

For example on the "pupil premium", which is now the policy of all three main parties, the IFS says:

  • Labour: the plans amount to little more than "re-badging" of the existing funding formula.
  • Conservatives: their pupil premium plan is "much less clearly defined" than the others and lacks the detail to judge whether this would be additional money or just a shift of the balance of funding.
  • Liberal Democrats: this is genuinely new money but it would not affect the existing disparities in funding between different local authorities.

Overall the IFS study shows that Labour has genuinely invested more in education even though many of its targets for outcomes have been missed..

However, the IFS is most critical of the lack of detail in the Conservative plans for funding their new Swedish-style free schools. They comment:

“What are the implications of these plans for public spending? The Conservatives plan to fund these new schools on a per-pupil basis (so that they only attract funds in proportion to the number of pupils they attract). Such a system would require significant reforms to the system of school funding in England, but could be made to be revenue-neutral in practice. However, the creation of these schools would incur significant capital costs, to fund school buildings and other start-up costs. The Conservatives have proposed to fund these costs from the governments’ Building Schools for the Future budget (a capital fund set aside by the government, largely for the refurbishment of secondary schools). However, the Building Schools for the Future budget has not been set beyond 2011. Furthermore, under current plans, capital investment across all areas of government is due to be cut significantly as part of the fiscal tightening planned across the next parliament. Finding the money to fund an expansion in the supply of school places looks set to be a major challenge to the Conservatives’ proposed ‘schools revolution’. 

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