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Autumn Statement: £1bn for school funding

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Chancellor George Osborne has announced plans to spend almost £1bn on schools over the next two years.

Unveiling his autumn statement today, Mr Osborne said the money would fund 100 new free schools and academies – alongside investment to expand good schools in areas with a severe shortage of school places.

The autumn statement report shows £275m of this is due to be spent in 2013/14 and £895m in 2014/15, totalling £980m.

However, figures from London Councils suggest the funding will fall well short of what is needed to address the shortage of school places. The figures show that the capital city alone will need 90,000 extra school places by the 2015/16 school year, costing an estimated £2.3bn - more than double the amount that Mr Osborne is planning to spend nationally.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services has also warned that £15bn is needed by 2015 to “bring existing schools up to a safe and structurally sound status.”

Its president, Debbie Jones, added that the primary school population was set to soar by 450,000 in the next five years.  

David Simmonds (Con), chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said councils had an important role to play in deciding how the money should be spent.

“Local authorities are in the best position to identify areas facing the greatest pressure for school places and act quickly to repair crumbling schools, expand existing ones and commission the building of new schools where necessary”, he said.

Today’s autumn statement also gives details of a £270m fund for capital investment in further education colleges, adding that local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) should be given a bigger role in colleges, including sitting on their governing bodies.

The moves – and other measures announced in the autumn statement - are funded by cuts to current spending by government departments, totalling £4bn over the next two years, as well as welfare cuts of £2.6bn.

Mr Osborne also announced that he would support performance-related pay for teachers, in a move likely to spark opposition from unions. Although the government is not set to pursue local pay bargaining as it had previously suggested, the chancellor said there should be greater flexibility for schools to set pay levels.

The autumn statement documents also reveal that the government’s Priority Schools Building Programme, which funds repairs and new buildings at schools in the worst state of repair, will be the first scheme financed by a new private finance programme, called Private Finance Two.


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