Headteachers say only Labour will increase school spending

Fifty of the country's headteachers have today said only Labour would guarantee "ringfenced and increased investment" in all Britain's schools.

Fifty of the country’s headteachers, some of them Labour party members, have today warned that Conservative plans on education “will involve taking millions of pounds from existing schools to create artificial surplus places”, saying only Labour would guarantee “ringfenced and increased investment” in all Britain’s schools.

In a letter to The Guardian, the heads write:

“As headteachers, we were very concerned at the flight from consensus in the last stages of the education bill last week (Report, 8 April) and the blocking of a number of guarantees for children, including the right to one-to-one tuition. We see these guarantees as the culmination of unprecedented investment in schools over recent years. It is clear now that only the present government is committed to guaranteeing ringfenced and increased investment in all our schools.

“The alternative proposals are not about steady investment in the whole system but the threat of across-the-board cuts coupled with boutique experiments borrowed as a result of naive educational tourism. These experiments will involve taking millions of pounds from existing schools to create artificial surplus places. There is absolutely no research consensus around the achievements of Swedish “free schools” or American charter schools. A few flatpack free schools will not reform a national system.

“The educational landscape presently evolving is already a powerful force for change. It is led by a group of professionals who collaborate for the good of children, who have a shared vision for the whole system and think beyond the boundaries of their own schools. So please, no return to year zero.”

The support was highlighted by education secretary Ed Balls at Labour’s press conference this morning. He claimed more than 38,000 jobs could be lost or not filled this year if the Conservatives take power, and said Labour has worked out that the Tories planned to cut £1.7bn from the education budget – £1bn of which would come directly from schools, resulting in an average of five jobs lost per secondary school and a resulting rise in class sizes to cope with the teacher shortfall.

He added that teachers would be left to fend for themselves with no support and less money, allowing thousands of children to fall behind and introduce a market in schools that would let a few succeed but leave many more to decline.

Yesterday, Linda Heaven-Woolley, a recently retired head of one of the most rapidly improving comprehensive schools in the country, told Left Foot Forward that the Tory plans for free schools risked only “cliques of middle class parents” setting up schools, resulting in “social exclusion yet again for the working class”. She added schools had been “well funded” under Labour.

The letter from headteachers follows a letter to The Independent last week in which 22 of Britain’s top scientists accused the Conservatives of a “lack of vision” that risked undermining the country’s ability to generate economic growth through innovation. Expressing concerns the Tories are a “vision-free zone” and that the science budget would fall victim to spending cuts, they wrote:

“Many scientific developments can be linked to the doubling of the science budget from 1997: medical advances, stem-cell research, alternative energies, nanotechnology. Infrastructure investment has transformed laboratories from their neglected state of 1996.

“Despite constraints on spending, Budget initiatives last week reinforced government commitment to utilise science to regenerate our economy. Major investments have been announced in the Diamond Light Source and in a new world-class medical research centre at St Pancras. This government has a strong record of commitment to science and science-based enterprise, recognising the value of basic science and providing support on contentious issues.

“The international science journal Nature agrees and in contrast recently called the Conservatives a “vision-free zone”. The Conservatives’ continuing failure to address this critique is making us concerned that this lack of vision actually reflects a lack of commitment. Our economic recovery depends on sustaining and utilising Britain’s position in global science, which is second only to the US.”

The Tories have also received letters of support in the campaign, from business leaders opposing the planned rise in national insurance contributions – business leaders who, Left Foot Forward revealed, have donated at least £2.5 million to the Conservative Party.

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