Cameron announces plans to cut real-term spending on schools

Tories' 'flat cash' platitude exposed as it is revealed funding will not rise with inflation


Ahead of David Cameron’s speech on education today, the Conservatives briefed that they would announce a protected budget for schools. As The Times reported today:

“The speech comes as a cabinet minister indicated that the Tories would continue to protect the schools budget after the election. Many will welcome the move but it means cuts of more than a quarter to unprotected departments by 2020.”

But in reality, Cameron was forced to admit that his plans will mean a real-term cut to spending. Speaking to journalists, the prime minister said that he would protect ‘flat cash’ spending per pupil, but Nick Robinson asked:

“Can we just translate ‘flat cash’, I think anybody doing economics at this school knows that flat cash means a cut in real terms, it means that money does not keep pace with inflation?”

Cameron confirmed that the ‘protected’ money would not be rising with inflation, but added that:

“Schools have demonstrated brilliantly over the last five years that they can be more efficient, they can be more effective, they can make their budgets work, they can particularly make their budgets work better because many of them are now academies.” 

The comments come amid rising controversy after Ofsted reports revealed the academies programme to be struggling. Announcing what amounts to a reduction in funding alongside plans to plough forward with academies will be unpopular with the education sector.

Responding to the developments, Labour’s shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said:

“The Tory claims on protecting schools are unravelling as David Cameron has been forced to admit that his plans will see a real-terms cut to spending on schools.

“The truth is that you can’t protect schools when you have plans to take spending as a share of GDP back to levels not seen since the 1930s.

“Labour has always prioritised schools and would be able to do so again because we have a balanced approach to bringing down the deficit, unlike the Tories’ risky plan not just to balance the books but to cut for year after year afterwards.”

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