Labour's Education Spending Promise: It is Not Enough

Henry Stewart's picture
Last week I tweeted my support for Ed Miliband’s promise to maintain real-terms education spending. I even suggested it made Labour #WorthVotingFor. It was only when I read the analysis the next day that I realised the promise was only to maintain the overall level in line with inflation, not to increase it in line with rising pupil numbers. So we have:

  • The Conservatives have promised to increase school spending in line with rising pupil numbers, but only in cash terms. There is to be no increase for inflation.

  • Labour has promised to increase school spending in line with inflation, but not in line with increasing pupil numbers.

The result in both cases is that the per-pupil funding figure, on which school funding is calculated, will fall in real terms. Under both Conservatives and Labour the budget for a school that is full is set to fall in real terms. (The one caveat on this is that Miliband stated that funding would increase at least as much as inflation”. It could increase more, but there is no promise that it will.)

As Sam Freedman has noted, we can calculate the result of this, based on DfE estimates for pupil numbers up to 2020, and Bank of England estimates of inflation. The result is very little difference between Labour and Conservative promises, but a huge gap compared to maintaining current per-pupil spend in real terms:

This represents a shortfall gap by 2020 of £4 billion compared to maintaining current funding levels. Sam also points out that a further billion pounds is needed for increased NI and pension costs. Including this would increase the gap to £5 billion.

This prediction is also based on the Bank of England’s forecast that inflation will return to 2% in two years. If inflation (currently 0.5%) were to remain instead at, say, 1% then the Conservative promise would actually result in higher spending than under Labour. (This analysis focuses solely on school spending, and not on other promises around pre-school and post-16 funding.)

Labour needs to commit to more

Despite the fine words of Ed Miliband this week, the promise he made is no better than that of David Cameron. Both would represent a reduction in funding going into schools, once inflation and rising pupil numbers are taken into account.

There are close to one million staff working in schools. There are also many millions of voters who are parents or grandparents and care deeply about the education of their children and grandchildren. That is something that Tony Blair understood very clearly when he promised a focus on "education, education, education".

There is surely no better place than school spending to demonstrate a clear difference from the Conservatives, and a Labour commitment to invest in the future of our young people and, through them, in the future of our economy. Labour, it is time to step up.

Data Notes

The above graph is based on the following figures. The overall predicted increases in pupil numbers are 1.1%, 1.3%, 1.7%, 1.6%, 1.7%, 1.4%. The figures below are adjusted for the differential funding of primary and secondary places:

 Increased pupil numbersInflationTo keep pace (£ Billion)ConservativeLabour
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 15/02/2015 - 10:37

This article suggests that Labour are looking at recycling money spent on the Academies and Free Schools programmes as well as from Academies cash reserves. If they look hard enough this could prove to be a very deep pot. However it should be noted that lots of LA schools also have large cash reserves.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 15/02/2015 - 12:37

Roger - as the money in reserves was money allocated to particular academies, I'm not sure it would be legally possible to claw it back. All Labour could do is to insist academy trusts spend the money they've been allocated for education on the pupils and not squirrel it away while at the same time restricting reserves to no more than 12% of funding.

That said, there may be reasons why an academy trust is accumulating a pot - to pay for new building, perhaps.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 15/02/2015 - 11:05

Thanks Henry and also to Sam Freedman for crunching the figures. It's important that announcements from all parties are challenged particularly in the run up to an election when soundbites are structured more for voter appeal that for truth. And especially when a partisan press churns misleading political statements.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 15/02/2015 - 11:52

Great stats and comparative analysis of the reality lurking beneath the soundbite rhetoric.

The ultimate irreducible reality is that education and the future of our youngsters and their potential to make positive and substantial contributions to the nation and its economy simply cannot be entrusted to the whims and ideological fancies of any single party (or two party coalition). Neither the Conservative, Labour, LibDem, SNP nor UKIP can be trusted. They each have their vested interest, fads and fancies.

John Mountford's picture
Sun, 15/02/2015 - 20:49

Unfortunately, Andy, unless there is some far more effective way to share the truth about funding (and a lot of other issues blighting education) with the general public, soundbite rhetoric is sadly all we will see in the weeks leading up to the election.

As you said, Janet, this is 'great work' on the part of Henry and Sam and we owe them our thanks. However, their efforts deserve a much wider audience than will be reached here. It is important that a way is found to' turn up the heat' and get education reform and its poor track record (because of the vested interest you speak of Andy) talked about in cafes, bars and at the school gate, not to mention honestly represented in the currently complacent media.

Just as I have always argued, the arrival of another general election is not good news for our young people's education prospects. We will get more of the same, as always, and as this excellent piece proves, namely empty promises, short-termism, 'fads and fancies'. It is no longer appropriate for politicians of any party to control education governance.

I urge everyone who wants to see long-term, well thought-out, coherent and forward-looking education reform to support the campaign for a National Education Commission -


Trevor Fisher's picture
Sun, 15/02/2015 - 21:00

I fully agree John, but we have not addressed the big issue of making education a major policy area. I support the idea of a national education commission, but there is no way this can be an issue in the election less than 3 months away.

At the most basic level, the issue of teacher supply is not getting press. Since it is obvious that without teachers there are no schools, the poor attention given to the holes in the Clegg-Morgan statement on 6th Feb is worrying.

I would suggest focusing on the lack of teachers, which as the TES reported last week the loss of teachers is at a ten year high, and recruitment is down is going to hit in the period after the election, needs to become an issue now. However as the media are totally impervious to bad news about education, breaking the wall of silence around what it happening needs a sharp strategy and sharp elbowed tactics.

trevor fisher.

John Mountford's picture
Sun, 15/02/2015 - 21:19

I can't fault your response, Trevor, and at the risk of repeating myself, is there any way of taking a pupils' eye view of what is happening? By this I mean some sort of public expose of exactly how the reforms that are damaging education are hitting young people. As you suggest, the teacher supply issue is one such area. If it is the case that this is already reducing subject options or classes are being re-shaped because of shortages and individual pupils are affected, is there one media outlet that would take up the case?

You can see, I am desperate that we make progress but I fully appreciate that nothing is likely to happen before the election.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 19/02/2015 - 10:54

You Gov poll reveals almost half of the public wants MORE money spent on schools.

Trevor Fisher's picture
Thu, 19/02/2015 - 13:18

the more important stat is that only 4% wanted cuts, which is not what will happen. Real cuts are about 10% on the current figures.

Curiously both Labour (55%) and Tory (54%) voters wanted increases. As the overall figure is 45% then the first time or swing voter presumably are below 45% in wanting increases.

This alas is what the party leaders will take as important. The votes they need to win are from people not that committed to spending on schools.

So the sound bites apart, in the next two months we have to break into the debate, which is being conducted on the basis of education not being a vote winner. Except for Grammar Schools according to Cameron.

Incidentally, I can't find Cameron's speech of 2nd Feb with the threat to 3500 heads. Anyone know where it is? I can find reports, and the TES did a good one. But I need the actual text which I can't find on the government web site. ANy ideas where it is?

Trevor Fisher.

Andy V's picture
Thu, 19/02/2015 - 13:26

Try here:

"On school standards, the prime minister said the government "won't tolerate failure" and would raise achievement in 3,500 schools rated "requires improvement" by Ofsted.

They would have new leaderships imposed - such as being taken over by academy trusts. Struggling academies would be switched to other academy sponsors.

Schools labelled as "requires improvement" are above the lowest "inadequate" rating, but below the levels of "good" and "outstanding".

Mr Cameron, speaking at Kingsmead school in north London, said that every secondary school in this "requires improvement" category would be expected to become an academy."

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 19/02/2015 - 14:03

Funny that a transcript of Cameron's speech at Kingsmead isn't on the DfE 'speeches' section of its website. We've got recent speeches by Morgan and Gibb, but not Cameron.

The Gov UK site carries Cameron's speeches to the British Chambers of Commerce, Winston Churchill Memorial Day and National Holocaust Commemoration, but not at Kingsmead.

However, here's a clip of Nick Robinson's question to Cameron about 'flat cash' meaning a cut in expenditure.

Trevor Fisher's picture
Fri, 20/02/2015 - 00:00

there is something very odd going on about Cameron's Kingsmead speech. I cannot find the speech and as Janet says, its not where it should be.

Andy it is easy to find reports of the speech. What I need is the text, as the politics of saying this after the January reports are vital. And after Marr failed to mention them. Select Committee, NAO, PAC, even Wilshaw contradicts the PM.

Media are reporting the speech, but nothing else. And the speech appears to have vanished. I know few people will be following this debate but please....

....can anyone find where the Kingsmead speech is? It is unprecedented not to be able to find a Prime Minister's speech when it has been reported widely.

Trevor Fisher.,

Andy V's picture
Fri, 20/02/2015 - 00:34

Here's an additional clip from the Q&A session that maybe of interest:

Andy V's picture
Fri, 20/02/2015 - 00:12

Trevor, I appreciate that the embedded vidclip is short (1.34min) but it nevertheless contains a lot of the potential disingenuity about the Conservative position on Academies and Free School and the unequivocal statement about removing HTs and the forced academisation those schools graded RI that cannot or do not turn things around. It might be worth listening to.

agov's picture
Fri, 20/02/2015 - 11:49

Trevor -

Doubt you will find it. This -

seems to be the press statement but does not say anything directly about 3,500 HTs being threatened. Probably that bit is what the press were told the speech meant.

"David Cameron – A Britain that gives every child the best start in life

Today I want to talk about a vital theme of our election campaign: giving every child the best start in life.

I’ve always been clear: the best start begins with a strong family.

I don’t care if people say that sounds old-fashioned; it’s the truth.

That’s why we’re doing everything we can to back families…

…from cutting married couples’ taxes to making childcare tax free.

As a father, I know the best start for my children centres on their education.

And that’s what I’m going to focus on today.

I’ve got three children at a London state primary school.

When Samantha or I drop them off at the school gate, we walk away knowing they’re enjoying their lessons, they’ve got great teachers, and they’re getting the best start.

Every parent should have that peace of mind.

A good education shouldn’t be a luxury – the preserve of those living within a certain postcode or those who can afford it.

It should be something everyone in this country can get.

This is of importance to every child in our country and to our national story…

…because if we don’t educate the next generation properly, we will not secure Britain’s future.

That’s what our reforms this Parliament have been all about:

Giving parents peace of mind that their children are getting the best – and making sure we have an education system that can take on the world.

We inherited a system where far too many children left school without the qualifications and skills to get on.

Some of them were barely able to read and write properly.

So we came in with a determination to put the basics of a great education in place.

The reform has been profound. The pace of change rapid.

I make no apologies for that.

Every year that passes without improvement is another year wasted for thousands of children.

We all know what makes a good school:

Great teachers.

Brilliant leadership.

Engaged parents.

Rigour in the curriculum.

Discipline in the classroom.

Intolerance of failure.

Proper exams to test progress.

And all the things needed to prepare young people for life in Britain today – ending with a clear route into vocational training or higher education.

For five years we’ve been seeing through this plan – and look at the results.

We’ve got schools that didn’t exist three years ago getting as many pupils into Oxbridge as private schools…

…we have Academies which had no pupils getting five good GCSEs now seeing eight in ten reach that mark.

The next five years will be about building on those foundations to give every young person the best – at every stage of their lives.

So today I want set out our commitments to get there.

First, we will provide a good primary school place for every child – with zero tolerance for failure.

Good school places need money – and we will make sure our schools are properly funded.

In the pipeline already, we will be investing at least a further £7 billion in school places in the next Parliament.

And today, I can make this commitment about Conservative plans too.

We have demonstrated in the past five years that we can protect the schools budget while reducing the deficit – and we will do so again.

So I can tell you with a Conservative Government, the amount of money following your child into school will not be cut.

In Treasury speak, flat cash per pupil.

And as the number of pupils in our schools is going up, that means the amount of money going into our schools will do too.

Once that money is in schools, I am clear about one area we need to focus on: literacy and numeracy.

We inherited a situation where one in three children left primary school unable to read, write and add up properly.

It’s simple: if our children fail to master these basic skills, we fail them.

That’s why, for the past five years, we’ve been cracking down on illiteracy and innumeracy.

Already we’ve invested £5 billion making sure there are enough school places for our children….

…we’ve got thousands more children given the help they need to read thanks to our phonics check…

…and we’re making sure they get the best teaching…

…quadrupling Teach First and introducing it for the first time in primary schools…

…and driving up standards so that, today, three-quarters of teachers have at least a 2:1 – the highest on record.

But we won’t rest there. There are still too many children not getting the skills they need.

So, as Nicky announced yesterday, we are going to take action on illiteracy and innumeracy.

That means putting our best teachers at the helm of the primary schools that fall short…

…making sure all 11 year olds take rigorous tests in maths; reading; and yes – spelling, punctuation and grammar…

…and setting higher standards so that – at the very least – 85 per cent of a school’s pupils reach a good level of attainment, or are on their way to getting there.

Second, we will turn every failing and coasting secondary school into an Academy and deliver Free Schools for communities and parents who want them.

We’ve seen that Academies work.

Since we came to power, over a thousand schools that were ranked “inadequate” – in other words, failing schools – have become Academies…

…bringing in new leadership to promote discipline, rigour and higher standards.

And today, there are a million more pupils learning in schools that are ranked “good” or “outstanding”.

I think of St Luke’s in Portsmouth.

In 1999, not a single pupil got 5 good GCSEs.

Today it’s the Charter Academy – and 79 per cent of pupils have got those grades.

I think of Downhills Primary in Tottenham.

For years it wasn’t teaching children to read and write properly.

Today it’s the Harris Academy – and Ofsted has ranked it as a “good” school.

Now there’s another Ofsted category – above “inadequate”, but below “good” and “outstanding”:

It is a school that “requires improvement”.

Some of those are certainly being improved. Others are not. They are coasting.

As parents we’re hardwired to want the best for our kids.

No one wants their child to go to a failing school – and no one wants to them to go to a coasting school either.

Giving our children “just enough” is frankly not good enough.

So this is what we’re doing.

We are waging war on mediocrity.

We are saying no more sink schools – and no more “bog standard” schools either.

How will we do this?

By saying to schools: if you’re not good or outstanding, you have to change…

…if you can’t do it yourself, you have to let experts come in and help you, people who have a track record of running great schools and turning around failing ones.

Under a Conservative Government, any school that Ofsted says “requires improvement” and cannot demonstrate that it has the capacity to improve will have to become a sponsored Academy.

Academies have turned around hundreds of failing schools…

…so just think what they could do for hundreds more coasting ones.

This is the next step – the next huge step – in our education revolution.

And another part of that revolution is Free Schools – schools that are set up and run by parents, charities, faith groups, businesses.

Today there are over 250 – the majority in areas where places are most needed.

Free Schools work. They are more likely to be good or outstanding than other schools.

I’ve seen incredible results, like the London Academy of Excellence in Newham – one of the most deprived boroughs in the country.

Three years ago it didn’t exist.

Last year, it got as many pupils into Oxbridge as the private school Millfield.

That’s what I mean when I say the best start for every child – regardless of where you’re from.

And if we continue on this course…

…transforming below-par schools, setting up brilliant ones…

…we won’t just be giving our children an OK start in life – we will be giving them the best start in life.

Because I’m like every parent in the land – I won’t settle for anything less.

Third, we will support teachers to make Britain the best country in the world for developing maths, science and computing skills.

When we came to office, the number of children studying academic subjects had halved.

British schools fell down the league tables for maths and science.

But we don’t have to accept this decline.

This is the country of Alan Turing, Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee.

I don’t want these greats to be one-offs…

…I want that spirit of enquiry and discovery…

…of excellence and pushing things to their limits…

…to spread through our classrooms.

Because the world has changed.

In a knowledge economy, these are the skills our children need to get on and get ahead – and we will make sure they get them.

That’s why we’ve made some massive changes.

We introduced the EBacc, in which a pupil must study English, maths, at least two sciences, a language and a humanity subject…

…and now the number of pupils doing these subjects is up by 71 per cent.

At the same time, maths has overtaken English as the most popular A-Level.

We’ve got 5 year olds coding computers.

We’ve banned calculators from primary school exams.

But we need to go further.

And this comes back to teachers.

I want us to train an extra 17,500 maths and physics teachers over the next five years.
Because they will be crucial to my next ambition:

Making Britain the best country at maths, science and computing.

And this isn’t just for some arbitrary world title or obscure prize…

…it’s for our children – so they can compete and excel in the modern world.

Fourth, we will create three million apprenticeships and make sure there is no cap on university places, so we have aspiration for all.

For too long, some teenagers could shrug their shoulders at their Ds, Es and Us.

They knew they could leave school and get a benefits cheque and a house whatever their grades.

We don’t want any young person to start their adult life on welfare.

And we don’t want them to think that learning ends the minute they leave school.

So this is the deal: you leave school, and you either earn or learn – there’s no other option.

We’ve increased apprenticeships to a record number…

…with two million people since 2010 getting themselves a trade that will set them up for life.

We’ve lifted the cap on university places…

…and last September we had a higher rate of young people heading off for Freshers’ Week than at any time in our history.

And we will go further – much further.

By 2020, we will create three million more apprenticeships.

That’s three million more engineers, accountants, project managers.

And it’s right that we will pay for this by reducing the benefit cap to £23,000.

This, along with making sure there is no cap on university places, will have a huge impact:

It will effectively abolish youth unemployment in this country.

And yes – that really will give young people the best start.

Finally, we will guarantee a place on National Citizen Service for every teenager who wants it.

Because education on its own is not enough.

To get a job and get on, our young people need something more.

Confidence, teamwork – knowing what it’s like to be relied upon.

This is what National Citizen Service is delivering…

…taking young people from different backgrounds; people who might never otherwise meet; who might otherwise think the worst of each other; and bringing them together.

It instils British values – of tolerance, respect, understanding and service to others.

It develops character and resilience.

It gives young people the skills and confidence they need.

Over 130,000 have done NCS so far.

People stop me in the street and tell me how it has changed their children’s lives.

Businesses say that it’s giving our young people the skills they need in the world of work.

I think of an 18-year-old, Becky, who told me about her NCS experience.

I won’t forget her words – that she used to be the one who never spoke in class, who was really quiet.

Since NCS, she is completely different. She has stood for the UK Youth Parliament – and even presented to Cabinet.

I want every young person to feel like Becky…

…to stride into a job interview and think “I can do this”…

…to show that they haven’t just got exam certificates – they’ve got the other skills they need to make it in life.

So I want NCS to become a rite of passage in our country…

…and that’s why every teenager who wants a place will get one.

The best start in life – this is becoming a reality for more and more children in our country today…

…because we’ve pushed excellence and encouraged new schools…

…because we’ve boosted Teach First and cracked down on qualifications that get you nowhere…

…because of the things that Michael Gove put in place and that Nicky is taking forward…

…rigour; discipline; ambition; the belief that no child should be left behind.

One of the things I enjoy most as Prime Minister is going to schools in inner cities…

…ones that suffered for years from what was rightly called the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Today they’ve got new expectations – the expectations that they can match any leading school in the country.

So when I go to visit schools in wealthier areas, sometimes ones that are coasting and not pushing their children…

…I say to them: if others can go from nought to 70 per cent good GCSEs in a matter of years, even months – then what’s stopping you?

Thanks to all the hard work of pupils, parents and teachers…

…and to the vision of this Government…

…we’re getting closer to our goal: a Britain that gives every child the best start in life.

And if we stick to the plan, we will be able to achieve just that.

Posted on 2 February, 2015"

Trevor Fisher's picture
Fri, 20/02/2015 - 13:34

thanks to AGOV for putting this on the space. It is obvious this was a Tory party statement so not on a government web site. If it could be put on the request page that was put up yesterday we can have this debate under a different heading from the Labour Education Spending heading this is taking place on.

We will need to focus on this in depth. As you say, the sacking commitment and the threats to LA schools are not actually said. So were did they come from?

This is becoming an exercise in cryptology. Comparing the press reports to the speech is difficult. If anyone can put the two together that would be helpful. Journalists don't make things up that PMs are claimed to have said. So we still have work to do locating the poisonous bits that have appeared in the media two weeks ago.

Can we do this please?


Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.