May repeats dubious funding claim days after stats watchdog slapdown

The prime minister has insisted that school funding is at a “record high”, just days after members of her own government were slapped down by the statistics watchdog for their claims over spending.

Theresa May defended the government’s spending on schools during prime minister’s questions today during a grilling by opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

It comes just two days after the Department for Education was censured by the UK Statistics Authority  for “misrepresenting” changes in school funding.

Asked by Corbyn if she would end austerity for teachers and give them all the 3.5 per cent rise recommended by the School Teachers Review Body, May said: “He knows the announcement that’s been made in relation to the teachers’ pay award, but I might just remind him that school funding this year is at a record high.”

The DfE has been warned about its claims over funding, which do not take into account rising pupil numbers or some additional cost pressures faced by schools.

The prime minister today also repeated another dubious claim often used by DfE ministers, that there are 1.9 million more children in ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools than in 2010, despite concerns raised by the UKSA this week that this “does not give a full picture” because it doesn’t account for rising pupil numbers or changes to inspection regimes.

Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, has written to May to demand that she corrects the record, saying it is “beyond belief” that the prime minister would use the same “discredited” claim about school improvement this week.

“Either this is a government in such total chaos that the prime minister was not even aware of the ruling by the UK Statistics Authority, or she has deliberately repeated a wildly misleading figure in defiance of independent advice and in the full knowledge that it is wildly misleading.”

Rayner said May’s claims on school funding were “no better”.

“The Tories have already cut billions of pounds from school budgets, and per pupil funding is falling, not rising, in real terms.

“It is a clear breach of the ministerial code to deliberately mislead parliament. The prime minister must now apologise, correct the record and accept the reality: her government has imposed swingeing cuts on schools and there is no reliable evidence for their claims to have improved standards.”