Think tanks reveal true costs of election manifesto pledges

The education manifesto pledges of political parties have come under the microscope by two thinks tanks today.

The Education Policy Institute has published a study analysing each party’s schools spending pledges, the impact of slashing free school lunches and the use of grammar statistics.

Meanwhile the Institute for Fiscal Studies has also analysed school spends, and the cost of uncapping public sector pay.

Some of the findings overlap, so Schools Week has pulled out the key findings together below:


1. Labour promises biggest funding boost, while Conservatives’ pledge real-terms cut

EPI found that Labour’s school funding pledge to commit an extra £6.3 billion by 2021-22 represented a real-terms funding increase of around 6 per cent per pupil.

This compared to a 1 per cent per-pupil increase over the next parliament for the Lib Dems, and a reduction in real terms reduction in per-pupil funding of three per cent under the Conservative party’s plans.

The IFS said under current plans for school spending per pupil is set to fall by about 6.5 per cent by 2020, and to around 8 per cent after.

Based on this, the think tank found the Tories’ commitment equates to a 2.8 per cent cut in spending between 2017 and 2021-22.


2. But there’s a ‘significant risk’ over Labour’s funding ‘uncertainties’

The EPI has estimated Labour’s additional spend on education (including universities etc) amounts to £25.3 billion more per year than the current government plans by 2021-22.

The report stated: “This is one of the largest increases in education spending (against existing plans) promised by a mainstream UK political party in an election manifesto in the last few decades.”

However the EPI said this relies on “highly uncertain” revenue sources – for example income and corporation tax rises. “There must be a significant risk that the actual revenues would be lower than budgeted, which could lead to decisions to reduce spending commitments.”


3. Scrapping free school lunches to hit ‘ordinary working families’

The Conservative party has pledged to scrap universal infant free school meals for infants (UIFSM) if it wins power, replacing this with free breakfasts for all primary pupils.

EPI said the party was right to point out breakfasts could boost attainment just as much as costlier lunches, but said it will have a “smaller impact on family finances”.

The think tank estimated around 900,000 children who are eligible for either pupil premium, or defined as one of the government’s new ‘ordinary working families’, would lose their free school lunch.


4. Conservatives’ grammar stats ‘misleading’ (and it’s the only party not to mention SEND)

The EPI think tank picks up on what it calls a “misleading” use of statistics by the Conservatives over grammars. The party’s manifesto states the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils is 25 per cent across the country, but at selective schools falls to almost zero.

However EPI points out their own previous analysis shows the narrower analysis gap in grammar schools is largely explained by  grammars automatically excluding the lowest-performing pupils.

It’s not the first time the government has been accused of using misleading statistics to back up its grammar plans – against mounting evidence they don’t boost social mobility.

EPI also flags up that the Conservative party is the only of the three to not include specific commitments for pupils with special needs and disabilities (SEND).


5. Scrapping teacher pay cap could cost £1.6 billion

Labour has said it will commit to upping teacher pay based on recommendations of pay review bodies, while the Lib Dems have committed to increasing public sector pay in line with inflation.

The IFS has estimated that upping pay by inflation alone would amount to an extra £1.6 billion needed by schools to pay teachers by 2021-22.

EPI estimated this cost could be slightly lower, at £900m by 2021-22. But said if pay policies for support staff were also relaxed the bill would be even higher.

The Conservatives haven’t made any commitments to remove the cap, meaning teacher pay is likely to “continue to decline in real and relative terms”, the EPI said.

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