Blunkett announces cash boost for schools

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The Independent Online

Schools will get a further substantial cash injection in this summer's Comprehensive Spending Review in a bid to improve the Government's delivery on education in the run-up to the next general election, David Blunkett said yesterday.

The Education and Employment Secretary made his remarks as he announced a £250m boost to tackle repair backlogs in schools.

In resumed debate on the Budget, Mr Blunkett said the money would help deal with the "neglect and decay" in too many schools. "This will ensure that a further 3,000 schools will have investment for dealing with leaking roofs, windows that let in the cold and wet and temporary classrooms," he said.

"There is no intention that this should be a once-off addition. We will be carrying it forward as part of the additional funding in the spending review, enabling schools to make decisions now that can be carried forward from April 2001."

Gordon Brown's Budget made almost £4.5bn extra available for education in Britain from April, amounting to an 8.5 per cent real-terms increase for England.

Mr Blunkett also announced £60m to support proposals for new City Academies and to transform failing schools through the Fresh Start programme. He disclosed that £33m was being made available to extend the Excellence in Cities programme, from September, to other towns and cities including Leicester, Stoke-on-Trent, Bristol, Nottingham and Hull.

A further £25m will be made available to enable primary schools in existing Excellence in Cities areas to employ learning mentors and provide more programmes for able pupils.

The overall increase would take the proportion of GDP spent on education for the coming year to over 5 per cent.

Theresa May, the shadow education secretary, asked Mr Blunkett if the extra £1bn would be backed by "ongoing additional expenditure".

She welcomed the Government's "conversion" to the idea of giving heads freedom to take spending decisions but believed ministers should adopt Tory policy and give them control over the entire school budget.

But she warned the move was likely to cause a backlash in Labour councils as the policy sidelined local education authorities.