Brown pours billions into backing Labour pledge on education

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The Independent Online

Schools, universities and colleges across the UK will be given an extra £8.5bn over the next three years, Gordon Brown announced yesterday. The Chancellor was unveiling education's share of this summer's spending review which will distribute cash between 2005 and 2008.

In England, education expenditure will rise by an average of 4.4 per cent a year after inflation. It represents a slowdown on the annual 6 per cent real-terms increase announced by Mr Brown in the 2002 spending review. But it means that spending per pupil in England will rise from £4,500 this year to £5,500 by 2008, twice the 1997 figure.

Some of the increase will be funded by the loss of 1,460 civil servants' jobs at the Department for Education and Skills. The department's London headquarters will be expected to shed nearly a third of its workforce by 2008 and the savings will be invested in frontline services.

Education spending will rise from £59bn to £77bn by 2007-08, Mr Brown told the Commons. The "typical" primary school in England would get a direct cash boost of £55,000 in 2005-06, and the average comprehensive would get £180,000, he said.

This is the period when schools face the biggest costs under the national agreement to reduce teachers' workloads, giving teachers time out of the classroom for marking and preparation. But this money had already been announced in Mr Brown's 2002 spending review. Education spending will rise from 4.4 per cent of UK national income in 1997 to 5.6 per cent in 2007-08, Mr Brown said.

It would take education spending from one of the lowest levels in the industrialised world to "amongst the best", the Chancellor said. The English education budget would rise from £49bn this year to £52bn in 2005-06, £60bn in 2006-07 and £64bn in 2007-08. The total UK budget would rise from £59bn in 2004-05 to £63bn in 2005-06, to £72bn in 2006-07 and to £77bn in 2007-08.

Mr Brown also pledged to tackle child poverty and improve early education by increasing funds for the Sure Start programme from 2004-05 to 2007-08 by £669m, an average annual real-terms rise of 17 per cent. There would also be more money for school buildings and equipment, Mr Brown confirmed, and he pledged that every secondary school would be refurbished or rebuilt by 2015. The capital budget for England would be £6bn in 2005-06, rising to £8.1bn by 2008, he added.

Mr Brown also confirmed longstanding plans to increase the number of "specialist" secondary schools and city academies. And he revealed that he had been urged to end universities' funding once they gained the power to charge £3,000 top-up fees.

But he committed the Government to an above-inflation increase for the sector, to help reach the target of 50 per cent of young people in higher education by 2010.

Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, said: "We can now build on the progress since 1997 at every stage of learning, from early years to adult skills. It locks in the increased investment we have made each year. And it gives us the stability we need to raise standards further and open opportunity for every citizen."

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the increase was unlikely to be enough to solve school budget problems. "The increases are applied to a woefully inadequate base," he said. "The 4.4 per cent increase is unlikely to make good the deficit and equip schools adequately."

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "I find it difficult to see how a swingeing cut of 31 per cent of DfES administration costs cannot have some impact on the delivery of education."