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EDITIONS
Unions 2000 Saturday, 11 March, 2000, 14:40 GMT
Tories attack education 'con trick'
Theresa May
Theresa May says the government has failed to deliver on funding
Alison Stenlake reports from the Secondary Heads Association's annual conference in Harrogate.

The Shadow Education Secretary, Theresa May, has renewed her attack on the government's education funding, at a head teachers' conference on Saturday.

Ms May told members of the Secondary Heads Association (SHA), gathered for their annual conference in Harrogate, that it had been a "con trick".

She said Labour had been letting schools down, because the funding it promised had not materialised.

Her speech followed an attack Ms May made in the House of Commons last month, when she said the government's stream of funding announcements and re-announcements had exaggerated the amount that schools were receiving.

Re-announcements

Ms May said that education spending announced in press releases since the government came into office added up to almost 185bn.

This inflated impression of spending was the result of constant re-announcements of spending plans, said Ms May, with some individual spending pledges being announced 21 times.
John Dunford
John Dunford says schools are still struggling with inadequate budgets
This week, the Guardian newspaper cast doubt on the government's claims to be increasing education spending by 19bn over three years.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, has rejected the newspaper's arguments.

But at the SHA conference on Friday, general secretary John Dunford told journalists he believed the government was being "dishonest" over these claims.

"Every teacher in secondary schools around the country would say they don't see the effect of what Mr Blunkett is talking about in the classroom," he said.

Spending lower

And in his speech to the conference on Saturday, he said: "SHA members are even more anxious this year than they were in 1999 that their budgets will fail to keep pace with inflation, still less meet the increasing demands which society now places on secondary schools."

He said that spending on education as a proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP) was "lower now than it was for the majority of the period of the last government".

In her speech, Ms May re-iterated the Tories' pledge to "devolve power back to parents and the classroom", making schools "free".

She said that her party's plans to give schools more freedom from local education authorities would mean schools would receive their total budgets, instead of finding some of their money was being held back by LEAs .

This was a complaint voiced by conference delegates on Friday with regard to the money the government is making available to schools to implement performance pay assessments.

Ms May also talked about the Tories' plans to create "partner schools" - schools which can be set up by business groups, voluntary organisations, charities, or groups of parents and teachers.

She said this would be an "exciting opportunity" to "open up and free" the education system.

See also:

21 Feb 00 | UK Education
06 Mar 00 | UK Education
07 Jan 00 | UK Education
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