The Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond has announced extra funding for new free schools as part of Wednesday’s Budget. A £320 million payment will be announced and will be used to set up about 110 new free schools. This will take the total number of proposed free schools in England to 500 by 2020.
Free schools are set up by a group of people and are funded directly by the government. They could be set up by almost anyone, including parents, teachers or businesses, and are independent from their local authority. This means the schools can make their own decisions about things such as wages, term dates and the length of the school day, and they don’t have to follow the national curriculum.
The £320 million could also be used to fund new selective schools or expand existing grammar schools if the current ban on expanding selection is lifted. This news comes amidst criticism surrounding a funding crisis in existing schools. Although the budget will also include £213m to refurbish current schools in England, the Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has stated schools still face £3 billion spending cuts.
The Prime Minister Theresa May has stated that the increased funding for new free schools will allow “the most academically gifted children (to) get the specialist support to fulfil their potential, regardless of their family income or background”. It is predicted that this measure will be fiercely opposed by Labour and the opposition parties.
Other key points of the budget included £820 million on measures to prevent tax avoidance, included increased penalties for people who are caught trying to cheat the system. It was also announced that self-employed people will play less tax, a decision set to cost the taxpayer £5 billion this year. Confirming what was announced in the autumn statement, Hammond also announced that the national living wage would rise to £7.50 an hour this April. £2 billion will be invested in social care over the next three years, and £100 million will be given to the NHS, allowing for 100 onsite GPs at Accident & Emergency departments around England.