‘You’ve found £200m for a yacht so find cash for schools, ministers’

·2-min read
 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Ministers have been urged to show the “political will” to boost education funding amid claims the Government was prioritising defence and a new national ship ahead of children.

Robert Halfon, chairman of the education select committee, said ministers must “decide their priorities in terms of education” after their catch-up tsar quit in a row over funding.

Sir Kevan Collins resigned on Wednesday after just four months as education recovery commissioner.

It is understood he called for £15 billion of funding and 100 extra hours of teaching per pupil, rather than the £1.4 billion announced by the Government.

Mr Halfon told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Of course there are funding constraints but the Treasury announced £16 billion extra for defence only last year, we’ve got £800 million being spent on a new research agency, £200 million being spent on a yacht.

“So where there is the political will, the Treasury can find the money from the back of the sofa, and there has to be that political will because we need a long-term plan for education, a proper funding settlement.”

It comes days after Mr Johnson announced plans for a national flagship to replace the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The Prime Minister said: “This new national flagship will be the first vessel of its kind in the world, reflecting the UK’s burgeoning status as a great, independent maritime trading nation.”

But Mr Halfon said the damage caused by pandemic to children had been “nothing short of disastrous”.

The former Tory minister also suggested the Government could have set up some pilots on longer school days to show Sir Kevan there was “real impetus” behind the plans he proposed.

Asked whether the Government had misjudged the mood, Mr Halfon told Times Radio: “We can find money for tanks but what about finding proper funds, a proper plan, proper funds for textbooks? There has to be a real muscle, real political will from the Government to ensure that we have an education system that is fit for purpose.”

Conservative MP and former minister Johnny Mercer also commented on Sir Kevan’s departure, saying the Tory party kept “misjudging” issues.

He tweeted: “This, nurses pay, free school meals, universal credit, veterans — a modern compassionate Tory party is founded on such foundations. Unsure why we keep misjudging them.”

Anne Longfield, former children’s commissioner for England, said Sir Kevan’s resignation was a “huge loss”.

She told BBC Breakfast: “Somehow when it gets to children and education there’s so many hoops that need to be jumped through.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Wednesday swerved questions about a row with the Treasury over funding but admitted “more needs to be done”.

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