Chancellor Philip Hammond has presented the 2017 Spring Budget, with the announcement of additional funding for free schools.
£320 million will be made available for new free schools, traditionally set up by groups like parents, charities or community and faith groups, while a further £216 million will be invested in school maintenance, to improve existing school buildings that are in need of repair.
But, despite the expected boost for grammar schools, teaching associations have been quick to question where extra funding was for existing schools, with Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, saying that the Budget represented a missed opportunity for schools.
He said: “We heard that extra funding will be found to deliver more grammar schools, but nothing will be provided to existing schools. Schools are in a funding crisis now, and opening more free schools will do nothing to change that.
“For many schools, this Budget was their last chance. In our annual Breaking Point survey published in January, 72 per cent of school leaders told us that their budgets will be unsustainable by 2019. For them, this Budget was a chance to address this, and they will be bitterly disappointed by the total absence of extra money for schools.”
Free school meals, a big topic in the previous Conservative Parliament, also was noted by Hammond, who revealed that children aged 11-16 who receive free school meals or whose parents are on the Maximum Working Tax Credit will get free transport to their closest selective school, but only if it is between two and 15 miles away from their home.
There was also a further announcement on Tax-Free Childcare, which will provide up to £2,000 a year in childcare support for each child under 12 and soon be available to working parents. Parents will be able to receive up to £4,000 for disabled children up to the age of 17.