Unions slam free schools plan as an "irresponsible use of public money" ahead of tomorrow's Budget

Teaching unions have spoken out in frustration regarding plans to invest £320m in free schools, while existing schools are forced to save £3bn by 2020.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is set to announce the multi-million pound fund in tomorrow's Budget, which will be used to create up to 140 new free schools, including grammar schools.

These will be in addition to the 500 already pledged to come into fruition by 2020 and aim to give power back into the hands of parents and local communities. 

Mr Hammond said: "These announcements take the next steps in giving parents greater choice in finding a good school for their child, whatever their background.”

The decision is regarded to be setting the stage for the Prime Minister's determination to introduce a new generation of grammar schools. 

The Budget will also announce a further £216m that will be used to refurbish existing school buildings. Tomorrow's Budget will confirm £320m of funding for free schools

However, critics claim this funding is an "irresponsible use of public money" in light of merciless cuts which are leading to large class sizes, a reduction in resources and potentially staff losses. 

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the NUT, the largest teachers’ union, said: "The announcement that there is to be an extra £320 million to fund up to 140 new free schools demonstrates an extraordinary lack of judgement at a time when state schools across the country are tipping out their piggy banks to search for the loose change to run their schools, let alone engaging in any capital upgrading.

"Free Schools will not and never have addressed the issue of school place shortages. Many are opened in areas of no need on whims rather than as part of a properly planned strategy for school provision led by local authorities. Heads, governors, teachers and parents will rightly regard this as an irresponsible use of public money."

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the government should be using the money to give sufficient funding to schools that are having to save £3bn by 2020. 

She said: "Teachers and heads in the thousands of existing state schools in the UK which are facing real-terms cuts in funding for their pupils will be dismayed to see the Chancellor throwing more money at free schools and grammar schools.

"These spending pledges are totally insufficient to tackle the schools funding crisis the Government is inflicting on schools by forcing them to make over £3 billion of savings by 2020. Bigger class sizes, fewer learning resources and fewer teachers with greater workloads are the likely consequences. It will do nothing to help schools recruit and retain teachers and heads, and will put a broad and balanced curriculum at risk."

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