Free school funding will create fraction of places pledged in budget, says Labour

The government’s flagship education policy announced in the budget, to spend £320m creating 70,000 free school places, is likely to deliver only about a fifth of that number, according to the Labour party.

An analysis by Labour found that the money committed last week by Philip Hammond is meant to bring 70,000 places and around 140 new schools.

However, the party’s education team say, this works out at just under £4,800 per place. Department for Education (DfE) figures given to the National Audit Office (NAO) showed that places at secondary free schools cost £24,600 each on average, with £21,100 each for primary free schools.

Such a cost would thus instead bring between 13,000 and 15,000 places rather than the number billed by Theresa May in a pre-budget article on new education spending.

The DfE said it disputed the calculation, and that the £320m was for this parliament only, with the full amount to be spent “set out at a later date”.

The £320m for another generation of free schools has proved controversial, in part because some will be the first wave of new grammar schools in decades, despite grave doubts over their effect on social mobility. Read more