Tory candidates express misgivings over school funding changes

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George Osborne has used his second edition as editor of the London Evening Standard to highlight a potential backbench rebellion over changes to school funding.

Leading with the headline Tories: Abandon School Funding Shake-up, the paper highlighted concerns among a string of senior Conservatives over proposed changes to the national funding formula.

Several indicated there should be a rethink on the policy ahead of the publication of the Conservative manifesto, which is due in the coming days.

It comes after the former chancellor took the helm at the London paper on Tuesday, using his first day as editor to take aim at Theresa May over Brexit.

Bob Blackman, Conservative candidate for Harrow East, told the Press Association: "The position is the Government has committed to increasing and improving the funding formula for schools across the UK because at the moment there are quite a lot of disparities between funding.

"In the case of my constituency, the 22 schools, 17 will lose money... actual cash, while only five gain funding but it doesn't keep up with inflation.

"For me this is unacceptable. The only way this could happen is if the Government chooses to pump money into the system.

"I have no control over what goes in the manifesto but I'm hoping it won't be in there."

Tory Laurence Robertson, who is standing in Tewkesbury, also warned of his concerns over the formula, which he said did not go far enough to tackle historic underfunding.

He told the Press Association: "If the cake isn't going to grow in the future then we have to look at how it is divided.

"My feeling is there is going to be some agreement made before we get to the manifesto. It really is of concern everywhere."

Former transport minister Stephen Hammond, Conservative candidate for Wimbledon, said the formula had "exposed some issues and concerns", which he hoped were being taken on board by ministers.

Asked if there would be changes to the policy, he said: "I think there would be some concern and I think there would be some surprise because the point is the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have stressed it is a consultation.

"The impression I was getting is that it is being clearly looked at."

Education Secretary Justine Greening brought forward proposals to shake up funding for schools last year, which aims to ensure similar schools in different parts of the country receive a similar level of funding per pupil.

Labour's shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: "It speaks volumes that even Theresa's own backbenchers realise her approach to school funding is simply an exercise in moving inadequate sums of money around.

"On top of this, their cuts to per-pupil spending will mean fewer teachers, cuts to school support staff and larger class sizes; while some schools are not even able to afford basic school repairs.

"Labour supports the principle of moving towards a fairer funding formula for schools and will ensure that all schools have the funding they need."