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Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt coy over Labour's spending plans during Croydon school visit

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SHADOW Education Secretary Tristram Hunt declined to reveal Labour's education spending plans as he visited a Croydon primary school this week.

Mr Hunt toured Harris Primary Academy Benson on Wednesday with Sarah Jones, a former pupil and now the party's prospective Parliamentary candidate for Croydon Central.

His visit followed an announcement by David Cameron that a future Conservative government would protect England's schools budget in cash terms, but per pupil funding would not keep pace with inflation.

Labour said that amounted to a "real-terms cut" but has yet to reveal what it would do if it wins May's general election.

Croydon is due to receive an extra £12.4 million – equating to £271 per pupil - from 2015/16 after being recognised as one of the least fairly funded authorities in England.

Asked whether a Labour government would continue to address this funding gap, as well as providing more money for extra school places in Croydon, Mr Hunt attacked the Tories' spending plans and said he would not waste money on free schools which never open, referring to the £84,000 spent by the Advance Free School which was due to open in the north of the borough before the plans collapsed.

He added that Labour's intentions would be announced at a later date.

Labour has made unqualified teachers an election issue – citing a 57 per cent rise in Croydon as an example. While there weren't any for him to talk to at Benson, Mr Hunt says executive head teacher Kate Magliocco understands the importance of the issue.

"The head teacher was very clear that if she was going to raise standards for pupils she wanted qualified teachers," he said.

Benson Primary School, in West Way, Shirley, was taken over by the Harris Federation after being rated inadequate by Ofsted in November 2012.

Forced "academisation" is a controversial subject, particularly among parents, and while Mr Hunt wants to decentralise the decision-making process, he believes the change was in the school's best interests.

"I think when a school is not delivering for its pupils it's quite right that you have a change of governance," he said.

Mrs Jones said the school retained the same "feel" as when she was a pupil despite becoming part of a wider organisation.

"It was a really good school while I was there but they've had a few problems in recent years," she added.

"But it didn't feel like a school with any problems. The kids were really engaged and thoughtful. It's a well-run school, you can sense those things when you go in." 

Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt coy over Labour's spending plans during Croydon school visit


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