General election 2019: Lib Dems promise 20,000 more teachers

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Jo Swinson visits a school science class in North London

The Lib Dems have promised to recruit 20,000 more teachers in England and spend an extra £10bn a year on schools if they are elected to government.

The party, which will launch its manifesto on Wednesday, says it will reverse school cuts with an “emergency cash injection” of £4.6bn next year.

They say they will spend £10.6bn more on schools in 2024/25 than in 2019/20.

The money will boost teacher numbers by 20,000 over five years, the Lib Dems added.

The anti-Brexit party says £10bn will be taken from what they claim will be a £50bn “Remain bonus” from staying in the EU to increase school funding.

Leader Jo Swinson also flagged up another likely manifesto policy in an interview with ITV on Tuesday, saying the party had plans for a frequent flyer tax.

“We’ve got plans for a frequent flyer lever that would certainly be discouraging many flights but would be raising revenue from that, so it wouldn’t be an outright ban or limit but would be an effective measure to change behaviour.”

To attract and retain teachers, the Liberal Democrats say they will increase starting salaries to £30,000 and they will guarantee a pay rise of at least 3% a year over five years.

The party would also spend £7bn on improving school buildings over the next five years.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said: “This is an investment in our children’s future. Our schools should be world class, helping every child make the most of the challenges ahead.

“But instead, they are trailing behind. The Conservatives have cut school funding to the bone and children have paid the price, especially those with the most complex needs.

“It is disgraceful that some schools feel they have no choice but to ask parents to chip in for supplies, and are closing early on Friday to balance the books.”

She said her party will “build a brighter future for every child”.

After a decade of tightening budgets, the political parties in England are competing to offer more cash to England’s schools. Since 2010, the spending per pupil in England has fallen by 8% in real terms, despite being at its highest ever level in cash terms.

That’s because of rising costs for schools including teachers’ pay, employer pension contributions, national insurance and utility bills.

These plans by the Lib Dems go further than the commitment already made by the Conservatives.

They would reverse the spending cuts, and because there is a commitment further into the future, offer schools the prospect of a real terms increase.

Recruiting, and just as importantly keeping, teachers is a big challenge in England.

But pay is not the only issue, with many teachers complaining about workload.

The Lib Dems, like Labour, say scrapping the end of primary tests and replacing Ofsted would help take the pressure off schools.

What are the other parties promising?

Labour and the Conservatives have yet to publish their election manifestos.

But in August, Tory leader Boris Johnson promised an increase in funding for English schools that would amount to £7.1bn more than at present by 2022-23.

The independent Institute for Fiscal studies said this would return funding to the levels of 2009.

The government also proposed in September to raise starting salaries for teachers to £30,000 by 2022-23.

Labour plans to increase education spending – and its conference voted in September to abolish private schools and redistribute their assets to the state sector, if Labour wins power on 12 December.