ES Views: Will the Budget’s pledge really benefit our schools?

Man with a plan: the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, preparing his Budget speech in his Treasury office yesterday: Getty Images

Assuming, conservatively, a unit cost of £50 million per school, the Chancellor’s paltry £320 million pledge would pay for just over six new schools. This money could be better spent in many ways, for example by reducing the £360 million hit that state schools in London will suffer next year following the recent review of the education funding formula.

If social mobility is really the objective, a cost-free alternative would be for the Government to work with independent schools to negotiate places in selective fee-paying schools for pupils of potential who qualify for free school meals. Such a move would be not only more economical but also more effective.

Unlike grammar schools, independent schools which are charities have an obligation to help the poor. At my own independent school, the proportion of pupils who qualify for free school meals in a typical sixth-form year group is about 10 per cent. For a grammar school, the average figure is below three per cent.

There is no reason to believe that a new generation of grammar schools would cater for a different clientele. Now, as then, the beneficiaries of educational selection are relatively wealthy parents who know best how to play the system to their advantage.

Britain’s independent schools are a massive national resource that remain largely untapped. It is they, and not grammar schools, that are the potential engines of social mobility.
Richard Russell, headmaster, Colfe’s School, London

I am delighted that the Chancellor has announced a £320 million investment for free schools in the Budget. If this now leads to a new generation of grammar schools, it will then only benefit our education system.

I attended a grammar school before it was turned into an academy and it produced students of the highest quality. They came from all different backgrounds and, regardless of your status or background, if you worked hard, you were given the chance to make a success of yourself.

Granted, grammar schools do tend to favour those who come from privileged backgrounds. But it is not an exclusive club. If having more grammar schools means improving the standards of our education, they deserve our support.
Habib Masood

It has been announced that the Budget will provide funding for new “free schools”.

Meanwhile, cuts are being made to more than 90 per cent of school budgets under the “fair” funding formula, with London schools in particular being badly affected.

Has the Government got its priorities right?
Jane Eades

Give proper support to Dubs plan

It was disappointing to see the amendment tabled by Tory MP Heidi Allen to make councils declare if they can house more unaccompanied child refugees voted down in the Commons [“London MPs seek Bill changes to ‘keep door open’ for child refugees”, March 7]. I was pleased, nonetheless, that all nine Lib-Dem MPs supported it, along with two other brave Tory rebels.

I was interested to find out from my local authority, Bromley council, that it had “signed up to” the Dubs amendment but had not yet taken in any children. How many other local authorities have done the same?

Surely it would make a significant difference to these vulnerable children if each UK local authority could take its fair share to ensure the burden doesn’t just fall on a few overstretched councils?

I hope everyone who shares this view encourages their councils to play a genuine and tangible part in the Dubs scheme, rather than supporting it in name only.
Sam Webber, Lib-Dem parliamentary candidate for Orpington

The future is trans as well as female

Phoebe Luckhurst’s article on International Women’s Day [“The future is female”, March 8] pertinently raises 11 points as part of a “gender agenda” for a greater move towards sexual equality, for which both she and your newspaper merit praise.

May I also suggest that a further point be added to this list, namely the promotion and defence of the rights of trans women. Many of these women are the victims of bigotry and prejudice on a daily basis, including the refusal of some people to accept that they are female, despite substantial and verified medical evidence.

Perhaps your newspaper might publish an article in the future that relates to the treatment of trans women and the problems they face.

This said, both the Evening Standard and Ms Luckhurst are to be commended for this accurate and relevant article, which can only further the cause of gender parity.
Keeley-Jasmine Cavendish

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Great escape: Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto, right, celebrates his goal with Samuel Umtiti

How could we ever doubt Barcelona?

Even by their standards, what Barcelona did on Wednesday night was remarkable.

To overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit against Paris Saint-Germain seemed impossible, especially as no team had done so in the history of the Champions’ League. But how could we doubt them when they had Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and unlikely saviour Sergi Roberto?

Much has been said about Barcelona’s dominance in Europe coming to an end, so silencing their doubters would have felt as sweet as winning the Champions’ League itself.

This competition has produced many memorable games, notably Liverpool’s comeback in the 2005 final against AC Milan in Istanbul and Chelsea’s fightback against Napoli in 2012. Nights such as these show why the Champions’ League is the best club competition in the world.
Joshua Bailey

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