John McDonnell says he ‘was wearing flares’ last time education cuts were so bad

Chantal Da Silva
Trip down memory lane: the shadow Chancellor received a standing ovation after comparing ttoday's education spending cuts to those of the Seventies: PA

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell says he was a motorcycle-riding fashionista in the Seventies the last time education spending cuts were as bad as they are now.

The Labour veteran took delegates at the National Union of Teachers (Nut) conference in Cardiff on a trip down memory lane, as he attacked the Government’s record on education.

School spending per pupil has already faced reductions in many schools, with predictions from the National Audit Office (NAO) that it is likely to fall by as much as 8 per cent by 2020.

“This is the first real-term cuts in school budgets for two decades,” Mr McDonnell, whose daughter is a teacher, said.

“This is the worst school funding settlement since, to be frank, I was wearing flares, an army surplus grey coat, road a motorbike and had brown hair down to my shoulders in the 1970s,” the 64-year-old MP for Hayes and Harlington added.

“That’s how far back you have to go to experience the scale of the cuts.”

Mr McDonnell’s 20-minute address was met with a standing ovation, as he became the first politician invited to speak at the annual Nut conference since former Labour Education Secretary, now Baroness, Estelle Morris, 15 years ago.

He drew laughter, telling the crowd: “You gave up inviting politicians for a period of time. You couldn’t stand listening to them. I sit in the Commons every day – I have the same feeling every now and again.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared at last year’s conference, but he had requested the opportunity to address attendees.

Mr McDonnell read a text message from Mr Corbyn, who the shadow Chancellor described as “the longest texter I know”.

He told the crowd: “Our priorities are to oppose the cut in funding per pupil, to challenge the funding for new grammar schools, to ensure schools are accountable to the local communities, and to ensure every primary school child gets a healthy free lunch.”

Headteachers warned earlier this week that schools are being forced to scrap GSCE and A-level courses, increase class sizes and cut back on trips and after-school clubs as a result of a funding crisis.

The Association of School and College Leads (ASCL) released a report based on a poll of more than 1,000 members, saying the pressure to cut costs is having a serious impact on all areas of school life.

the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

In a new report, based on a poll of more than 1,000 members, the union warned that pressure to cut costs is having an impact on all areas of school life.

Schools are being forced to scrap GCSE and A-level courses, increase class sizes and cut back on trips and after-school clubs as a result of a funding crisis, headteachers have warned.

The Government dismissed concerns, arguing that school funding is at its highest ever level, despite the NAO warning that schools will have to cut costs.

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