NATIONAL NEWS: Half a billion pounds to be invested in schools

Chancellor Philip Hammond
Chancellor Philip Hammond
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More than half a billion pounds is to be pumped into creating new schools and refurbishing existing buildings, it is to be announced today.

Chancellor Philip Hammond's Budget will include £320 million to help fund up to 140 new schools, creating more than 70,000 new places.

The investment is intended to build on the Government's commitment to open 500 new free schools by 2020, he will announce tomorrow.

The move follows Prime Minister Theresa May's pledge last autumn to create a place at a good school for every child, in part through allowing selective schools to expand and new ones to open.

The controversial announcement attracted widespread criticism, with opponents arguing that expansion will lead to segregation and a two-tier education system.

It is understood that the Government has not set a target on the number of grammar schools it wants to open with this new funding, but is open to these selective institutions submitting proposals.

The money includes funding for more specialist maths colleges, such as the existing Exeter Mathematics School, which selects 16 to 19-year-olds based on their aptitude for the subject.

Of the 140 new free schools, 20 will open by 2020, and the majority of the rest will open over the course of the next parliament.

There are currently 431 open free schools - a key plan of Conservative education reform - and a further 243 in the process of opening.

The Budget will also include a further £216 million to rebuild and refurbish existing schools in England, to ensure that they are fit for purpose.