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Senior Tories urged to drop schools funding reform proposals

Theresa May and Justine Greening are under pressure to back down over planned reforms to schools funding in the face of a revolt among Tory MPs.

Ms Greening defended the Conservatives' record on education in a speech at the party's spring forum in Cardiff, but did not address the issue of the new funding formula which has angered some on her party's backbenches.

Veteran MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown warned the Education Secretary that she would be unable to get her plans through the Commons in their present form.

It comes as a report found that the average secondary school in England is facing losses of almost £300,000 amid severe funding cuts.

Primaries could lose out on tens of thousands of pounds, according to a new report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI).

Cotswolds MP Mr Clifton-Brown led a delegation of nine Conservative MPs in a meeting with the Prime Minister this week.

He said these were "the tip of the iceberg", though, with many more Tory MPs around the country unhappy.

"I think ministers recognise, and indeed I told Justine Greening in a later meeting, that this wouldn't go through in its present form," he told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

Mr Clifton-Brown said the Government would lose a vote in the Commons on the plans in their current form, adding: "This is only a consultation.

"The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education have indicated very strongly that they are listening to the consultation, they will listen to what responses they get back, and I think knowing that they will have difficulty getting it through the House, they will have to alter it."

In her speech to activists in Cardiff, Ms Greening said: " Increasingly children are growing up facing a postcode lottery on educational standards across our nations.

"In England, today, right now, thanks to the educational reforms of the Conservative Party in Government, there are now almost 1.8 million more children being taught in schools that are good or outstanding than when the Labour Party were voted out in 2010. Nearly nine out of 10 schools are rated as good or outstanding.

"That is an extraordinary achievement."

But in Wales, under Labour, "education standards have gone backwards".

"In its worst-performing subject, reading, under Labour Wales now sits on a par with Hungary and Lithuania," she said.

It was a similar story in Scotland under the SNP, she added: "In both Scotland and Wales, weakening of education is a betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of thousands of young people."

She highlighted the Government's reforms to skills training and technical education - the new T-levels - as part of the plan to prepare for Brexit.

"As we prepare to leave the European Union, we will need to be more self-sufficient - in our workforce; in our skills; and in the training of our young people - to set ourselves up for success.

"To secure and build a strong economy, we need the people with the skills, knowledge and technical excellence that drive productivity and growth.

"In the end, it is people who will lift our country. And that's why we are investing in our people.

"And we can't afford to wait."

Mrs May's official spokesman said the Government was "listening" to views on the funding formula in a consultation which closes on March 22.

He told a regular Westminster briefing: "This is a genuine consultation, we are listening and we are clear that we want to get this right."

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