A ROW broke out last night over education funding after unions claimed that school budgets would be slashed by hundreds of thousands of pounds under Tory or Lib Dem governments - figures which both parties immediately rejected as inaccurate.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the GMB have published statistics which they claim project school budget changes under potential Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat governments over the next five years.

With school spending a key battle ground in the General Election campaign, Tory and Lib Dem candidates have denounced the forecasted figures.

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A website set up by the unions provides an interactive map claiming to show what school or college budgets will look like under the three main parties with a section devoted to how the figures were calculated.

One of the worst affected schools in the area, the site says, would be Skerne Park Academy, in Darlington, which according to figures would see a 16 per cent budget drop under the Tories - meaning £788 less per pupil by 2022 and a budget plunge of £280,031 for the school.

Under the Lib Dems it is claimed the drop would be 13 per cent while under Labour the site says funding would increase by one per cent.

Elsewhere rural Wearhead Primary School, in Wearhead, near St John's Chapel, County Durham, would supposedly lose £3,514 per pupil by 2022 under the Tories, £3,198 under the Lib Dems and gain £92 under Labour.

In Newton Aycliffe headteacher of Woodham Academy, Christine Forsyth, has written to Sedgefield Labour candidate Phil Wilson voicing her concerns over potential cuts to school budgets.

Mrs Forsyth said: "If budgets are reduced, it is inevitable that there will be a reduction in the number of teachers employed and a correspondent increase in class sizes."

The website claims Woodham Academy would see a reduction of £157,571 in its budget by 2022 - a figure which could translate into a loss of four teachers based on average salaries.

Mr Wilson said: "I think history proves that Labour is committed to education for all. I remember back in the 1990s when we had charities and fundraising events to provide schools with books and pencils and I don't want to get back to that. We've got to protect schools because our children are the future."

However, Conservative candidate for Bishop Auckland, Chris Adams, disputed the figures and dismissed claims that Tory plans would harm schools.

He said: "We will increase the budget even more in the years ahead, with an extra £4 billion over the next Parliament.

"Misleading numbers have been circulated by other political parties which use arbitrary inflation rates and outdated or irrelevant sets of numbers.

"Under a Conservative government, it’s simple: no school’s budget will be cut and it is the more rural schools which will see the lion’s share of new funding ahead."

Sedgefield's Liberal Democrat candidate Stephen Psallidas told The Northern Echo the party was concerned the figures were not correct.

He said: "The Lib Dems have pledged to halt school cuts and protect per pupil funding, in real terms, over the course of the next Parliament. This means an extra £7 billion for schools nationally, in our fully costed manifesto."

Earlier this year the Department for Education stated the government's proposed national funding formula protected schools from losing more than three per cent per pupil - a protection guaranteed for the lifetime of the formula, designed to distribute funds on a "fair and consistent basis."