RAY MALLON, once known as Teesside’s “robocop”, always used to say that the police force was like a sponge in that it would soak up whatever money the Government gave it.

Education and schools are very similar. Will there ever be a point when teachers say that they have more money than they need?

However, the Government must listen very seriously to the warnings from teachers that they are being forced back to class sizes of the 1980s, with more than a third of schools in the North East saying they are already making cuts.

The unions’ warnings come after a summer in which the Government failed to find the £15bn its catch-up tsar said was needed to enable schools to recover from the pandemic. Instead, apparently despite the Prime Minister’s wishes, only £1.4bn was forthcoming, meaning that England will spend £310 per child on recovery whereas the Netherlands will spend £2,100.

And then the Institute for Fiscal Studies reports that spending per pupil fell nine per cent in the decade to 2020, the largest cut in 40 years.

So it is easy to see that there is merit to the teachers’ case and, of course, we all know it is the poorer areas and children with the biggest needs who will be the most badly affected as education budgets are cut. Those are the inherent unfairnesses that made the levelling up agenda so appealing, so voters will be disappointed if the Government betrays that agenda by failing to fund schools adequately.