THE pledge to increase school funding by slashing free school meals will not be enough to halt curriculum changes or stop staff redundancies, it has been claimed.

The Echo launched a petition calling for a rethink of the National Funding Formula - which attracted 500 signatures - in March.

The Association of Secondary Headteachers in Essex also joined teachers, parents and politicians to campaign against the cuts.

Simon Thompson, executive director of the association, welcomed the Tory decision to plough £4billion into education over the next four years - but said it had come too late.

He said: “We welcome the fact that that the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos all recognise the desperate need to increase schools funding, which we and many others have been highlighting for the past few months.

“Regrettably, though, the timing of this snap election means that schools will already be making cuts to their curriculum and staffing for September 2017 and these will not be prevented by announcements on future education funding in the main party manifestos.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, added: “The Conservative manifesto recognises the multiple crises education faces, but clearly doesn’t understand the scale of action needed.

“Any increase to the schools budget will be welcome but unless school funding rises in proportion to increasing pupil numbers as well as in real terms, it simply won’t be enough.

“2022 will be too late and budget increases need to be front-loaded to the start of the parliament to address the cuts being suffered, and to prevent even more schools increasing class sizes, reducing the curriculum, and losing great teachers. Schools are on the ropes and the next Government must do more to save them.”

James Courtenay, Southend councillor responsible for children and learning, welcomed the Tory manifesto - and insisted children won’t lose out by the end of free lunches.

He said: “They are looking at making school funding fairer and I’ve never had a problem with that. The concern was that all the schools in Southend would lose out.

“It’s a reasonable compromise. I think it shows that the Government was prepared to listen.”

“The Government is scrapping lunches for infants and giving all pupils free breakfasts instead.

“At the moment children get free lunches for the first three years and after that it is means tested. Now all primary school children will have a free breakfast. This is because it has been shown that children perform better if they have had a good breakfast.”