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UK chancellor Philip Hammond has confirmed a controversial £536m education spending package, paving the way for an increase in selective secondary schools.

Speaking during his first and last spring budget speech, Mr Hammond said new selective schools will ensure “the most academically-gifted children of every background get the specialist support they need to fulfil their potential”.

Mr Hammond said investing in education is “perhaps the most important thing that the government can do to support ordinary working families”.

The package commits £320m to help fund 110 new free schools, with £216m over the next three years to support England’s 20,000 existing state schools.

Prime Minister Theresa May sees free schools as potential instruments for increasing selective education across the country.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions before Mr Hammond’s speech, Mrs May said:

When it comes to new money that will be going into schools as a result of today’s announcements, that money is not about a return to a binary system of grammar schools and secondary moderns, that’s not what we are going to do.

What we are doing is ensuring that we see a diversity of provision, so yes some grammar schools but comprehensives, faith schools, university schools, maths schools. What I want is a good school place for every child, more than that, the right school place for every child.

The chancellor also confirmed a previously-trailed £500m expansion in spending on technical training. Mr Hammond said the government will introduce “game-changing” reforms to address the UK’s position near the bottom of international league tables for technical education.

He also confirmed that schools will continue to receive all the money previously committed to school sports initiatives, despite lower than expected proceeds from the sugar tax that was supposed to fund the boost.

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