John McDonnell
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell accused his Conservative counterpart of lacking substance Getty

Labour has launched a scathing attack on George Osborne just hours before the Chancellor delivers his Budget speech on 16 March. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Government's latest economic statement is just a "press stunt" and claimed Osborne's major education announcement is a non-starter.

"It won't address the real issue in our education system around increasing class sizes, shortage of teachers and lack of school places by just forcing schools to become academies," McDonnell declared. "With only one in four schools getting any additional money for the extra hour he's adding to the school day, we will see schools competing with each other for funding and parents will see their aspirations constrained."

He added: "There's further uncertainty of funding when it comes to the infrastructure projects that the Chancellor is set to renounce.

"Only one in five projects in his infrastructure pipeline is under construction.

"And when you put all this together with the possible tax cuts that are floated, which will be paid for by more stealth taxes and cruel cuts to the disabled, this Budget from Osborne looks to not be about the future, but taking us back to the old politics of spin and little substance."

The comments come after reports claimed the Chancellor would announce plans to convert all schools in England into academies by 2020. The Department for Education is expected to publish the draft law as soon as 17 March, according to BBC Newsnight.

The National Union of Teachers has also criticised the plans. Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the union, claimed parents would be "outraged".

"The government's ultimate agenda is the privatisation of education with schools run for profit. The NUT will continue to resist the Government's attempts to privatise our education system and will campaign alongside parents and other allies to Stand Up for Education," he added.

"The most urgent problems in schools are to do with the chronic teacher shortage, real terms funding cuts, the school places crisis, chaotic implementation of the curriculum, and workload going through the roof. The drive towards total academisation will do absolutely nothing to fix those problems."