Boris Johnson has pledged to “significantly” increase the amount spent on every secondary school pupil to at least £5,000 if he becomes the next prime minister.
In his first major domestic policy proposal, the front-runner in the Tory leadership race said he wanted to “unleash” the talents of the nation by giving every child the same opportunity to “express their heaven-sent gifts”.
The former foreign secretary likened Britain to a “giant that is managing heroically to hop on one leg”, but said funding schools properly could enable the nation to take “gigantic strides”.
Mr Johnson, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said there was a “yawning funding gap” between different areas of the country, with per pupil funding in some parts of London at £6,800 while in other parts of the country it is £4,200.
“Of course there are special and extra costs of living in the capital and London schools, which face unique challenges, deserve that recognition and a helping hand,” he said.
“But I pledge significantly to improve the level of per pupil funding so that thousands of schools get much more per pupil - and to protect that funding in real terms.”
It is understood Mr Johnson would like every secondary school in England to spend at least £5,000 per pupil.
He said the capabilities and ambitions of all schools should also be boosted, and called for vocational training and apprenticeships to be given parity of esteem.
The prominent Leave campaigner said a “dynamic Brexit Britain” should “rectify the mistake” that had led to funding for further education not keeping up with schools.
“It is absurd that employers have been driven to import so much skilled labour from abroad, largely because of the failures of vocational training in this country,” he wrote.
“We need to recognise the range and richness of our educational needs. And yet at the same time we need to accept that there are some purely academic disciplines - mathematics in particular - where we must be more demanding.”
He said the country's mission must now be “not just to come out of the EU and do it properly, as the people requested, but also to level up, to bridge that gap, and to unleash the talents of the entire nation”.
Mr Johnson’s pledge comes after the number of MPs vying to replace Theresa May reached 13, with former minister Sam Gyimah throwing his hat in the ring.
Candidates have spent the weekend setting out their stalls, with Sajid Javidannouncing plans to establish a £100 billion fund to invest in UK infrastructure and rebalance the economy.
Andrea Leadsom outlined her intention to leave the EU by the end of October in a “managed exit” and Matt Hancock said he would seek a time limit to the Irish backstop as he set out his “Brexit delivery plan”.