The budget releases more investment in maths and science in schools, but is it an answer to issues in the education sector? Commenting on the Budget Speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
The government had a big political choice to make in today’s Budget – to invest in education, or to continue with its damaging policy of real terms cuts. The Budget, with no significant new money for education, shows that the government has chosen to ignore the anger of parents and the clear evidence of the problems being created by real terms cuts to education. Parents and teachers will be deeply disappointed.
Despite the worsening teacher recruitment and retention crisis and the huge real terms cuts in teacher pay since 2010, the Chancellor had nothing to offer teachers or the profession. Instead of school staff losing jobs or seeing the value of their pay cut, the Government needs to invest in those working in education.
The Budget has failed the key tests the National Education Union set for the government on education funding. The Chancellor has failed to reverse the real terms education cuts; failed to provide new money to fully fund all areas of education; failed to level-up funding to address historic underfunding; and failed to guarantee the investment needed for future years.
We note the announcement of £42m for teacher training, which translates to about £1000 per teacher in selected schools. The only credible response to the widespread and worsening teacher recruitment problems is to properly invest in education, including fully funded proper pay levels across the profession, not sticking-plaster solutions like this that have not worked in the past.
The government’s goal should be to invest in a broad and balanced, fully funded curriculum for all children and young people. Offering schools in desperate financial circumstances £600 per student if they take up A-Level maths could steer students towards subject choices that may not be in their interests. If this investment isn’t accompanied by significant new funding for schools then it won’t make enough of a difference to pupils’ life chances and skills development and is a drop in the ocean compared to billions of real terms cuts to per pupil funding. The announcement on funding for T-Levels is nothing more than a drop in the ocean compared to the huge real terms cuts to 16-19 funding since 2010. There are no plans to restore Education Maintenance Allowance funding to support young people.
The Chancellor’s words about understanding the frustrations of families whose budgets are under pressure were backed up by very little in the way of action. There was no comfort for the families of the 5.2 million children who will be growing up in poverty over the next five years.
With nine out of ten schools facing real terms cuts per pupil, the government is telling parents today that their children deserve less than was spent on children in previous years. Schools need £2bn a year extra funding to restore real terms per pupil funding to 2015-16 levels.
Austerity has failed the economy and it is damaging the future of our children and young people. Damaging their future means damaging our future economic prosperity. The huge economic problems we face cannot be addressed without equipping children and young people with the skills our country needs, but instead of investing in our future the government persists with its real terms cuts to education. The National Education Union will continue to campaign alongside parents for the investment our children and young people need.