Budget 2021: schools cash to be restored to 2010 levels after 10 years of cuts

As reported by BBC News, funding per pupil in England’s schools is to be restored to 2010 levels over the next three years, the chancellor has announced

This means an extra £4.7bn for schools in England by 2024-2025 and a cash increase for every child of £1,500, Rishi Sunak said. But it will not cover the nine per cent fall in funding since 2009 – the biggest cut in 40 years. The Chancellor also pledged an extra £2bn for education recovery from COVID. This brings spending on COVID catch-up since 2019 to nearly £5bn, Mr Sunak said in his Budget statement.

The recovery fund falls far short of what education unions and the former catch-up tsar, Sir Kevan Collins, said was required – around £15bn. And the cash injection in basic school funding is unlikely to meet the hopes of teachers and head teachers in the biggest unions. The spending will also have to cover any rise in teachers’ pay, which has been signalled with the announcement that the public sector pay freeze would be lifted.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Even in the best-case analysis this still represents no growth in school funding for 15 years, and this commitment does not address the stark reality in 16-19 education where the learner rate is far too low.

“What we do know is that school and college budgets are very thinly stretched and the financial situation continues to be extremely difficult.

“The additional funding for education recovery following the COVID pandemic is nowhere near what is needed.

“Alongside other education organisations and school trusts, we submitted in August a proposal for an additional £5.8bn of spending over the next three years focused in particular on supporting disadvantaged young people.”

National Education Union joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney said: “Taking so long to restore the cuts made from 2010 onwards should not be a matter of pride for any government, but one of embarrassment.”

A recent snapshot survey of 1,500 heads for the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) found almost a third were already making budget cuts last year with 35% expecting to make cuts this academic year.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “Children and young people have been hugely affected by the pandemic. The government has made bold claims about ‘levelling up’ and ‘no child left behind’. The investment announced today doesn’t meet those goals or the futures needs of the country.

“The increase in per pupil spending announced by the government takes us back to 2010 levels. This is no proud boast, as it represents a failure to invest in children’s futures for over a decade.

“Schools will do their best with what they are given, as they always do. It is important that schools are able to spend recovery money flexibly on the programmes they know work best for the children in most need in their schools.”

The Chancellor also announced a £170m increase by 2024-25 in the funding paid to nurseries and early years providers for state-backed nursery places.

Neil Leitch, of the Early Years Alliance, said the funding “goes nowhere near what is needed to safeguard the future of the sector.”

He said: “With huge rises in national living and minimum wages set to come into effect next April, alongside increases in national insurance contributions, the cost of delivering early years places is set to soar, and the harsh reality is that the investment announced today – likely to amount to little more than a few pennies extra per hour for early years providers – won’t come close to covering this.

“As a result, nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are still likely to face a choice between increasing fees or risk going out of business altogether, meaning parents across the country are likely to face a significant hike in childcare costs at a time when the government is supposed to be tackling the rising cost of living.”

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