Last week, the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, announced an extra £1.3 billion of funding for schools to maintain pupil funding in real terms up to 2019-20. The announcement has been met with a mixed response and seems to raise more questions than it answers. The announcement does not seem to include any contingency for the rising staffing costs and inflationary pressures schools will face or provide any clarity on the impact of the proposed cuts to central programmes on children’s educational experience.
Even with the additional funding, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that schools will still have seen their budgets cut by 4.6 per cent in real terms between 2015-16 and 2019-20. The extra funding won’t take effect until 2018-19, so it comes too late to reverse the cuts schools have already made to staffing, the curriculum and the length of the school day for 2017-18. An earlier announcement could have significantly changed these circumstances but the damage caused by earlier decisions has already been done. With no clear commitment beyond 2019-20, schools continue to face a level of uncertainty which will affect the ability of Head teachers and Governors to plan ahead and make the improvements in efficiency that the Government are so keen to promote.
Steve McCabe said:
“Any additional funding for schools is welcome but I fear that this is simply a sticking plaster proposal that raises more questions than it answers. It does nothing to right the wrongs done to schools in recent years and it gives school leaders no idea of what to expect beyond 2020.
Speaking to head teachers in my constituency, they are concerned that the proposals will not meet the costs imposed by the apprenticeship levy national insurance rises and any pay award and other inflationary pressures. They are equally worried that the Secretary of State’s so called efficiency savings just means different cuts that are likely to impact on class sizes and enrichment activities.
I promised to fight against unfair funding plans at the General Election and today I have written to Justine Greening asking her for more details on the announcement she made last week. I think this was no more than a cynical attempt to placate anxious Tory backbenchers before the summer recess but government is about more than short term announcements. I believe it is her duty to provide answers without delay so that school leaders in my constituency and across the country have some clarity about their budgets and can plan with certainty over the next few years.”
Head teacher at Billesley Primary School, Johanne Clifton said:
“Any increase in school funding would be welcomed but from the information we have at present, I am still anticipating a reduction of funding due to outstanding hidden costs such as addressing our pensions deficits. It seems likely that we will get a small increase to our budget for the year after next, but I’m worried it won’t be enough to keep up with the cost of inflation.
I also remain concerned about the National Funding Formula which could still see my school lose out. We have already had to deal with significant pressures on our budget in recent years and without clarity from the Government it is becoming increasingly difficult to plan for the future.”