Apprenticeship levy will push more school budgets to breaking point, warn education unions

6 April 2017

From today (Thursday 6th April) thousands of schools across the country will start to pay into the apprenticeship levy. The compulsory payment will have to be paid by most schools, with only small stand-alone academies exempt.

Commenting, Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT, said: “We know schools across the country are being faced with real terms cuts as budgets remain static and costs rise. Today, as yet another cost is imposed on schools in the form of the apprenticeship levy, school budgets will be pushed further towards breaking point.

“We know from the National Audit Office that the schools budget is facing a £3 billion blackhole by 2020 due to real terms cuts, the first since the 1990s. We know that schools have been making difficult decisions to make their budgets balance. We know that they are running out of things to cut without impacting on the quality of education provided. This additional cost from today, compounded by the fact that many schools will not be able to make use of the training opportunities provided because of the nature of education, is a further unwelcome cost for schools.

“As a first step, the government must ensure maintained schools are given the same exclusions from the levy as those offered to standalone academies. If not, small maintained schools will unfairly face yet more costs. The Public Accounts Committee has called on the Department for Education to clearly set out what impact the levy will have on schools. This hard-headed assessment is crucial if the government is to truly start to understand the real cost pressures schools face.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “Paying the apprenticeship levy will hit schools when their budgets are being cut for the first time in a generation, forcing school leaders to make difficult decisions about staffing. The levy may threaten the existence of small local authority maintained schools.

“It is unacceptable that the Department for Education has given schools insufficient time to prepare for the levy - clarity about the impact on local authority maintained schools and communications to headteachers and governors has been too little, too late. We are concerned about whether schools will have enough appropriate roles for apprentices which would enable them to recoup their levy payment for training. And, with teachers dealing with excessive workloads, there is little capacity to ensure the apprentices are properly mentored within schools.”

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Almost all schools are set to see their funding cut in real terms by 2020, with additional costs loaded onto them by the Government and per pupil funding cut in real terms. Now schools face another unavoidable cost at a time when their budgets are already so stretched, many are having to ask parents to contribute money as well as cutting staff and curriculum options.

“There is also no guarantee that schools will benefit from the levy, with a notable lack of clarity over how local authority community schools will be able to access funding for apprenticeships. There is also a lack of control for schools even though they have contributed, as the local authority will decide how it will spend the money from the levy. The Government must urgently reverse this and the other stealth cuts imposed on schools.”

Note to editors:

For further information please contact:

ATL: Christine Gregory – day 0207 782 1589, out of hours 07918 617466, switchboard 0207 930 6441. Email: cgregory@atl.org.uk

NAHT: David Boot, Press & Parliamentary Officer – 01444 472 483 / 07595 067060 david.boot@naht.org.uk

NUT: Caroline Cowie – 0207 380 4706 / 07879 480061 / c.cowie@nut.org.uk

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