7 March 2017
Commenting on the Chancellor’s preview of an ‘investment boost’ for schools in Wednesday’s Budget Speech, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the NUT, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“The Government is clearly in denial. It is astonishing that they persist with the claim that they are protecting the core school budgets when the truth is that funding per pupil is being cut in real terms with schools set to lose £3billion per year by 2020.
“There is widespread acknowledgement, including from Conservative MPs, that schools are being hit by much higher costs, most of which are created by the Treasury. School funding per pupil is falling at its fastest rate since the 1970s. Cuts to school and sixth form college budgets are already resulting in bigger class sizes, cuts to staffing and reduced curriculum offers. The Government cannot have failed to recognise the public meetings of parents, teachers, head teachers, governors, local authorities and MPs that have been going on up and down the country about the consequences of their school funding proposals. There is nothing in this statement that will offer any reassurance that things will change.
“The announcement that there is to be an extra £320 million to fund up to 140 new free schools demonstrates an extraordinary lack of judgement at a time when state schools across the country are tipping out their piggy banks to search for the loose change to run their schools, let alone engaging in any capital upgrading. Free Schools will not and never have addressed the issue of school place shortages. Many are opened in areas of no need on whims rather than as part of a properly planned strategy for school provision led by local authorities. Heads, governors, teachers and parents will rightly regard this as an irresponsible use of public money.
“The money proposed for investment in school refurbishment will be welcome providing it is actually new money and will be spent on ensuring that school buildings are fit for purpose and safe from the dangers of asbestos. Nevertheless, with the National Audit Office having recently reported that it would cost some £6.7 billion to repair all school buildings to a satisfactory standard, we require much more substantial investment from the Government.
“The question arises as to where these skewed priorities are being driven from. With leading members of the New Schools Network now advising Theresa May in Downing Street, the NUT is concerned that education policy is not being driven by the DfE and that ideology has replaced common sense.”