The Government has been accused of failing to tackle the “crisis” facing UK schools after Philip Hammond announced a series of reforms that teachers said amounted to a “drop in the ocean”.
Head teachers and politicians lambasted the Chancellor for offering “no significant money for education”, saying ministers had ignored the concerns of parents and evidence of the problems created by real terms cuts to schools.
During his Budget speech, Mr Hammond announced there would be more investment in maths, including £600 for every A-level maths student, as well as plans to train 12,000 computer teachers and more support for adult re-training.
He also announced there would be £42m over three years to provide extra training to “improve the quality of teaching” in a pilot project in some under-performing schools in England, with each teacher given access to £1,000 worth of training.
But campaigners urged that, with schools needing £2 billion a year extra funding to restore real terms per pupil funding to 2015-16 levels and teacher recruitment and retention rates in spiralling decline, the Budget offered merely a “sticking plaster” to the problems faced by schools.
Critics also pointed out that the Chancellor only directly mentioned children only once in his speech, prompting clams that the Government had shown “little concern” for the plight of young people who were not potential voters.
Responding to the Budget, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said: “The Chancellor has already overseen the steepest cuts to school funding in a generation and a cap on public sector pay that has led to teachers leaving the classroom in record numbers.
“If Philip Hammond was serious about addressing the challenges in our schools he would have reversed the cuts his Government have imposed since 2015, protect their budgets in real terms, and abolish the public sector pay cap so we can retain and recruit the teachers and support staff that our schools desperately need.
“Instead, this Budget has done nothing to address the crisis the Tories have created in our education system. The schemes announced today are a tiny fraction of the money he has cut from school budgets since 2015 and despite his spin, schools will be worse off by 2020.”
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said the Government had failed to use the Budget to invest in education, and instead opted to continue with a “damaging policy of real terms cuts”.
He said: “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.”
Mr Courtney added that the Chancellor’s announcement of £42m for teacher training was merely a “sticking-plaster solution”, and urged that the only credible response to the teacher recruitment problems was to properly invest in education, including fully funded proper pay levels across the profession.
He also raised concerns that the financial incentive to get more pupils studying 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," Mr Courtney added.
“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 Children’s Bureau (NCB) meanwhile accused the Chancellor of failing to address mental health issues, poverty, abuse and neglect faced by children, urging that these problems create fundamental barriers to their education which funding for academic learning "does nothing to address".
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the NCB, said: “Philip Hammond has courted young voters by extending eligibility for railcards and providing incentives for first-time house buyers, but has shown little concern for the plight of the nation’s children.
“In his budget speech, the chancellor only directly mentioned children once, aside from setting out additional support for school pupils in Maths and IT. This sends the clear message that if you aren’t a potential voter, the government won’t make your welfare a priority.
“Children with mental health issues, those going to school hungry and those at risk of abuse and neglect have fundamental barriers to their education that funding for academic learning does nothing to address.”
Audit and tax service KPMG said that the additional funding to improve the take up of maths and the boost to teacher training in underperforming schools was a “step in the right direction”, but urged that additional funding must be spent on increasing the quality of teaching.
Anna Purchas, head of people at the organisation, said: “Today’s announcement that the Government will provide additional funding to improve the skills of the UK’s future workforce is a step in the right direction for business.
“Bridging the skills gap that currently exists within STEM will be a positive message for business leaders, ensuring their recruitment pipeline is fit for purpose and better allowing the UK to remain competitive post Brexit as outlined in the Industrial Strategy.
“However the emphasis must be on increasing the quality of teaching rather than just the take up numbers. Government must provide stringent guidelines to ensure this additional funding is spent in the best way to benefit the future UK workforce.”
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