In his budget speech last week, the Chancellor made scant mention of education. He told schools in England to expect ‘a one-off capital payment’ so that they can ‘buy the little extras they need’ and he also argued that schools receive more money from Government than ever before.
This is the kind of mathematical and linguistic trickery that this Tory Government has made its trademark. A cursory look at the facts and figures shows us a picture of severe underfunding of schools in England, with real-term funding in freefall since the formation of the Lib Dem/Conservative Coalition in 2010. In pure cash terms, there has indeed been an increase in government funding. But, an increased number of children means that that the per pupil funding is significantly down.
There are also increases in Government costs to schools. National insurance increases, pension increases and pay rises not funded by Government all hit school budgets hard. Schools are their own entities and staffing is their largest, and most important expense. No ‘little extras’ from Phillip Hammond will make up for the fact that schools in England are struggling to retain the teachers and other staff they need to ensure a good education for pupils.
All this has resulted in an 8% real terms reduction in English Schools since 2010.
The last Labour Government invested in schools and the next Labour Government will too. Our National Education Service will put lifelong learning at the heart of British society and be a significant driver of social change.