BUDGET 2017: Education Response

8th March 2017

SCHOOLS NorthEast welcomed additional investment in education announced today in the Chancellor’s Budget, but the additional funding ignored the National Audit Office’s calculation that there will be a £3bn hole in school budgets by 2020.

Mike Parker, Director of SCHOOLS NorthEast, said: “Theresa May spoke passionately this week of her ‘mission to make Britain the world’s great meritocracy with a good school place for every child’. The departure point for that mission has to be equal and adequate funding for all schools.

“Whilst we have pupil funding loaded in favour of southern schools, and while the Government turns a blind eye to the frightening financial hole in education, the chances of children from the North East of England having fair access to that meritocracy is greatly diminished. Today’s Budget has done precious little to address that inequality.”

On key areas announced today:

£320m for new free schools and grammar schools

The education system is experiencing a significant shortfall of places for pupils, with 22.7% of state primaries and a quarter of state secondaries in England at full capacity already. Overall, pupil numbers are due to increase by 6.4% by 2020.

Mike Parker, Director of SCHOOLS NorthEast, said: “Demand for school places, particularly in secondary schools, is rising sharply so additional funding to increase capacity is welcome. The argument that grammar schools is the solution has yet to be proven. In fact, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that, in areas where grammar schools are in operation, pupils who do not attend selective schools ‘make less progress in partially-selective and wholly-selective areas than in areas without selection’.

“The fixation on school structure gets in the way of the real issue which is that we need to make sure we’ve got sufficient places at good quality schools across the country.”

Funding for technical education

Mr Parker said: “Giving vocational qualifications an equal standing to academic ones is a positive step and efforts to streamline the system will make it easier for pupils and parents to make the right choice.

“However, if the Government does not focus on funding 0-16 education adequately, it risks harming the ability of children deciding to achieve these T-level qualifications. We must ensure children don’t miss out on the strong educational grounding that is essential to give them the skills and ability to go on to achieve advanced qualifications – both vocational and academic.”

Sugar tax

Mike Parker said: “We welcomed the introduction of the soft drinks industry levy last year and are delighted to hear that schools will benefit from the full amount pledged by the Government, despite a lower revenue made from the tax than initially predicted.”

£216m funding for existing schools

Mr Parker commented: “Funding to help rebuild and refurbish existing schools is much needed. However, it doesn’t fill the operational blackhole in schools across England.”