Commenting on the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s speech, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the NUT, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“This budget is a complete dereliction of duty to our children and young people. The Chancellor knows full well that schools and sixth form colleges up and down the country are on their knees struggling to make ends meet. School budgets have been cut to the bone, class sizes have increased, subjects have been dropped from the curriculum, materials and resources are scarce yet nothing has been done to address this very serious problem. All this comes at a time of soaring pupil numbers and a developing crisis in teacher recruitment and retention.
“Despite the Conservative Party manifesto pledging a real-terms increase in the schools’ budget during this Parliament, the reality is far from the case. 98% of schools will see a real terms loss in funding per pupil between now and 2020. This takes into account the Government’s proposed ‘fair funding’ formula. In the Prime Minister’s constituency of Maidenhead, for instance, schools are set to lose an average of real terms loss of £377 per pupil, while the schools in Philip Hammond’s constituency of Runnymede and Weybridge will lose an average of £285 per pupil during the same period.
“Instead of tackling this crisis of their own making, we now learn that extra funding will pour into the opening of new free schools and grammar schools for which there is absolutely no need. Parents and teachers will be deeply dismayed at this flagrant and irresponsible waste of money. These are simply the wrong priorities.
“Any improvement to the current state of technical and vocational is welcome, but teachers will be concerned that introducing ‘T-Levels’ will increase the separation of academic and vocational pathways. As with its policy on grammar schools, the Government is fixated on creating educational divides – to the detriment of young people. The NUT supports a reformed, unified system of 14-19 curriculum and qualifications which helps bring an end to the notion that academic and technical learning pathways are an ‘either/or’ option.
“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 Government must focus on the funding crisis in our schools and colleges. The Chancellor had an opportunity to rectify this in his Budget but chose not to. This is an outrageous situation. Parents, teachers and MPs, many within the Conservative Party, will not stand by and allow this to happen.”