Budget 2021: Education Among The Losers In Rishi Sunak’s Announcements

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Today’s pledge to provide additional funding for education recovery brings spending on post-pandemic recovery to just under £5 billion

An extra £2 billion of new funding for schools unveiled in Rishi Sunak’s Budget has been described as a “pale imitation” of what is needed. 

The chancellor said his boost would bring the government’s total support for education recovery to almost £5 billion and return spending to where it was in 2010. 

However, the offer is just a fraction of the £15 billion recommended by the government’s former education recovery commissioner.

Sir Kevan Collins resigned in the summer in protest over a scaled-down recovery plan, warning it “does not come close” to meeting the needs of children whose education has been thrown into chaos by the pandemic.

Former education secretary Gavin Williamson reportedly submitted a bid for £7 billion of catch up funding before he was sacked after having had his initial bid for £9 billion of it turned down in June, according to Times Radio’s Tom Newton Dunn

It means Williamson’s successor Nadhim Zahawi has received not even half that figure in today’s Budget announcement. 

Reacting to the announcement, Paul Johnson, director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, said returning to 2010 levels was “not much of a boast” and added: “A decade and a half without growth is quite a thing.”

Johnson told the BBC the increased spending was “hardly a bonanza”, adding: “To have no growth over 15 years in such an important part of public services is unprecedented, so it’s hardly a bonanza in the education system.”

Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: ”£2 billion announced today – a pale imitation of the £15 billion catch up fund that the prime minister’s own education tsar said was needed. No wonder that he resigned.”

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said: “The chancellor gave more money to his banker mates than he did to our children and schools in catch-up funding.”

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said it did not provide schools with the money they need to meet the “acute demands” of pupils whose learning had been “seriously disrupted by the pandemic”.

Meanwhile, Geoff Barton general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said they feared the budget falls a “long way short” of what was needed for education. 

He added: “We hear the chancellor’s claim that the investment in schools will restore per pupil funding to 2010 levels.

“Even in the best-case analysis this still represents no growth in school funding for 15 years, and this commitment does not address the stark reality in 16-19 education where the learner rate is far too low. What we do know is that school and college budgets are very thinly stretched and the financial situation continues to be extremely difficult.”

He said children had suffered the most educational disruption of any generation since the second world war and the government “must do better for them”.

Sunak described the government’s spending on education as “ambitious” and told the commons: “Combined with the ambitious plans we announced at the spending review 2019, this will restore per pupil funding to 2010 levels in real terms – equivalent to a cash increase for every pupil of more than £1,500.

“And for children with special educational needs and disabilities we’re more than tripling the amount we invest to create 30,000 new school places.”

The chancellor went on: “We’ve already announced £3.1 billion to help education recovery.

“Today, as promised by the prime minister and education secretary, we will go further – with just under £2 billion of new funding to help schools and colleges – bringing this government’s total support for education recovery to almost £5 billion.”

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