Spending Review: Reaction on education

Image caption,
Universities are to take a hit on funding while schools are spared cuts

The budget for schools in England is to rise from £35bn to £39bn over the next four years, Chancellor George Osborne said in his Spending Review.

But universities in England are to face a 40% cut to their teaching budgets, while post-18 further education takes a 25% hit.

Unions and other organisations had a mixed reaction, some welcoming the priority given to schools funding, while others strongly criticised the cuts that will still take place.

Public service union Unison

Unison said the Chancellor had condemned the country to "decades of hardship" and said the coalition was being dishonest by saying the schools budget would be boosted.

General secretary Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said: "Schools also get vital funding and support services from local authorities, which are being hit by drastic cuts. Many will struggle to afford to help schools support children with special needs, or run truancy units. Schools will have to dip into their own funds to pay for these essential services.

"Up and down the country schools support staff are facing losing their jobs. It all adds up to mean cuts will disproportionately hit children with additional needs in schools."

National Union of Teachers

The NUT described the spending review as a "retrograde step" and said it would have a "devastating impact" on public services, including education.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said schools were not protected.

"Attacks are already being made on additional education funding outside of the core schools budget, with vital frontline services to schools already under threat. There will be a total real reduction in the education department's spending of 3% by 2014-15.

"Teachers are faced with a pay freeze and cuts to pensions which mean they have to work longer for less. The Chancellor's speech leaves a lot of key questions unanswered."

Association of Colleges

The AoC said Mr Osborne's announcements were "not as dire as we had expected".

Assistant chief executive Julian Gravatt, said: "However, colleges, which have already seen a 14% cut to adult learner responsive budgets this year, are facing further cuts of around 25%.

"We are concerned about the prospects of students from poorer families following the announcement of the withdrawal of the Educational Maintenance Allowance and would like to see more detail about what is meant by 'more targeted support' for these young people.

"Further concerns centre on funding for basic skills in the workplace following the end of the Train to Gain programme and the review of Higher Education (HE) funding will create challenges for colleges delivering HE courses."

Association of School and College Leaders

ASCL welcomed the Chancellor's commitment to education and the priority that had been given to protecting education funding.

But ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman warned: "Schools and colleges will suffer the knock-on effect from cuts to other services. Fewer social workers and education psychologists and less local authority support for hard-to-place students means that schools will struggle to provide support for students with behavioural and emotional difficulties.

"There are hidden costs to abolishing arms length bodies. For instance, the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency provided a central service for collecting exam scripts. It remains to be seen whether schools and colleges will be expected to cover costs like these in the future."

ASCL welcomed the £16bn for capital projects, saying this would help to tackle some of the most urgent need.

Nasuwt teachers' union

General Secretary Chris Keates said trying to work out the implications of the Spending Review was like "knitting fog", but "we can be certain that many schools are facing a budget cut".

She said it was "reckless" to abolish the Education Maintenance Allowance, while "school budgets have been plundered to pay for the pupil premium" making it an "illusion".

"Even a cursory examination of the CSR figures indicates a substantial loss of teacher and support staff jobs in schools and local authority central services," she said.

"The 7% cuts per annum to local authorities will also have a devastating impact on provision of services for children and families. So much for protecting the front line."

National Day Nurseries Association

The NDNA welcomed the continued 15 hour free entitlement to three and four-year-olds and free nursery places for needy two-year-olds. But it raised concerns about the percentage of costs working parents would be able to claim back for childcare under the tax credits system. The association said the move would affect parents' ability to work, particularly those on the lowest incomes.

Chief executive Purnima Tanuku said: ""The ultimate affect of the reduction in working tax credits could be that nurseries struggle even more as parents either find work does not pay because of childcare costs, or cut down on their usage by turning to informal care.

"Whilst NDNA understands the UK is in a period of austerity, we must recognise that parents have to be helped with the cost of childcare, children must be able to benefit from high quality experiences in their early years and vitally, the sustainability of nurseries must be supported so that parents can access the care that meets their needs."

Children's charity 4Children

4Children chief executive Anne Longfield said: "Britain's families will be relieved that Sure Start children's centres, free nursery places for three and four-year-olds and child benefit for 16-19 year olds will remain into the future.

"However, cuts to child benefit for higher rate tax payers and cuts to support for childcare costs for working families do not support and strengthen family life in Britain. We are concerned that the cumulative impact of a range of cuts and tax rises, including the VAT rise in January, will have a real impact on families who are only just getting by.

"Given the scale of reductions in funding going to local government and the ending of ring-fencing many grants, we will also be monitoring closely cuts to local services that families rely on."

National Union of Students

The NUS said the spending review told an entire generation "you're on your own".

President Aaron Porter said: "This is a devastating blow to higher and further education that puts the future of colleges and universities at risk and will have repercussions for the future prospects of students and learners.

"Government ministers from both parties keep telling us that the deficit must be reduced to avoid passing a poisoned legacy to the next generation, but now they are proposing to eliminate almost all funding for university education whilst simultaneously transferring the debt onto students.

"Ministers who themselves received their university education for free are now saying that the next generation will have to do without."

Universities UK

Universities UK said the review was bad news for the economy and society and called on the government to respond, "as a matter of urgency", to Lord Browne's recommendation to lift the cap on tuition fees.

UUK President, Professor Steve Smith, added: "We are also concerned about the impact of policy announcements in other government departments which relate to higher education, such as teacher education and regional development."

UUK welcomed the fact that the science budget would be frozen over the next four years.

"However, the freezing of funding for research will still pose challenges to our universities. We are now one of the only countries in the industrialised world that is not increasing our investment in science and research," said Professor Smith.

National Association of Head Teachers

The NAHT said, having escaped cuts, schools would be on the front line of helping people manage through the years ahead.

General Secretary Russell Hobby said: "Schools will embrace greater freedom from bureaucracy if it allows us to make the right decisions for our pupils and their families.

"We agree that early intervention and financial support for our most disadvantaged children and young people is essential in addressing inequities and so we welcome announcements in those areas."

The NAHT said it needed to understand more about the pupil premium and how it would affect the distribution of funding between schools.

Labour Party

Shadow Education Secretary Andy Burnham said George Osborne's words are "already unravelling" and the "much vaunted pupil premium" had turned out to be a "complete con".

"It does not come from outside the schools budget as the Coalition Agreement promised - we find out today that it is to be recycled from within it, creating huge winners and losers among schools," he said.

He also said that, because of increasing pupil numbers, the school's budget would still amount to a real terms cut in funding per pupil.

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