Education spending to rise by 2.5%

22 Mar 07
Teaching and school leaders have been muted in their response to a Budget that guarantees further real-terms increases in education spending, albeit at a much lower rate.

23 March 2007

Teaching and school leaders have been muted in their response to a Budget that guarantees further real-terms increases in education spending, albeit at a much lower rate.

After backing city academies at Prime Minister Tony Blair's policy review launch on March 19, Chancellor Gordon Brown on March 21 set out headline education spending allocations for England for the next three years.

Spending is to rise from £60bn to £64bn in 2007/08 and £74bn by 2010/11. Brown also pledged to raise the education leaving age to 18. Education Secretary Alan Johnson was due to flesh out this proposal on March 22.

Brown said: 'Cash spending per pupil, which was £2,500 in 1997, will from now to 2010 rise by a further 20%, 10% in real terms, to £6,600 – continuing to narrow the gap in investment per pupil between state and private schools.'

The allocations will help shift education's share of national wealth spend from 5.4% to 5.6%. But it represents a real-terms increase of just 2.5%, down from an average real-terms growth rate of 4.4%.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told Public Finance that schools were braced for the downturn. He said: 'We've known for some time that the new spending round is not going to be as generous as the past two and it's good to see the continuation of a real-terms increase.

'But the government has to understand that the real-terms increases in previous years have been used to a large extent to introduce their initiatives and if their rate of increase is slowing, then the rate of initiatives must slow too.'

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said it was essential that there was no reduction in the rate of increase in expenditure per child.

But he added: 'It is vital that the government does not take its eye off the ball in spending terms and does not make extravagant commitments which will make unrealistic demands on schools. The Every Child Matters agenda can't be carried out on the cheap and school communities will oppose the allocation of additional responsibilities without the additional staff being found.'

Brown said the extra funds would help to provide 600,000 under-attaining school children with one-to-one tuition, an indication that he has thrown his weight behind the ideas outlined in the public services policy review. This said that frontline services should be more focused on the needs of users.

In education, this might mean greater parental involvement with their child's schooling, with school websites offering up-to-date data on pupils' progress and achievements.

But proposals to publish uncensored reviews of schools as part of public satisfaction league tables drew the wrath of unions. 'Such online bullying of schools is as reprehensible as online bullying of pupils or teachers,' Sinnott said.

PFmar2007

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