Commenting on the Chancellor’s speech, Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“The economy is struggling to achieve growth, and the Government has downgraded its own growth forecasts in today’s statement. Investing properly in education is an urgent and overriding economic priority, yet what we have seen today is nothing of the sort.
“Just 3.9% of UK GDP is spent on education, compared to the OECD average of 5%. This was highlighted to Jeremy Hunt in a letter earlier this month from the leaders of four education unions, including the NEU. The Chancellor’s response is completely inadequate and makes a mockery of the Prime Minister’s repeated claim that education is at the heart of this Government’s priorities.
“It should be of great concern to Jeremy Hunt that 92% of mainstream schools will be unable to cope with cost increases in 2024/25. For 99% of secondary schools and 91% of primary schools, cuts to education provision are now inevitable.
“These schools have already seen years of under-investment, and in far too many cases school buildings have drifted into serious disrepair. The Chancellor couldn’t even bring himself to fund urgent work on the school estate, following the RAAC scandal which has brought such embarrassment to this Government. This would require at least £4.4bn per year.
“With underfunded and understaffed schools and colleges, and school buildings crumbling, the Government must prioritise investment in schools and colleges and fund a fair pay rise for staff next year. Teachers and support staff have seen their living standards hammered since 2010. Our member surveys show that a majority are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ worried about keeping up with household bills. They have been hit even harder by pay cuts against inflation than other workers, creating major recruitment and retention problems.
“More of the same is not good enough – and it certainly fails parents and young people, too. In order to recruit and retain the teachers that we so clearly need, the Government must demonstrate they value them. That means an urgent, properly funded and major correction in pay, alongside the investment needed to reduce sky-high workload and to make school and college buildings fit for purpose. The Chancellor’s statement does nothing to repair the damage caused by 13 years of Conservative cuts. The Government will pay a heavy political price for continuing to ignore the problems it has created for educators, parents and young people.”