Commenting on the Chancellor's Budget speech, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"It is short-sighted and disappointing that the Government continues to ignore the funding pressures the education sector faces. The Government has said schools are a “national priority”, yet this Budget has provided schools with no new resources to manage coronavirus. Once again this Government has failed to pay attention to the educational professionals who see first-hand, every day, the detrimental impact under-funding of our education system has on the children and young people they teach or care for.
'NEU research shows school spending power is over £2bn less now than it was in 2015-16 and the education sector has specific funding needs to pay for the additional costs of Covid-19. Additional supply costs amounted to £290m last term alone and the Government is offering very little support for this. Schools are losing £290m in lettings income per year, and the Government is offering no help with this. Maintained Nursery Schools are struggling to survive year on year without a long term funding settlement. The pandemic is stretching already overstretched budgets further. If the Government is serious about growing the economy and building a stronger society, it must prioritise education funding and provide the resources to support an education recovery plan as outlined by the NEU.
'A key proposal in the NEU's Education Recovery Plan is to employ supply teachers and qualified teachers who have left the profession to support individualised and small group tuition when pupils and students return. It will be better and more effective to do this than go through private tutoring agencies, where much of the Catch-Up Premium is likely to be wasted in administration costs and profit for agencies. The Catch-Up Premium is far too small to make an impact as it only amounts to a few hours of one-to-one tuition.
'The past year has shone a light on the shocking reality of poverty in the UK. Even before the pandemic, 4.2 million children – the equivalent of 9 pupils in every class of 30 – were trapped in poverty. Recent research predicts the number of children growing up in poverty is rapidly approaching 5 million. The Government must act urgently to establish and invest in a cohesive strategy to eradicate child poverty from the UK to ensure that no child is left behind. The extension of Universal Credit top up credit of £20 per week for the next 6 months is a welcome move towards tackling systemic disadvantage and is something that should be made permanent.”
'The extension of the furlough scheme is obviously welcome, but the Chancellor continues to ignore obvious defects in the scheme; in particular its voluntary nature which means that groups of workers such as school supply staff are routinely excluded from it."