The NAHT and NEU joint submission to the 2021 spending review sets out the priorities that Government and the Department of Education must address as a matter of urgency. The challenges facing school and colleges are twofold – recovery from the damage caused to children's education and tackling the legacy of underfunding since 2010.
Boris Johnson has clearly stated his commitment to education recovery. Fine words must be backed up with concrete proposals and adequate funding. The Government’s rejection of Sir Kevan Collins’s proposal (its own recovery Tsar) for recovery funding of £15 billion for schools and colleges has been a very disappointing start.
The Government has to tackle its legacy of broader education underfunding now. Secondary class sizes have risen by eleven per cent since 2015 and are now at their highest level since records began in 1978. Primary class sizes are at their highest level since 2000. Almost a million pupils are taught in classes with more than thirty pupils.
In 2021-22 education funding for those aged 2-19 needs an additional £7.3bn in revenue funding and £2.8bn in capital funding a year merely to restore funding per pupil to 2015 levels.
In 2024-25 assuming If the Government increases education funding in line with inflation then the funding gap compared to 2015 for revenue will grow to £12.9bn and the shortfall in capital funding will grow to £3.1bn.
These figures are only focused on restoration of 2015 funding levels. In the longer term we need a commitment to increase investment, including capital investment. Education is an essential public service. The ability of schools and colleges to deliver cannot be done on the cheap.
The NEU and NAHT intend to take the Prime Minister at his word. It is now for the Government to respond to the challenge.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: "The Government’s failure to invest in schools is harming the chances of young people. The Prime Minister must now deliver on his promise that no child will be left behind due to learning-lost during the pandemic. Schools need a radically more ambitious package of investment from the Treasury in order to get the job done.
“But investment is about more than ‘recovery’. There must be more ambition for our young people than simply restoring budgets to 2015 levels. This and subsequent generations of pupils deserve better. The government must see education as an investment in this country's future, not a drain on the nation’s finances. The Education Secretary must seize the opportunity of the Comprehensive Spending Review and convince the Chancellor and the Prime Minister to turn rhetoric into investment.”
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary, NEU, said: “It’s the moment of truth for the Government. It can either continue the improvement in education funding started by the 2019 Spending Round or return to the long days of 2010s austerity. The Government ultimately must decide what type of country it wishes us to be – a low-wage, low-skill, low-investment economy, or a high-investment, high-skill, high-productivity economy, leading to high wages for its citizens. Our children deserve a decent future after the chaos of the past 18 months.”