Commenting on the Government’s Spending Review and the Chancellor’s Budget Statement, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"Today, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak had a historic opportunity to value education and value educators. Despite his rhetoric he has failed.
“The aspiration of 'levelling up' is a good one but Government policy on education is achieving the opposite. As the Public Accounts Committee noted last week, education funding policy is driving money away from areas with greater relative need. Today’s announcement will not remove those inequalities. The Chancellor is also still determined that education recovery will be done on the cheap. This short-sightedness will damage the life chances of young people for many years to come.
“Today’s announcements fall far short of what is needed to tackle the scourge of child poverty. 4.3 million children were growing up trapped in poverty even before the pandemic. Failure to reverse the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit risks plunging yet more children into poverty. Reducing the taper rate will not benefit families without work and will not make up the cut for many working families which do benefit. The failure to expand Free School Meals is a further disappointment. No child should be coming to school too hungry to learn.
“Taking so long to restore the cuts made from 2010 onwards should not be a matter of pride for any Government, but one of embarrassment.
"With just £2bn added, the Government's plan for education recovery is completely inadequate. Recovery tsar Sir Kevan Collins proposed a £15 billion package and resigned when it was rejected. Even with the announcement today, the Chancellor is operating at around a third of that price. This is simply not good enough. Recovery will take years of work and investment.
"Funding for special educational needs and disability (SEND) has consistently failed to keep pace with the growth in numbers of young people with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) in recent years. Today's £2.6bn additional money will close the gap but only temporarily. It is another example of corner cutting by a Government that is yet to publish the outcomes of its review of SEND provision.
"New funding for post-16 education is an acknowledgement that the sector matters, but only a partial repair of the even greater damage done to this sector than to schools since 2010. Alongside NAHT, we called for an additional £6bn over the next three years. The Chancellor's skills announcement continues to sideline Applied General Qualifications including BTECs and Cam Techs. This will fall heaviest on disadvantaged students, for whom AGQs have been a passport to higher education and employment.
"Pay has been eroded in real terms by successive Conservative governments, increasing the tide of recently qualified teachers leaving in their first five years. The pay freeze this year was nothing short of an insult, but the hint of a pay rise may still prove to be a con. If the Chancellor expects to meet a pay rise through existing budgets, then we will see further cuts and impossible decisions for school and college leaders attempting to balance their books. The NEU will be watching Rishi Sunak’s next steps carefully - on giving the School Teachers Review Body its head, on taking on board its recommendations, and on funding them fully so that leaders are able to properly reward and retain all their staff.
"We urge the Chancellor to view pay rises as investment. Investment in public services, investment in having the teachers we need in front of our classes, investment in having the nurses we need for our patients. Public sector workers also aid the economy by spending on the high street, something they are less inclined to do if they are struggling to make ends meet. The era of real terms pay cuts - which has seen a 15% cut since 2010, and an alarming exodus of recently qualified teachers - has been wholly destructive and must now end.
"The Chancellor wants to be seen as generous but has inherited a long and sorry legacy of cuts. Offering a fraction of what is needed to repair services which have been persistently underfunded is not valuing education. It is not valuing educators. Schools and colleges need more support to help children succeed. Today, the Chancellor has only underscored his failure to deliver for staff, young people and parents."