Following an announcement from Chancellor Philip Hammond that the budget will move to autumn in future years, the last spring Budget was also one of the shortest on record in terms of narrative and the number of proposals requiring inclusion into the Finance Bill.
Whilst the focus was on social care and the self-employed, there was confirmation of a range of initiatives in education.
Free schools – £320 million for new schools
The Chancellor announced this to support the opening of a further 110 new free schools on top of the 500 committed to in the last Parliament. It would seem that this can only add to the momentum for new grammar schools given the potential for selection in free schools and the government’s intention to lift the ban on grammar schools. A new white paper is expected before Easter.
Building improvements - £216 million
This fund has been made available for the repair and improvement of school buildings, but in reality is a small sum that falls well short of the estimates of backlog maintenance and improvements that school buildings need, which is over £1 billion.
T-Levels – a new technical education route
Investment is being made in 15 technical qualifications for 15 to 19 year olds to replace the hundreds of current technical qualifications and certificates that are currently available. The T-Level will include what the Chancellor referred to as a ‘real’ three month work placement for each student, to ready them for the workplace. It was announced yesterday that there is a shortage of 20,000 engineers in UK industry and so this should be well received across further and higher education and amongst employers.
Schools are facing their biggest ever financial challenge, NUT general secretary, Kevin Courtney, says that their analysis has found 98% of schools will see cuts in real terms under the new funding formula to 2020. There was no extra cash in the budget for the basics that schools need, and schools are struggling to stay still and simply meet annual running costs.
Putting money into the funding formula, rather than into one particular type of school, would have benefitted all schools and would have gone some way to mitigating the loss per pupil that schools will face.
Even Justine Greening didn't sound convinced as she was heckled at ASCL on Friday for saying grammar schools help close the gap for disadvantaged. "Rubbish!" shouted delegates.