Posted in Funding, school business management, teacher's pay, Uncategorized

The good, the bad and the debatable

*Any views and opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not those of TheSchoolBus or HCSS Hub Ltd.*

It comes as no surprise that as George Osborne announced his financial plans for the country; he revealed the education sector will be facing yet more cuts.

Despite the Conservative Party’s promise to protect school budgets and spending per pupil, plans have been confirmed to reduce the funding of educational support services. After all, if a politician stuck to their promises, then it really would be headline news.

The aim of this overhaul in education is to remove large regional differences in levels of per pupil funding. But, is it doing more harm than good? It is debatable, that’s for sure.

The good

It is not all bad news though, as total financial support for education and care will increase by £10 billion in the next five years.

The Chancellor has upped his pledge to protect school budgets, with the news that pupil premium and grants for schools based on the number of pupils will also be protected.

Meanwhile, to help school and college sixth-forms stay afloat, a rescue package has been offered with the aim of protecting them from further cuts. Sixth-form colleges will also have the chance to save themselves £317,000 a year in VAT payments, as it was revealed that they will now have the opportunity to become academies.[1]

Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth-Form Colleges Association, James Kewin, said: “The Chancellor has delivered better than expected news for sixth-form colleges today. A further round of cuts would have had a devastating effect on the life chances of sixth-form colleges.”(Garner, para 5)

In an attempt to help out parents, Osborne has confirmed proposals for 30 hours of free childcare for three-to-four year olds. However, it is not as black and white as you would hope.

Only parents who work at least 16 hours a week and earn less than £100,000 a year will be eligible for the service. This raises the question as to what about the single parents who can’t work 16 hours a week, due to the need for childcare. Will they be eligible for free childcare too?

Malcolm Trobe, Deputy General Secretary of the Association of School and Colleges, said: “It is important for people to understand that schools and colleges face substantial real-terms cuts despite the spending commitments made today.”

The bad

Whilst there is some good news following the spending review, it can be argued that it is outweighed by the increasing worry over the cuts that are to be imposed.

“There are no winners and losers under the government’s funding proposals – there are only losers and even bigger losers,” said the NUT’s Kevin Courtney.[2]

It is likely that a storm is brewing after it was announced that cuts will be made to the funding of educational support services.

The Local Government Association has warned of £600m being taken from budgets for services such as speech therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, music and checks on staff. For many children these services are vital to their learning and development, raising suspicion as to why this action that has been taken. (Coughlan, para 13)

Is this the only way that Osborne can successfully fulfil his promise of protecting school budgets?

The debatable

As news of the review sinks in, Pope Francis has added another ingredient to the mix, by declaring that teachers should be given a pay rise. After he raised his concerns in March, describing it as an “injustice” that teachers are paid so poorly, the Pontiff has continued to cause a stir.[3]

Calling on Catholic educators to overcome a tendency towards being too selective, Pope Francis said: “The educational alliance is broken. And this is our job, to find new paths.”(Busby, para 4)

An issue causing further debate within the educational funding debacle is whether free school meals will still be available in the future. Following the promise to protect school budgets, cuts must be made in the slim amount of areas left possible, including the free school meals initiative.[4]

With David Cameron fully backing the free school meals programme (it was a Conservative manifesto pledge after all), the initiative has been spared the axe, but it is more than likely not the end of the debate.

As the teaching sector continues to take a financial battering, the spending review has only highlighted the money woes that schools and sixth-forms are facing with yet more budget cuts. In the words of ABBA; “it’s a rich man’s world.”

[1] Richard Garner (2015) ‘Autumn Statement: Government to protect schools and college sixth-forms from future cuts’, para.3 <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/autumn-statement-government-to-protect-school-and-college-sixth-forms-from-future-cuts-a6748786.html> [Last accessed: 30 November 2015]

[2] Sean Coughlan (2015) ‘Spending Review: School funding to be overhauled’, para.11  <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-34921585>  [Last accessed: 30 November 2015]

[3] Eleanor Busby (2015) ‘The Pope calls for teachers to be given a pay rise’, para.5 <https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/pope-calls-teachers-be-given-a-pay-rise> [Last accessed: 30 November 2015]

[4] Rowena Mason (2015) ‘How George Osborne’s spending cuts will affect each government department’, para.8 <http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/nov/09/spending-review-how-the-cuts-could-fall-at-government-departments>   [Last accessed: 30 November 2015]

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