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Budget a missed opportunity for schools, says NAHT

Commenting on the Budget, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, says “Chancellor Philip Hammond had a chance today to provide extra support for schools. He failed to take it, despite concerns raised by school leaders, governors and teachers across the country.

“Yesterday we heard that extra funding will be found to deliver more grammar schools, but nothing will be provided to existing schools. Schools are in a funding crisis now, and opening more free schools will do nothing to change that.

“Last week we, along with the National Governors’ Association, wrote to the Chancellor to highlight concerns schools have around current funding and the pressures yet to come. We set out the need for extra investment, but also suggested a number of innovative ways to boost school funding, such as widening exemptions for the apprenticeship levy to include more schools, and auto-registering pupils to the pupil premium. The Chancellor has failed to deliver.

“For many schools, this Budget was their last chance. In our annual Breaking Point survey published in January, 72 per cent of school leaders told us that their budgets will be unsustainable by 2019. For them, this Budget was a chance to address this, and they will be bitterly disappointed by the total absence of extra money for schools.

“Over the last few years, we have seen the Treasury give with one hand and take with the other, such as through increases in national insurance and pension contributions. Now we are seeing the Treasury take with both hands, as £600 million will disappear through the education services grant (ESG) and the Treasury has made clear that it will claw back £384m originally promised for schools in England to pay for academy conversion costs.

“Schools are being pushed beyond breaking point. The Budget today does nothing to change that. It is difficult to bring in a new funding system, but doubly so if the money put in the system is not enough in the first place. The Treasury is undermining the funding formula before it has begun. Without the right investment, we fear it will fail.”

James Bowen, director of middle leaders’ union NAHT Edge, says “middle leaders will see today’s Budget as a failure. We know schools are being pushed to breaking point – not replacing staff to save money, narrowing curricula, cutting training, increasing class sizes - the list is a long one.

“Much of the public debate in recent months has been about the lack of investment in the NHS and social care. But failing to invest in schools is starting to emulate the crisis we are seeing in health. And yet, spending on education is an investment, not a cost. It helps address social disadvantages when there is a chance to address them, and helps shape the kind of citizens and workers we want in the future.

“The Chancellor can find hundreds of millions of pounds to pursue a policy on grammar schools, but cannot find the resources to give schools the resources they need to deliver for all pupils. The government’s claim to deliver policy based on evidence is in tatters. Education should be for all pupils, not just a select few.”