The Prime Minister said the decision to freeze funding for five years was “very difficult” – and a union leader warned of a “harsh, austere period”.
Over the last five years, the education budget has been protected from cuts, rising in line with prices. Now David Cameron has admitted that if he wins the election his party cannot promise to inflation-proof school funding, the Telegraph reports. This would result in an estimated budget cut of 10% in real terms.
Just a day before the announcement, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan appeared to confirm that the schools budget would be ring-fenced, disclosing that she was “fighting” within the Cabinet for the money.
Mr. Cameron claimed that many schools had already shown they could cope “brilliantly” with pressure on budgets. “I accept that it is a difficult decision for some schools, because the amount of cash per child is not going up by inflation,” he said. “But I think that schools have demonstrated, brilliantly, over the last five years that they can be more efficient, they can be more effective, they can make their budgets, they can particularly make their budgets work better because many of them are now academies, and have greater freedoms and greater abilities to run their schools in the way they see fit.”
NAHT’s Russell Hobby estimated that the impact on the school budget would rise to about 12% by 2020 and warned of a “harsh, austere” period ahead. “That is a significant sum of money, especially at a time when external services to schools have been cut to the bone already,” he said. “Staffing is the biggest cost a school faces. This will be protected to the last, but what happens then?”
Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt commented: “The truth is that you can’t protect schools when you have plans to take spending as a share of GDP back to levels not seen since the 1930s. Labour has always prioritised schools and would be able to do so again because we have a balanced approach to bringing down the deficit, unlike the Tories’ risky plan not just to balance the books but to cut for year after year afterwards.”
What would the effect of a budget cut of up to 12% on your school if the Tories win the election? Do you share Mr Cameron’s view that schools can “make their budgets work better”?