What does the Autumn Statement mean for schools?

On Wednesday, Chancellor Philip Hammond finally lifted the lid on the Autumn Statement.

Unlike previous years the statement only ran to 69 pages, however there were some interesting points raised regarding the future of the education landscape.

One of the most prominent points to come out of the Autumn Statement from the Chancellor is that departmental spending plans announced last year will remain in place.

Also to remain are the apprenticeship levy, the protection of billions of pounds spent on sixth-form and adult education and the proposed programme of skills devolution, all introduced in 2015.

But is there a catch?

The Treasury predicted in last year’s Autumn Statement that the levy would raise £3bn in the financial year 2019/20, but forecasts released today as part of this year’s statement gave a projected figure of £2.8bn in 2019/20 instead.

In addition, the Chancellor repeated the need to find £3.5 billion in saving by 2019/20 – a target set by George Osborne, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, back in March.

Secondly, The Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) latest economic and fiscal outlook, published alongside the Autumn Statement, also downgraded its predictions for earnings growth due to high degree of uncertainty. Although growth is quite healthy now there are concerns that the UK economy will be 2.4 per cent smaller in 2020.

Finally, it’s worth raising the point of inflation. Over the last three years we have embraced low inflation but the official forecast on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) will rise to 2.5% by 2018.

Education focus or lack of…

According to the BBC, head teachers are claiming that the Autumn Statement was ‘disappointing’ despite the government pledging a further £50 million to support the expansion of grammar schools.

It appears that Justine Greening is still pursuing a policy that school leaders are suggesting is ‘the wrong priority’.  Although the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, claimed that the Conservative party were doing a great job with education saying ‘recent reforms have raised standards and expanded opportunity, with 1.4 million more children now in ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools.’

Surely this praise deserves to be heaped on the shoulders of everyone working in the education sector rather than those sitting in Parliament?

The interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Malcolm Trobe said ‘the Autumn Statement failed to address the severe funding pressures in schools and colleges. The situation is so serious that some are struggling to deliver a full curriculum, courses are having to be cut and some sixth-forms are closing. Education is arguably the single most important investment we can make.’

Russell Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, also supported this position observing that ‘school budgets are being pushed beyond breaking point.’

It appears that the Autumn Statement, hasn’t addressed the concerns of those involved in the running of our schools. The government clearly needs to do more.

Tell us your thoughts…

There can be no doubt of the importance of education and the difficult challenges currently facing schools up and down the United Kingdom. What are your thoughts on the most recent Autumn Statement? How would you address the issues of teacher workloads, recruitment challenges and budget shortfalls? Do you think the government is right to continue with its grammar school expansion policy?

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