Teachers have branded the chancellor’s promise of £400 million for schools to buy “little extras” as “deeply insulting and disingenuous”.
Philip Hammond announced the one-off capital funding, worth an average of £10,000 for primary schools and £50,000 for secondary schools, in his Budget statement this afternoon.
However, it was met with anger by unions, who accused the chancellor of a “complete misunderstanding” of financial pressures on schools.
It also attracted ridicule on social media.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “To suggest that all schools need is a nominal sum to fund the ‘little extras’ when schools have faced years of real-terms cuts to their budgets and teachers are thousands of pounds worse off from years of real-terms pay cuts is deeply insulting and disingenuous.
“A modest one-off capital payment to schools will not help schools continue to meet the increasingly complex needs of children and young people and ensure that pupils have the resources they need to learn.”
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said that despite the chancellor telling MPs that "the era of austerity is finally coming to an end", it would, in fact, continue for children.
Government's 'priority is potholes, not schools'
He said the NEU would meet with other teachers’ unions “as a matter of urgency”, and added: “The government has promised more money for potholes than schools in this Budget.
"Schools are struggling to provide a full and well-rounded education and many schools have fallen into debt – money for ‘little extras’ won’t cut it."
Jules White, headteacher of Tanbridge House School in West Sussex and leader of the Worth Less? school funding campaign, said “if this is the end of austerity then I don’t understand what austerity is”.
He added: “Parents won’t forgive what’s happening to their children’s schools today, and ‘jam tomorrow’ won’t wash. I believe that it is highly unlikely that headteachers will accept this abysmal state of affairs. Enough is enough."
His views were echoed by school leaders.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, said the chancellor’s remarks “will have infuriated school leaders and families”.
He added: “The best news for schools was a £400 million one-off fund for next year to help schools ‘buy the little extras’ that they may need.
“The school funding crisis is far too deep to be solved in this way. The average payment to a primary school will be £10,000 but primary schools have seen their budgets cut by an average of £45,000 since 2015. In secondary, the cuts have been even more dramatic.
“The government is spending about the same on pupils as it is spending on potholes (£420 million) and half what it proposes to spend on defence (£1 billion).
"Schools and young people are most definitely much too far down the government’s list of priorities, and for schools and young people, austerity is most certainly not over.”
And Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the £400 million “hardly scratches the surface of what is needed”.
He added: “The chancellor’s comment that this money will help schools to ‘buy the little extras they need’ shows a complete misunderstanding of the prevailing funding pressures.
“Many schools don’t have enough money to provide a full curriculum or individual support to pupils, let alone provide ‘little extras’.
“What they desperately need is improved core funding. It is a sign of the government’s priorities that it is spending more on fixing potholes than on fixing the school funding crisis.”
Twitter was soon filled with messages ridiculing the Mr Hammonds' comments:
Our playground markings will be gilded with gold leaf #littleextras— Gemma (@gem1001) October 29, 2018
We shall build a classroom entirely from Kendal Mint Cake #littleextras— Neil Yates (@neilayates) October 29, 2018
I think hiring a michelin star chef to cook for just staff at lunch time would be a great shout.— Joe H (@mrhyndman) October 29, 2018
Fill your school full of potholes. Quids in.— Tom Starkey (@tstarkey1212) October 29, 2018
I think we’ll go for a hawk. The school needs a hawk. @matildewarden— Nicholas Wilson (@mathemacricket) October 29, 2018
No but you could buy loads of glockenspiels with the #LittleExtras the Government is offering. Old glockenspiels, new glockenspiels, shiny, silver glockenspiels, ones with a little Union flag on them... https://t.co/4ALi85dJbu— Z Helman English Teacher & Consultant (@z_helman) October 29, 2018