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Hinds: 'I am conscious of budgeting challenges for schools'

Following Monday's Budget, the education secretary Damian Hinds insists that education is the most important investment a country can make

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Following Monday's Budget, the education secretary Damian Hinds insists that education is the most important investment a country can make

As education secretary, I want to see a Budget that boosts our economy, supports our public services and, crucially, invests in Britain’s future. To invest in our children’s education, training and care is one of the most important investments that any country can make.

There is no more fundamental responsibility than keeping children safe. In the Budget, we announced £84 million in extra cash to support local authorities to invest in initiatives that improve social work practice and decision-making so that children can stay safely at home and thrive in stable family circumstances where that is in their best interests. This will build on the lessons learned from successful innovation programmes in Hertfordshire, Leeds and North Yorkshire.

Alongside this, the government is also providing £410 million for local authorities to spend on adult and children’s social care.  

The UK government spends the most in the G7 on primary and secondary education as a percentage of GDP, but I am acutely conscious of budgeting challenges for schools. We spend more on schools but we also ask more of them than we did a generation ago.

The Budget provides an additional £400 million in-year funding for schools’ small capital projects. An average size primary school will receive £10,000 and an average size secondary school, £50,000.  Schools can spend this on capital projects to meet their own priorities; whether that is investing in IT infrastructure; small-scale enhancement to buildings; or renovations to sports facilities or equipment. This funding comes on top of the £1.4 billion we have already provided this year to those responsible for maintaining school buildings.

The government took an early strategic decision to commit to a £84 billion five-year deal for the NHS. Crucially, this new funding will see the NHS invest more in mental health services over the next five years, including for young people.

There are unique pressures on children growing up today that didn’t exist a generation ago and we know there are too many young people suffering from stress, anxiety or depression. A recent study showed that a quarter of young people in Year 10 showed symptoms of psychological distress, such as not being able to concentrate, make decisions, sleep or overcome difficulties.

Our mental health matters as much as our physical health. This new funding will create specialist crisis teams for children and young people across the country, along with school-based mental health support teams.

There were two further small but important commitments in this Budget – £1 million to help more students visit World War One battlefields; and £1.7 million for a charity to deliver education programmes in schools, marking in 2020 the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. More than ever, we must remember the horrors of the past to make sure we do not repeat them. 

We are not just focused on the school years. For too long this country has let down people who aren’t on the A-levels to university path. As a result, too many young workers end up stuck in low-paid, low-skilled jobs – and our economy suffers too.

We are now in the process of fundamentally reforming the technical education offer, so everyone has a clear route to the career they want, whether that’s as an engineer or a software developer. 

To this end, we are introducing new gold-standard T Level qualifications that will combine classroom study and real-world industry placements. At the Budget, we confirmed that the colleges delivering the first T Levels in 2020 will receive £38 million so that they have cutting-edge, industry-standard facilities and equipment required to make T Levels a success.

It shouldn’t matter what start you have in life or who your parents are, everyone should have a chance to make the most of themselves. As a parent, I want the best for my children, and as education secretary, it’s my job to do everything I can to provide the best opportunities for every child.

This is not only a moral imperative, it’s critical for our economy. As Benjamin Franklin once put it: “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies points out, education spending is the second largest area of public service spending in the UK after health. We will build an education system that helps everyone to do their best while providing the highly skilled workforce our country needs to be fit for the future.

Damian Hinds is the secretary of state for education

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