The one-off £400 million for “little extras” from the chancellor last week was an insult to teachers and schools who have faced years of Tory cuts, leaving budgets £1.7 billion lower in real terms than they were five years ago.
The fact is that across the country schools, including in the prime minister’s own constituency, are having to write home to parents to ask for money to buy basic resources. They don’t need money for little extras – they need it for the essentials.
We have rising class sizes, a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention and, according to the Department for Education’s own figures, 2,000 children in England with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who have no education provision at all.
To use the Budget to give potholes more money than schools is a sorry reflection on this government’s priorities. If austerity was really over then the government would have stopped its sticking-plaster approach to school finances and given them the funding they really need. Sadly, it is clear that austerity is not over in our schools.
We are now in the unprecedented situation of the NEU teaching union, the NAHT heads' union and the Association of School and College Leaders taking the step of simultaneously consulting with their respective members on what action to take next.
Government failing to invest in education and skills
It beggars belief that the government has ignored the School Teachers Review Body’s recommendation of an across the board 3.5 per cent increase of all pay and allowances. The first time that has happened in the 28-year history of the body.
To make matters worse, the government expects schools to meet the cost of the first 1 per cent of the pay award from existing budgets, which have already been cut to the bone.
With the economic uncertainty of Brexit, and the challenges that is going to bring, to have a government that is failing to invest in education and skills defies all logic.
As a former primary school teacher, I know the difference that a good teacher, with the right support and resources, can make to a child’s attainment and aspiration.
We go into teaching because we believe in the value of education. We believe in its power to create social mobility. We believe in its ability to create ambition for all.
That is why Labour has worked with parents, teachers and professionals in the education sector to put forward plans for a National Education Service.
It is why Labour’s National Education Service doesn’t promise “little extras”. It would reverse school cuts and value educators as the highly-skilled professionals they are.
This is about our children’s future and the future of our country, and little extras simply won’t do.
Mike Kane MP is the shadow minister for schools