WAR in Iraq and a continuing world recession will not force the Government to cut education spending, Gordon Brown pledged in his Budget this week.
The Chancellor dismissed fears that lower-than-expected growth would force him to scale back plans to raise education spending by pound;15 billion a year by 2006, but did not announce any new money for schools. "We have not been and we will not be, diverted from increasing investment on our public services at a faster rate than in any post-war period," Mr Brown said.
His statement came as it was revealed that the Government had failed to establish which areas would be most affected by teachers' pay and tax rises before setting this year's council budgets.
Hundreds of teachers are said to be facing redundancy because schools in some areas say funding will fail to match rising costs.
Opposition MPs said the cuts could have been prevented if ministers had done their homework. But ministers say they did not have enough data to calculate the cost of pay rises, and extra pension and national insurance contributions for individual authorities.
A TES survey of local authorities in February found hundreds of teachers and assistants will be made redundant.
Ministers have been forced to find an extra pound;28 million for 36 of the hardest-hit authorities but headteachers' leaders have warned that the money is not enough.
Heads said that the Chancellor had missed an opportunity to allay schools'
fears. "Many heads simply do not have confidence that we are going to see massive increases in funding over the next three years," said David Hart, National Association of Head Teachers general secretary.
Mr Brown also said the Government will give the 700,000 babies born each year an endowment of at least pound;250, rising to pound;500 for the poorest third. Parents and grandparents can add to the fund which will be made available to young people when they reach the age of 18.
A thousand secondaries in deprived areas will benefit from a pilot scheme employing 250 enterprise advisers to improve links between schools and business. The pilot is part of a drive to give people skills wanted by business.
Mr Brown also reaffirmed Britain's commitment to a plan that would see rich countries commit a total of $50 billion a year for essential aid to developing countries, including cash to give primary education to the 115 million children currently without it.
News, 14; FE Focus, 47; International, 20