The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, delivered his Autumn Budget and Spending Review to Parliament on 27 October. Set against a backdrop of labour shortages, a supply crisis, soaring energy bills and the spectre of inflation, the Chancellor struck an upbeat tone as he heralded an ‘economy for a new age of optimism’.
For the education sector, the Chancellor revealed a Budget and Spending Review stuffed with apparent good news – with headline announcements including £4.bn extra schools funding and £1.8bn for catch-up. However, following a closer examination of the detail, is the Budget and Spending Review all quite as good as it seems?
Core Schools Budget
Treasury documents confirm that the spending review allocates an additional £4.7bn for the core schools budget in England. This announcement will provide £2.6bn to increase school places for SEND pupils, funding 300,000 more places alongside £1.4bn to deliver six million tutoring courses for disadvantaged pupils, and train 500,000 teachers over three academic years.
This is above the spending commitments made in 2019, with the Treasury stating that this would be “broadly equivalent to a cash increase of over £1,500 per pupil by 2024-25 compared to 2019-20”.
However, with the Chancellor confirming the end of the public sector pay freeze, Treasury documents reveal that the extra funding will go towards “supporting delivery” of its pledge to raise new teacher starting salaries to £30,000, rather than directly to pupils. The small print of the document also outlines that the £4.7bn funding increase “includes public sector compensation for employer costs of Health and Social Care Levy”.
The Spending Review confirms an additional £1.8bn for education recovery – on top of the £3.1bn already announced. The new commitment includes a £1bn “recovery premium” for the next two academic years, with primary schools benefiting from an additional £145 per eligible pupil, while the amount for secondary schools will “nearly double”.
While this additional funding is no doubt welcome, it remains a meagre figure compared to former education recovery tsar Sir Kevan Collins proposal for a £15bn long-term programme. Indeed, the UK continues to lag behind comparatively, with less than £500 of funding available for each child in the UK, compared with £1,800 in the US and £2,100 in the Netherlands.
Furthermore, when the government released its initial catch-up package in June 2021, included was a commitment to review time spent in school, amid calls to aid recovery by extending the school day. Ministers said that findings would be set out “later in the year to inform the spending review”. So far, no findings have been released, and there was no mention of any such plans in the Chancellor’s speech or Treasury documents.
Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that the increases in education spending in England is lower than the increases seen in other departments. While the Department for Education’s budget has swelled by 2.2.% in real terms, the average increase across government is higher at 3.3%, with the Department for Health and Social Care receiving a 4% increase.
A new age of optimism?
To engage with the government’s Autumn Budget and Sending Review effectively, organisations will need to understand the wider direction of education policy. GK Strategy are specialists in education and are experts at supporting organisations who are operating in highly regulated sectors and helping them to navigate complex markets and build relationships with key decision makers.
With the Government outlining its long-term spending plans, there are plenty of opportunities for education providers to benefit.