Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his first Budget yesterday, making a series of education-related announcements. Below is a breakdown of the key points he made during his speech, along with comments from SCHOOLS NorthEast.
Free schools and grammar schools expansion
The Government will extend the free schools programme with investment of £320m in this Parliament to help fund up to 140 schools, including independent-led, faith, selective, university-led and specialist maths schools.
Of these, 30 were announced to open in September 2020 and the new free schools “will be located where they are most needed to improve the choice of schools available to parents, following a rigorous assessment of local factors”.
The Government has also expanded the current ‘extended rights’ entitlement for children aged 11-16 who receive free school meals or whose parents claim Maximum Working Tax Credit. Under these conditions, they will now get free transport to attend the nearest selective school in their area.
In Autumn Statement 2016 the Government also pledged £50m per year of new funding towards the expansion of existing grammar schools.
Mr Parker commented: “Demand for school places, particularly in secondary schools, is rising sharply so additional funding to increase capacity is welcome. The argument that grammar schools is the solution has yet to be proven. In fact, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that, in areas where grammar schools are in operation, pupils who do not attend selective schools ‘make less progress in partially-selective and wholly-selective areas than in areas without selection’.
“The fixation on school structure gets in the way of the real issue which is that we need to make sure we’ve got sufficient places at good quality schools across the country.”
T-levels: funding technical education
The Government pledged to increase the number of programme hours of training for 16-19 year olds on technical routes by more than 50%, to over 900 hours a year on average, including the completion of a high quality industry work placement during the programme.
The routes will be introduced from 2019-20 and £500m of additional funding per year invested once routes are fully implemented.
The new T-levels were announced by the Chancellor as “game-changing” reforms to technical qualifications.
Director Mike Parker said: “Giving vocational qualifications an equal standing to academic ones is a positive step and efforts to streamline the system will make it easier for pupils and parents to make the right choice.
“However, if the Government does not focus on funding 0-16 education adequately, it risks harming the ability of children deciding to study for these T-level qualifications. We must ensure children don’t miss out on the strong educational grounding that is essential to give them the skills and ability to go on to achieve advanced qualifications – both vocational and academic.”
Funding for school maintenance
The Chancellor announced a further £216m investment in school maintenance, to help rebuild and refurbish existing schools. The money will be allocated over the course of two academic years, with half spent in 2018-19 and the other half in 2019-20.
Mike Parker commented: “Funding to help rebuild and refurbish existing schools is much needed. However, it doesn’t fill the operational blackhole in schools across England.”
£1bn for school sports from the sugar tax
The Chancellor announced that the sugar tax revenue was lower than initially forecast, as manufacturers reduced the sugar content in some products. Despite the shortfall, the Treasury will give the Department for Education £1bn over the rest of this parliament to spend on sports activities in schools and to help promote healthy lifestyles amongst pupils.