School leaders have criticised Damian Hinds for neglecting school funding in his first Conservative party conference speech as education secretary – instead making “recycled announcements”.
Hinds said unveiled today his plans for “a world class education for everyone, whatever path you take, whatever your background”.
The speech contained few new policy announcements, apart from £10 million to improve training on behaviour for teachers, and a further £5 million to double the number of careers leaders in schools to 500.
But his failure to address school funding – just days after 2,000 heads marching on Downing Street over funding pressures – has been criticised.
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said until schools are “properly funded” there will be “no world class education system and all other measures will be nothing more than sticking-plaster solutions to a real crisis”
“The Government was told by heads last week that funding cuts have left some schools in the position where they are cutting subjects from the curriculum, increasing class sizes, cutting school trips and after-school clubs, and leaving buildings in disrepair.
He said that 14 schools in Birmingham – where the conference is being held – have had to cancel Friday afternoon lessons because they “can no longer to staff classrooms properly”.
“This is a disgrace. Nothing in Damian Hinds’ speech addresses this desperate situation.”
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner also criticised her opposite number, claiming Hinds “buried his head in the sand”.
“He once said that education was a ‘special case’ for new investment, yet today’s recycled announcements contained no new funding for schools and did nothing to reverse the damage done by years of Tory austerity.
“In a desperate attempt to spin their way out of a crisis of their own making, Ministers have once again been reduced to repeating utterly discredited statistics in the face of independent advice. If they really want excellence in maths, they could start by making sure their own numbers add up.”
Rayner was seemingly responding to a BBC report today over the Department for Education’s claims on school funding.
In defending its record on school funding, the DfE previously said that the “OECD has recently confirmed that the UK is the third highest spender on education in the world”.
The claim was repeated by schools minister Nick Gibb on BBC Radio 4. But the BBC reported that figure actually shows the gross domestic product (GDP) spent on all educational institutions – including universities, and which includes how much students spent on their tuition fees.
Hinds did announce today £26.3 million for 32 English hubs – but this was a proposal already unveiled in January by his predecessor, Justine Greening.
Furthermore, Greening’s original announcement stated there would actually be 35 English hubs – three less than announced today. (The full list of chosen schools are here)
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was “disappointing” that the “small pots of money” announced today are a “drop in the ocean compared to the funding that is so desperately needed to give all our young people the best possible education”.
“Just a few days after 2,000 headteachers protested in London over the school funding crisis, the government’s response is to make a modest investment in specific initiatives, spread very thinly over several years.
“These announcements do nothing to address the shortage of funding in our schools and colleges which has resulted in cuts to the curriculum and individual support for students. The money announced today needs to be part of a sustained long-term investment in education rather than a one-off soundbite.”