Unions want £1.7bn more school funding in autumn statement

Chancellor warned that without extra cash, schools 'will begin to cut essential provision in order to survive'

Chancellor warned that without extra cash, schools 'will begin to cut essential provision in order to survive'

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

Unions have demanded that the chancellor pump at least £1.7 billion of extra funding into schools at the autumn statement.

General secretaries of the National Education Union, NASUWT teaching union and the NAHT and ASCL school leaders’ unions warned that without additional cash, schools “may not be able to recruit or retain teachers, and will begin to cut essential provision in order to survive”.

In a letter to Jeremy Hunt, the union leaders pointed out school budgets are due to grow by just 1.9 per cent in 2024-25.

But if pay rises for school staff match those awarded this year, schools will face a 5.8 per cent increase in their costs, the unions said.

This overall increase in schools’ costs “will require an increase in school funding of at least £1.7 billion in 2024-25 in order to recruit and retain teachers and protect schools and colleges from having to make further cuts in provision”.

The autumn statement will be delivered on November 22. Last year’s statement included an announcement of an extra £2 billion of funding for schools both last year and in the current financial year.

The letter follows the revelation that school budgets will grow by less than predicted in July due to a mistake in government’s calculations.

Indicative allocations data published by the Department for Education suggested school budgets would increase by 2.7 per cent overall. The mistake would have inflated the total schools budget by £370 million.

Schools ‘can only afford 1% pay rise’

In their letter, the unions said they were “deeply concerned that following the correction of an accounting error, mainstream schools’ funding via the national funding formula will only rise by an average 1.9 per cent per pupil next year”.

“This is well below the current rate of inflation and will place even greater pressure on already over-stretched school budgets. Currently schools will only be able to afford a staff pay rise of one per cent in September 2024.

“We welcome your decision to substantially increase the level of the national minimum wage in April 2024; however, schools will not be able to afford this without an increase in school funding.”

The unions pointed to advice to the government from the School Teachers’ Review Body, which said in its 33rd report that “investment is needed to proactively manage the worsening recruitment position and declining competitiveness of teacher pay”.

“It will be more cost-effective to act sooner rather than later. The cost of failure is high: it affects teaching quality and adversely impacts on children’s education.”

They also pointed to comments from prime minister Rishi Sunak, who said last month his “main funding priority in every spending review from now on will be education”.

“In securing the government’s vision for education as a driver for securing a more prosperous future for all, there is no more important time than now to ensure investment in schools, colleges and the education workforce.”

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