The announcement by the chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond, that he would provide £400m for schools to ‘buy the little extras they need’ has been met with anger by unions, teachers and parents. Mr Hammond made the announcement during his budget speech on 29th October, and also described the additional funding as an ‘in-year bonus’ which, he said, would average £10,000 per primary school, and £50,000 per secondary school.
However, reaction to the announcement was largely dismissive. School leaders, teachers and parents expressed frustration that the wider issue of general school funding had not been addressed in the budget, and there was also a focus on what was seen as the chancellor’s ‘patronising’ use of language. Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said Mr Hammond’s choice of words was ‘utterly insulting to parents and teachers’, while Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Layla Moran called it ‘an insult to teachers and parents who are trying to cope with the years of rising costs and funding cuts’.
The response from union leaders was also scathing. Commenting on the budget speech, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union said ‘The Chancellor has shown in this budget the depth of his ignorance on school funding. Schools have a £2 billion shortfall in funding a year – which is set to get worse. Capital funding has been cut by a third. A £400 million one off payment for ‘little extras’ will do nothing to address this’. Meanwhile Deborah Lawson, general secretary of the Voice education union, described the extra funding as ‘a little drop in the ocean’, adding ‘What is needed is a properly funded education system that reflects the value of teachers to the economy, enables schools to provide the resources needed, and ensures school buildings are safe, well maintained learning environments’.
Mr Hammond’s tone also provoked reaction more widely, with the hashtag #littleextras trending on Twitter for a time. Some commentators noted that the £400m for schools was less than the £420m of funding that Mr Hammond pledged in the budget to help local authorities with pothole repairs. One parent on Twitter joked that they would be sending their children to school dressed as potholes ‘to see if we can get more funding for their school’, while an anonymous Headteacher asked if holes in the school playing field could be used to access the ‘pothole cash’.
On a slightly more positive note Jonathan Simons, a former government education adviser, described the additional funding as ‘quite a good announcement’ and suggested the reaction to it was ‘entirely a failure of presentation’ which had been ‘politically tin-eared’. In a round of media appearances after the budget, Mr Hammond defended the extra money announced for schools, saying most schools would be ‘happy’ to have the one-off capital funding. Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme, the chancellor said ‘It was simply giving back a little bit of the money that we’ve saved this year so that schools can buy the odd little piece of kit that they need. I think that’s a nice gesture’.
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