In his speech to the Conservative party conference, Damian Hinds, the secretary of state for education, made several new policy announcements, but was criticised by school leaders for not mentioning the topic of school funding. Speaking to delegates in Birmingham, Mr Hinds said that he wouldn’t be satisfied until the goal of ‘a world class education for everyone, whatever path you take, whatever your background’ had been achieved. During the speech he announced several initiatives which he suggested supported this vision, including £10 million to ‘support the spreading of best practice and knowledge on behaviour management and classroom management’. He also announced £38 million of funding which would be available to the colleges which would be teaching the first T Levels – vocational qualifications equivalent to A Levels – to ensure they had ‘world class equipment and facilities. Another piece of spending unveiled by Mr Hinds was £5 million to train additional ‘careers leaders’ in schools. The government had originally pledged around £4 million to train up to 500 careers leaders in its careers strategy published in December 2017.
However, reaction to the education secretary’s speech largely focused on the fact that, despite making these announcements of relatively modest additional funding for specific projects, he had not directly addressed the topic of general school funding. Responding to Mr Hinds address, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said ‘If the profession truly has the respect of ministers then teachers will expect to see action not words, including substantially more investment in the additional support and resources teachers desperately need’. Meanwhile Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) commented ‘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.’