Education & Family

Heads 'disappointed' by Autumn Statement funding omission

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Head teachers say it is "disappointing" that Chancellor Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement failed to address funding pressures faced by many schools and colleges across England.

The chancellor did, however, confirm a £50m pot of money to support the expansion of grammar schools.

He said the government's education policies had "expanded opportunity".

But head teachers said capital investment in grammar schools was "the wrong priority".

Mr Hammond told MPs on Wednesday: "The government's education reforms have raised standards and expanded opportunity, with 1.4 million more children now in 'good' or 'outstanding' schools.

"And the new capital funding I have provided today for grammar schools will help to continue that trend."

Responding to the statement, Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "It is disappointing that the Autumn Statement failed to address the severe funding pressures in schools and colleges.

"The situation is so serious that some are struggling to deliver a full curriculum, courses are having to be cut and some sixth-forms are closing.

"Education is arguably the single most important investment we can make.

"It provides the country's intellectual infrastructure, the knowledge and skills which will enable us to remain competitive in a global market."

'Breaking point'

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teacher, also expressed his disappointment the government had failed to use the Autumn Statement to invest in education.

"We know that school budgets are being pushed beyond breaking point," he said.

"Almost nine out of 10 school leaders are telling us that a rise in national insurance employer contributions and pension contributions are the key reasons behind financial pressures in their school.

"Freezing budgets at a time of rising costs is no protection at all.

"The government has the levers to address rising costs, but has again failed to pull them.

"Social mobility has rightly become a focus for the government.

"And yet, without investment in what works - quality early years education, high quality teachers and the right funding delivered directly to schools - it is hard to see how the rhetoric can match the reality.

"Capital investment in grammar schools is the wrong priority, and a distraction from the most important issues in education."

Last month, a group of head teachers wrote to Downing Street to express concern about increased funding pressures.

Plans to allow grammar schools to expand were first announced in September by Prime Minister Theresa May, who said that selective schools could help the life chances of poor pupils.

Mrs May said that under the current system there was "selection by stealth", based on parents' wealth and ability to buy houses near the best schools.

A consultation on the proposals is due to close next month.

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