Fri, 02 Nov 2018
A ONE-off £400m payment for schools – announced by chancellor Phillip Hammond during his budget speech on Monday – has been described as “insulting” by one West Berkshire headteacher.
The payment, amounting to an average of £10,000 per primary school and £50,000 per secondary school, was branded “disappointing” by the chairman of the West Berkshire Primary Headteachers Association, Andy Higgs.
The chancellor faced criticism from teachers after announcing the bonus for “that extra bit of kit” that school budgets did not always stretch to.
Mr Higgs, the headteacher at Bucklebury Primary School, said: “I think it would have almost been better to have said nothing about schools than to wind his way down the ‘little extras’ cul-de-sac.
“It’s done nothing other than offend anybody to do with schools up and down the country.”
Mr Higgs said that schools would be restricted in spending the money as it is tied to capital.
He added that, as most schools in the district were small rural ones, they would “get nowhere near” the average £10,000.
He said: “Schools are not taking services because the local authority is charging for them where they haven’t in the past.
“Bucklebury, for some considerable time, took IT support and we can’t afford to take that now and we have to use the expertise available to us in school.
“It’s an insult because people in schools know that we are at a point now where we have to change... where there’s essentially a check list.”
He said that many schools asked for annual donations, some requesting pencil cases, pencils and pens.
“We are now at the stage of talking about fundamentals – paying for people and classroom resources,” he said.
“Across West Berkshire parents are being asked to provide or support classroom resources. At the same time the chancellor says here’s a bit of money to pay for these little extras.
“It’s targetted in the wrong place.
“I don’t understand how there can be such a fundamental disconnect between discussions in central government and the challenges that school leaders are facing.”
The £400m is separate from long-term schools funding, and public service finances will be assessed in an upcoming spending review.
Mr Higgs said local headteachers thought that there needed to be more cash going into schools.
He added that the national funding formula was not going to resolve the crisis and restrictions on funding streams coming into schools needed to be removed as they could “inhibit rather than enhance” what schools do.
“The pressure on schools is coming in the revenue budget,” he said. “We need support to be able to pay people and we spend more and more on people.
“People are important, but so are resources to allow children to learn.”
When asked about the chancellor’s wording, Newbury MP Richard Benyon said: “I think the words ‘little extras’ weren’t actually the ones the chancellor used.”
He said that the funding would not resolve the issues, but help ease them.
“It’s certainly responding to some of the needs that have been raised by parents and schools,” he said.
“The decisions taken in this budget have been to address fundamental financial requirements of the NHS.
“If we can come to a sensible Brexit, all the headroom money that the chancellor is holding back will be available for future budgets.”
Mr Benyon said that Britain did “pretty well” when comparing school spending across Europe, but admitted there were “undoubtable tensions in school budgets that need to be addressed in the future”.
“Some schools are doing well, others aren’t, and we need to make sure we understand the reason why others are not,” he said.
“The message coming from people right across the country in MPs’ boxes is NHS, NHS. The chancellor has responded to that.
“I’m hoping that after Brexit there will be more funding for other areas of public services.”