Spending Review: Early years set to lose out

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While the Chancellor confirmed that the schools budget will remain protected under the Spending Review, worries have been raised about what it will mean for the early years sector.

During the Spending Review, Chancellor George Osborne announced that the budget for education will increase to £53 billion for 2015-16 and that school spending will be protected in real terms.

A National Funding Formula will also be introduced in 2015, which Mr Osborne said will remove inequalities in funding across schools in different areas.

However, the sector has expressed concern that when the National Funding Formula, covering five- to 16-year-olds, replaces the current Dedicated Schools Grant for children aged two - 16, early years could be subject to cuts.

The Spending Round document states, ‘The Government will continue to reform the 16-19 and early education sectors, including implementation of the funding reforms recommended by Doug Richard (about apprenticeships) and Professor Alison Wolf  of King’s College London(vocational education), while requiring these sectors to be more efficient.’

Denise Burke, director of United for All Ages and the Good Care Guide, said, ‘The chancellor was keen to boast that education funding has been protected but the new proposed National Funding Formula only covers the age range five to 16. Where does this leave funding for early years?

‘I worry that it means early years funding has fallen along the wayside and will be included in local authority funding, which has been cut. Early years and childcare is in crisis and the sector may remain underfunded.’

The Chancellor also announced that the Government will be funding more free schools and that it has committed £50bn capital investment in 2015, adding up to more than £300bn for schools by 2020.

Other measures include putting more money into apprenticeships and removing automatic pay rises for time served for staff in schools. The Pupil Premium will also be expanded and an extra £200m has been invested in the Troubled Families programme.

Comments from the sector

Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said, ‘There are more questions than answers for children and families. In particular, the Chancellor said nothing about how Government will seek to address rising child poverty or what the continued squeeze on local authority spending will mean for vital services in local communities including Sure Start children’s centres. 
‘The Fair4Families campaign, led by 4Children, has been calling on Government to make families with children a priority – as it has done with pensioners.  Government has not chosen to do this, in fact families were barely mentioned during the one hour statement.  It is hard to see how government will realise its ambition to make Britain the most family friendly nation in Europe when families seem so far down its agenda.

Dr Hilary Emery, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said, ‘Once again, the Chancellor does not appear to have had children at the forefront of his mind when he set out his spending plans.
‘Although the pupil premium remains protected, and changes will be made to the national distribution of education funding, there was precious little investment in children and young people who need the greatest help. Instead, it is these children who are set to bear the brunt of further cuts to welfare and public services.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said, ‘ The Government’s plan for a national school funding formula and redistribution of already limited resources will simply shift funding problems around the school system. 

‘The announcement of an acceleration in the free schools programme follows the huge waste of public money on the academies programme.  Instead of wasting more money on free schools, we need properly targeted and planned capital spending to respond to the huge increase in school places we need as the pupil population increases.
‘The Chancellor again singled out public sector workers, including teachers, with confirmation of the Government’s pay cap and attacks on pay progression.  This is no way to increase the status and attractiveness of teaching, or to value teachers and the contribution they make to the nation’s future.’

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said, ‘We are vastly relieved the Government has not cut the schools budget and is protecting schools spending in real terms.
‘We fail to see how the Chancellor’s plans to redistribute school funding between local authority areas will be fairer since he will be giving more money to those with more advantaged children at the expense of areas with high numbers of poorer children.’

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