Spending review: Education picture ‘very encouraging’

THE chancellor has confirmed that schools are to get a real-terms funding increase of �4bn over the next four years, news that was welcomed by Graham Newman, head of education for Suffolk.

Mr Newman said that although much of the fine detail had yet to be revealed, it seemed that the spending review’s impact on education was “no worse” than had been feared, with extra funding committed for early-years pupils.

He said: “Obviously that is very good news, in real terms it won’t be quite as good as it looks on paper because some elements of cost, such as heating for schools, are bound to go up.

“But it’s much better than having it cut. It’s very encouraging. Another thing that is extremely encouraging is that the Government is not turning its back on education for three-to-four-year-olds.”

The Government has announced that capital spending will be cut by 60% by 2014 after the scrapping of the Building Schools for the Future programme but 600 schools will be refurbished or rebuilt.

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Mr Newman said the schools organisation review, which is currently up to phase 3A relating to the Sudbury area, would continue as planned but he was not yet certain what impact the cuts would have on the next stage, which affects Stowmarket, Stowupland, Thurston and Bury St Edmunds.

He added: “What we are going to have to do is to see how the funds are going to come through in the smaller revenue streams and to interpret that with the other things going on in education. We are going to work jolly hard to get it done.”

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Mr Newman also called for a more even distribution of education funding among local authorities, with Suffolk sitting among the bottom 20 in the country in terms of funding per head.

The picture is not so good for further education, with universities in England facing a 40% cut to their teaching budgets.

Professor Mike Saks, provost and chief executive officer at University College Suffolk, said there was a “certain ambiguity” in where the cuts would have an impact and they would have to be “counter-balanced” by the increased tuition fees.

He said: “The position at UCS is to ensure that it remains very attractive to students who are prepared to come and study on a higher rate of tuition fees. We wait with bated breath to see the detail behind the headlines.”

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