Teachers' caution over Brown's offering

By Juliette MaxamTEACHING unions have given a cautious welcome to the announcement of an £15billion rise in education expenditure.Gordon Brown said the rise in education expenditure in England would be 4.

By Juliette Maxam

TEACHING unions have given a cautious welcome to the announcement of an £15billion rise in education expenditure.

Gordon Brown said the rise in education expenditure in England would be 4.4% a year after inflation, adding it would rise from £49bn this year to £52bn in 2005-6, £60bn in 2006-7 and £64bn in 2007-8.

The outlay per pupil in England will rise from £4,500 this year to £5,500 by the end of the next three-year spending round, twice what it was in 1997, added Mr Brown.

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He said the “typical” primary school in England would get a direct cash boost of about £55,000 in 2005-6, while the average comprehensive school would get £180,000.

That is the year when schools face their biggest costs in implementing the national agreement aimed at reducing teachers' workloads.

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Up to 1,000 more comprehensive schools will also be able to get the extra cash that goes with specialist status under this year's Budget and spending review.

Specialist schools get a one-off grant of £100,000 plus up to £123 per pupil per year extra in return for developing expertise in a particular subject or area, such as maths, sport or business and enterprise.

Mr Brown told the Commons yesterday there would also be more money for school buildings and equipment

Sue Shenton, headteacher of Mersea Island Primary School and a National Primary Schools Association committee member, said: “I don't question for a minute the Government has put a lot more money into education.

“But, unfortunately, much of it doesn't get into an ordinary school like mine. A lot of it is wasted on expensive initiatives.

“They're pouring money into rebuilding secondary schools. Primary schools are the poor relations. Primary schools are in desperate need of money being spent on buildings and refurbishment. We fall further and further behind.”

Terry Creissen, principal of Colne Community School in Brightlingsea, added: “Obviously any increase in funding for schools will have an impact in terms of economic regeneration of the country because highly-qualified youngsters going into the economy is a boost.

“We are pleased to see the Government has continued to invest in schools and schools are continuing to do a good job.”

But Mr Creissen sounded a note of caution about any increases in budgets being swallowed up by inflationary pressures.

Essex County Council cabinet member for education, Iris Pummell, added: “It's very worrying after successive Government announcements about extra money for our schools that their financial positions across the county is in a precarious state, with a record number of schools in the red.”

National Association of Head Teachers general secretary, David Hart, said: “Gordon Brown's Budget is a reasonable deal for schools, providing we don't have a repetition of this year's fiasco and we find the Government slapping inflationary wage, pension or National Insurance costs on schools between now and 2007-8.

“It is also critical that schools get a slice of the action from the vast savings that central Government is supposed to be making as a result of its war on bureaucracy and red tape at the centre.”

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, added: “The increased spending on education up to 2007-8 is very welcome, but we have to see how much of it reaches school budgets before we give three unconditional cheers.

“The last spending review, when early joy turned to later grief for many schools facing unprecedented budget cuts, taught us a lesson that we have to wait for the small print before we can be confident that schools will receive the funding they need to fulfil all the Government's promises.

“Much of today's funding will be earmarked for specialist school status, expensive city academies and other Department for Education projects. What is needed is increased funding in core budgets.”

Mr Brown said it was also necessary to continue investing in Government programmes aimed at cutting child poverty and improving early years education.

Spending in these areas – including the Sure Start programme that integrates education, childcare and services for poor families with young children – will rise by £669million by 2007-8, or 17% a year after inflation.

Meanwhile, the traditional Budget increases in fuel and beer duties were greeted with resigned disappointment.

Bob Steward, owner of Manningtree-based hauliers RT Steward Ltd, predicted the 2.4p a litre increase in diesel prices from September 1 would hit housewives' purses.

He said fuel companies might absorb the increase, but if not, the rise would be passed down the line with prices going up. “At the end of the day, it's more money from housewives' purses,” he warned.

Essex National Union of Farmers member, Peter Hawes, who has a large beef and arable farm near Braintree, was not pleased to hear about the 2.4p a litre increase in the cost of red diesel used for agricultural vehicles.

“My reaction is that's bad news because I use a lot of diesel. That's another cost we could do without,” he said.

The Campaign for Real Ale had asked the Chancellor to cut beer duty by a small amount as part of a long-term strategy towards reducing duty to a level that would take the profit out of beer smuggling and enable British pubs and off-licences to compete on an equal footing with French retailers.

Mike Benner, its head of campaigns and communications said: “A penny may not sound like much, but the tax rise follows recent wholesale beer price rises by some brewers.

“Some pubs will now be charging as much as 12p a pint more than they were only a month ago. At a time when beer consumption is falling and pub-going is in decline, this is a disappointing outcome for consumers and hard-working licensees.”

Pub licensee John Parker, who is chairman of the Colchester and North East Essex Licensed Victuallers' Association, said he had been expecting Mr Brown to put a penny on a pint of beer.

He predicted a pint of beer will now cost customers an extra 10p as landlords passed on increases brought in by brewers, plus the extra tax, added to a small increase by the pubs' themselves to keep up their margins.

“The customers, in my experience, will give a bit of stick, moan for a period of time and then tend to forget and carry on as normal. It could have been worse,” added Mr Parker, who runs the Live and Let Live pub in Stanway.


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