Budget 2017: Calls to tackle schools funding and unleash North East potential

The North East's business group is calling on the Chancellor to '˜unleash the region's potential', while a schools group is urging him to '˜tackle the funding crisis'.

Monday, 6th March 2017, 10:03 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:09 am
Chancellor Philip Hammond

SCHOOLS NorthEast, the representative body for all 1,250 schools in the region, is calling on Phillip Hammond to use his first Budget this week to tackle the funding crisis within schools.

Increases in employers’ pension costs and national insurance contributions, coupled with cuts in support services and heightened pressures such as growing pupil mental-health issues have left schools facing a £3billion shortfall by 2020, according to the National Audit Office.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has identified that schools are losing £339 for every primary age pupil and £477 for every child in secondary school, while the Institute of Fiscal Studies has calculated a drop of 6.5 per cent in real-term spending on schools over the course of this Parliament.

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SCHOOLS NorthEast says that the issue is worse for North East schools where a legacy of under-funding has left schools exposed with analysis showing that, on the basis of the current 2016/17 funding levels, the region would benefit from an extra £323million per year if it were funded at London levels, and around £42million if funded at national levels.

Schools in Northumberland would be entitled to more than £7million more if funded at national level and almost £41million if funded at London level. In North Tyneside, the figures are £5.5million and £27.5million.

However, a Department for Education spokesman said: “The Government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, with school funding at its highest level on record at more than £40billion in 2016/17.”

He added: “But the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated. We are going to end the historical postcode lottery in school funding and under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost.”

Meanwhile, the North East England Chamber of Commerce has set out the policy announcements and changes its members want to see delivered in the Budget on Wednesday.

In a written submission to the Chancellor, the Chamber highlights recent economic successes as evidence of the North East’s true potential.

Chamber head of policy and campaigns, Jonathan Walker, said: “Credit for our economic performance must go to the businesses who continually strive to improve and grow. Just think what our region could achieve if the North East was given the right tools and support.”

The Chamber submission also sets out the need to minimise the harm and maximise opportunities created as a result of Brexit. Mr Walker said: “The Government must commit significantly more resources to both supporting exporters to break into new markets and encouraging non-exporters to take their first steps into international trade.”

North East business also want to see improvement in other areas, including rapid delivery of road improvement schemes and major investment in the region’s rail infrastructure, coherent and fair reform of business rates and clarity on the operation of the Apprenticeship Levy.

Mr Walker added that the growing problem of skills shortages was also a priority: “We have to get Government skills funding that is truly responsive to local business needs. In return, we will support far stronger collaboration between employers and funding providers, to ensure money is spent in a way that provides the right skills for the local labour market.”