Worst school cuts ‘since the ’50s’

By Ruth Mckee

Schools in Britain will endure the biggest cuts to education seen since the 1950s, tax and spending experts have warned.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that schools will face a funding shortfall of 14.4% which will hit school and college building projects the hardest.

Researchers at the IFS estimate that the cuts will hit higher education, as funding to universities has been cut by 40%, but some of that shortfall will be recouped with increased tuition fees.

However they warn that further education for 16- to 19-year-olds and early years learning, two areas that were invested in heavily under the previous government, will face a dramatic reduction in their funding.

"In new figures released today, IFS researchers estimate that total public spending on education in the UK will fall by over 13% in real terms between 2010/11 and 2014/15," the IFS said of their findings.

"This represents the largest cut in education spending over any four-year period since at least the 1950s. The cuts will be deepest for capital spending and higher education, followed by 16-19 education and early years provision."

But the government are adamant that the spending cuts will not have an adverse affect on education.

"The schools budget is actually increasing by £3.6 billion in cash over the next four years. This protects per pupil funding levels and includes the new pupil premium, which provides an extra £488 for every child on free school meals and which will rise over the next three years," a Department of Education spokesperson said.

The government also claims that its freeze on teachers' salaries over the next two years, which caused outrage amongst unions, "means schools are benefiting from a lower level of inflation."

Arguing the cuts to school building projects were unavoidable, the department claimed: "The government was absolutely right to look at the amount of money spent on school buildings.

"An independent review showed that tax-payers money was being wasted on red-tape and consultants, not on building schools. Our new plans will build schools cheaper and quicker than before."

But Labour's shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg called the cuts "a new blow to young people in this country", adding that "by cutting too far and too fast, the prime minister is kicking away the ladders of opportunity for young people and is stopping the next generation from getting on".