Colleges bail out

23 Apr 2009

Very good to see that the Chancellor did the decent thing and made good the colleges' and sixth-forms' funding shortfall in yesterday's budget. 

While public expenditure (including on education) is now clearly in for a very tough few years, failure to find the extra £200 this year, and £400 million next year, would have blown a massive hole in two policies that are dear to the government's heart: the raising of the education leaving age to 18 and the development of the new diplomas. 

However, the smaller print makes it clear that the Chancellor's planned 'efficiency savings' will impact on post-16 learners. Unit costs for all post-16 students will be subject to a 1% efficiency saving in 2010/11.

On the broader front, though, it looks as if we have now passed the high point of Labour's increased spending on education. The Budget says future public spending will grow by just 0.7% in real terms from 2011/12 to 2013/14. 

 The tightest squeeze is likely to be felt in universities just as growing numbers of young people are applying for degree courses as a way of putting off entry into the currently depressed employment market.

Meanwhile, the drive for more efficiency savings is already on. The Department for Children Schools and Families has to find £650 million of additional savings (on top of those already required by the 2007 Spending Review) in 2010/11. That is a tall order and won't be found just be delaying new carpets, or cutting back on biscuits, in Sanctuary Buildings.


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