09/03/2017

Education; a key focus in the Spring Budget

Thursfields Staff Member 21

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, delivered the 2017 Spring Budget yesterday in which he announced some important developments for the Education Sector.

The Chancellor announced that a priority for the government was raising living standards by improving our productivity growth. Investment in training and infrastructure, it was said, would close the productivity gap between us and other member states such as Germany and France. A key element of the governments plan to achieve this reduction, it was said, is through the £23 billion of additional infrastructure investment that was announced in the 2016 Autumn Statement; in order to advance the UK’s position as World leaders in technology the government will invest £300 million of that £23 billion to support 1,000 new PhD places and fellowships in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

The quality of education of our children and the teaching of technical skills, it was said, is crucial in reducing the productivity gap but also delivers fairness because focussing on skills in education was hailed as the key to inclusive growth. The Chancellor advised that the proportion of students Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) is now the lowest since records began but the government, he explained, cannot be complacent in this regard. Jobs are now changing over the course of the working lifetime and it is the government’s job to invest in education and skills to ensure every young person regardless of their socio economic background is properly equipped for the jobs of tomorrow.

The Chancellor announced that it intends to support the creation of new free schools, removing the barriers that prevent free faith schools from opening and enabling the creation of more new selective free schools so the most academically gifted students of every background get the support they need to fulfil their potential. In order to do this the government will provide funding for a further 110 new free schools on top of the current commitment of 500.

The Chancellor recognised that the cost of travel is often a barrier to exercising a student’s choice to attend a specialist free school so the government intends to extend free school transport to include all students eligible for free school meals that attend specialist free schools, so that talent alone, he said, should determine the opportunities that a child enjoys.

Non-free schools will not, however, be forgotten said the Chancellor. An upgrade fund of £216m will be invested for existing schools over the next three years taking the total investment in school condition to over £10 billion.

The Chancellor recognised that whilst our academic routes into education in this country are hailed as some of the best in the world we are near the bottom for those studying in technical education. Our current system of A-levels provide students with the qualifications to enter our world class further education institutions, and these students will be further supported by offering maintenance loans to part-time undergraduates and doctoral loans in all subjects for the first time but in addition new T-Levels will be introduced to give parity of esteem for technical education. This, it was proposed, will provide a much needed system of clearer qualifications, one that is designed and recognised by employers with clear routes into work, more time in the classroom and good quality work placements. It is a system that would replace the 13,000 different qualifications with just 15 clear career focussed routes.

The Chancellor also announced that to further improvement in technical skills the number of hours of training for technical students aged 16 to 19 will be increased by more than 50% and will also include a three-month work placement so that when students qualify they will be genuinely work ready. Students who go on to advance technical study at the new institutes for technology will also receive maintenance loans just as the government currently does for those attending University.

For further information on how the 2017 Spring Budget affects the Education Sector please contact Lauren Hartigan-Pritchard on 01905 677051 or lhartiganpritchard@thursfields.co.uk

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