Over the last decade the intergenerational gap has widened drastically as younger generations juggle paying off student loans, one of the most expensive public transportation systems in the world, unaffordable housing and low incomes.
Budget 2017 was heavily flagged to help young people and Chancellor Hammond attempted to make some optimistic offers to the younger generation, addressing maths and technical education via financial incentives to boost maths and IT skills which are much needed for ‘cutting-edge’ jobs.
Following concerns that too many drop the subject after GCSEs, from 2019 schools will receive an extra £600 for every A-level maths student, and there are plans to train 12,000 computer teachers with more support allocated for adult retraining.
Chancellor Hammond also announced there would be £42m available over the next three years to provide extra training to ‘improve the quality of teaching’ in a pilot project in some under-performing schools in England, with each teacher given access to £1,000 worth of training. Core maths was first introduced for teaching in 2014 and is a generic title for a range of different level 3 maths qualifications, but not a qualification in itself. It is aimed at pupils who have achieved a grade C/level 4 in maths GCSE and want to study maths post-16 but do not want to take an A level in the subject. It is equivalent to an AS level but expected to be taught over two years.
According to a recent funding impact survey, over a third of schools and colleges have dropped STEM courses as a result of funding pressures, including further maths and core maths qualifications. Bridging the skills gap that currently exists within STEM will be a positive message for businesses, ensuring the labour force is fit for purpose and allowing the UK to remain competitive post Brexit.
While more money for continuous professional development and A level maths is welcome, critics argue this will come at the cost of removing £600m from the Education Services Grant. Additionally, the government has increased the cost burden on schools by 8.5 per cent by adding extra National Insurance, pension and Apprenticeship Levy obligations.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s Shadow Education Scretary, said:
‘The schemes announced today are a tiny fraction of the money he has cut from school budgets since 2015 and despite his spin, schools will be worse off by 2020’.
This means that it will now be impossible for many schools to avoid making redundancies, to keep class sizes at an acceptable level, and to offer a full and rounded curriculum to students. It is therefore unfair to claim that this is a Budget that has the future in mind when it does not include any new money for schools.
School leaders echoed this concern arguing that these measures leave no extra funding for core school spending. Officials from the University and College Union said the the Chancellor’s speech made no reference to the promised review of university funding or support for students. Further concerns focus on schools that have already increased their number of maths A-level students which would miss out on extra funding.