NEW warnings about social mobility – and the need to invest in rural areas – come in the wake of a Budget that saw Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, go to the bottom of the class for his glibness over education.
Weeks after headteachers marched on Parliament and 10 Downing Street to demand emergency funding, he announced a one-off bonus of £400m “to help our schools buy the little extras they need” – the equivalent of £10,000 per primary school and £50,000 for each secondary school.
Little extras? When asked to explain in his post-Budget interviews what he meant by this phrase, the Chancellor suggested the money could be used to buy whiteboards or laptops.
Yet, when it was put to him that the top priority for most schools was, in fact, the recruitment – and retention – of teachers, Mr Hammond said that this will be an issue for next year’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
And this is the challenge facing the Government. Even though Theresa May contends that austerity is coming to an end, a mantra that the Chancellor repeated on several occasions in his speech, the fact that teachers are having to buy stationery products for their own schools suggests Ministers are still in denial about the true state of key public services.
For, unless Mr Hammond learns a very elementary lesson, there won’t, in fact, be sufficient school staff to make use of his new whiteboards and laptops.