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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 March 2006, 01:12 GMT
Education funding 'set to slow'
Classroom
Schools have received a 50% increase in cash since 1998
A committee of MPs has questioned whether education is still the government's top priority, as they warn funding is to rise at a slower rate.

In 1997, Tony Blair's mantra was "education, education, education".

But the education select committee has said ministers should admit to schools and universities that government cash is prioritised for the NHS.

Schools minister Jacqui Smith said investment was at record levels, but needed to go hand in hand with reform.

'World class'

The committee's report said a slow-down in funding growth would mean an increase of 2-3% a year in cash terms, compared with 5-7% growth in previous years.

It says: "While accepting there have been real increases in education expenditure as a proportion of GDP, we remain uncertain as to why education and health have been relatively differently treated by recent public expenditure settlements.

"There is a risk that health service expenditure will begin to pre-empt education resources as public expenditure settlements become tighter."

Sir David Normington, permanent secretary to the DfES, told the committee: "It is not all about money; it is about how it is spent and there have been substantial increases in expenditure."

Barry Sheerman
Barry Sheerman says school heads need clarity over funding

The committee warns that comparatively low levels in higher education spending could threaten the quality of provision.

"A lower level of growth in higher education investment compared to schools and further education would be a concern if the intention is to maintain world class higher education in this country, including the recruitment and retention of high-quality staff."

Their report says government funding to higher education has risen by 18% since 1998, compared with a 50% increase for schools and 56% for further education.

Efficiencies

The government must make budget holders aware that funding would not rise at a significant rate over the next spending review period, MPs said.

Committee chairman, Labour MP Barry Sheerman, said: "Whilst spending on schools is still growing, schools must be told not to expect dramatic increases to their budgets in the future.

"The Department for Education and Skills should be straightforward with head teachers as to how much they will have to spend."

The report, which examines DfES annual expenditure and management of resources, also questions the ability of schools to achieve efficiencies which will help government save its target of 4.3bn.

And it concludes that as the school population is set to decline and the proportion of post-16s in education rise, "the case for the 16-19 phase becoming the main priority will be hard to ignore".

Minister for schools, Jacqui Smith, said: "We are clear that investment has to go hand in hand with reform and alongside the new money we are seeing record test results at all ages.

"We are continuing to put huge sums into education. Spending in England is set to rise by over 12bn in 2007-08 compared to 2004-05 - an average increase of 5% a year in real terms."




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Why education may lose out to health funding



SEE ALSO:
MPs urge college funding shake-up
16 Feb 06 |  Education
Student target 'not attainable'
02 Mar 06 |  Education


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