Education cuts will hit quality, Norfolk leaders warn

Young people will be the ones to suffer as a result of the largest cuts to public education spending since the 1950s, Norfolk education leaders have warned.

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) yesterday said government funding for schools, colleges, universities and early-years provision was set to drop by more than 13pc in real terms by 2014/15 – or 3.5pc per year.

It represents the largest cut in education spending over a four-year period since the 1950s, an IFS spokesman said.

Higher education faces the largest reduction in funding at 40pc – although that will be offset by the rise in tuition fees – while 16 to 19-year-olds, nursery pupils and playgroups are next on the list at 20pc. But only schools in the most deprived areas will experience a real-terms increase, thanks to the new pupil premium.

Last night, education leaders in Norfolk warned the quality of education and the willingness of young people to stay on at college and university would be hit.

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Dick Palmer, principal at City College Norwich, said although the figures contained in the IFS report were 'not new news' it did highlight the short-sightedness of the government's approach to education spending.

He said ministers had failed to recognise that investment in education – from funding for schools and colleges to financial support for individual students – would save money in the long run by helping to reduce unemployment.

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Mr Palmer added: 'The individuals aren't getting financial support. The institutions aren't getting financial support. I don't see how we will have as successful an educational system with these cuts.'

Colin Collis, Norfolk secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, said any funding cuts would inevitably lead to redundancies – and that would affect pupils' quality of education.

He said: 'Already with a number of schools we have faced the inevitable thing of cuts to staffing levels. If staffing is reduced, there will be a knock-on effect in terms of the education of young people.

'We will end up with larger classes and a poorer provision than before.'

But there was some good news as Norfolk County Council said it was working hard to maintain spending on children's centres and was using 72pc of its early intervention grant to invest in early years provision this year.

Kate Gooding, county council spokesman, said: 'Our focus is very much on early intervention and prevention and we recognise that by supporting the youngest children and their families we are able to give Norfolk's children the best possible start in life and identify any issues at the earliest opportunity.'

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