Monday, 21 June 2010

Pre-Budget nerves

News of some of the measures due to be announced tomorrow have been gradually leaking out and speculation simply adds to the anxiety for BM who worries on behalf of the schools she is responsible for.   Cuts in year to higher education, which have been highlighted over at Normblog are beginning to take effect, with whole departments being cut in some instances.  Locally, a friend whose husband works as a lecturer at City of Westminster, is worried because his contract has just been re-written offering him £2,000 per annum less with more responsibility or he can take redundancy and several secondary schools which had followed the then DCSF guidance and offered Diplomas as an alternative to GCSE/A Level have had to give staff notice overnight, as that funding has been cut in-year as part of the £6bn savings announced by George Osborne 2 weeks ago.

That earlier 'mini-budget' included cuts to local authorities early years improvement work with private, independent and voluntary sector daycare and early years providers, which will come to an abrupt end.  That alone makes BM nervous about the commitment to Surestart and Early Years provision in general.    If I thought that any of these cuts were driven by evidence based research which showed that the services provided were inefficient or ineffective, I would be less worried but that is palpably not the case.

Whilst I have great sympathy for third level educators, all of the research evidence shows that that is the most expensive sector in education.  If one thinks of the funding of 0-19 education as a pyramid, it is inverted in that the bulk of the spending occurs from age 12 upwards and yet, this is in direct contrast to the research which shows that funding of the Early Years is crucial to success in later education and life chances generally. 

Early Years education is complex, dealing as it does with issues such as behaviour management as well as early appreciation and development of literacy, numeracy, science and physical development.  The success of early years intervention is not easily measured and certainly not in the short-term which makes it an easy target.  To someone not familiar with the sector and the research, it just looks like expensive childcare. 

Will the Budget display an evidence-based approach to the distribution and allocation of cuts ?  We will get our answer tomorrow.  


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