On 6th March, the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered his Spring Budget speech to parliament outlining government taxing and spending plans for the coming year and beyond. With potential industrial action and further teacher strikes on the horizon for later this year, there was keen interest to see whether the government position would move towards closer to union demands of increased school funding to try and head off clashes. This article gives an overview of the main Budget 2024 decisions affecting the sector with a brief analysis of what this might mean for schools and colleges.

What were the main education spending decisions in the Budget?

There wasn’t much in the way of specific spending decisions to do with education especially when considered against previous spending commitments. There was certainly nothing in there which soothed the teaching union leaderships who were hoping to see significant spending brought to the education sector to increase school funding and school staff pay. In response to the statement the NEU said that  “education is being destroyed by a Government that doesn’t seem to give a damn”  whilst the NASUWT echoed that sentiment saying that the Budget “has once again failed to deliver for pupils and their teachers”. Needless to say, calls for their members to vote for further industrial action this year were renewed with vigour and the likelihood of industrial action appears to have increased as a result of the statement.

Beyond a lack of general funding announcements for the sector there were a few individual spending decisions that will impact schools and colleges.

National Tutoring Programme

Whilst not explicitly mentioned in the speech, the absence of a reference to the scheme appears to confirm that the scheme will end this summer as previously forecast. The £1bn scheme was originally announced in 2020 as a response to the pandemic and set to last for four years. There were hopes that this might be extended but with no mention in the speech, or specific commentary from the Department for Education, this seems unlikely.

New Special and Alternative Provision Schools

Funding for 15 new special schools at a cost of £105m and plans for 20 alternative provision free schools were announced in the speech. Funding for the alternative provision schools is due to come from a previously announced round of funding so doesn’t represent an increase in spending there. However, the funding for the special schools is new and locations for these schools are due to be announced in May with the schools expected to open in 2027 and 2028.

Public Sector Productivity Plan

The Chancellor highlighted that public sector productivity remains 6% below pre-pandemic levels and therefore at the next Spending Review, the Treasury will prioritise proposals that deliver productivity savings over 5 years that are equal to the cost of investment. In other words, if the education sector can find initiatives of saving costs through longer-term investment, those initiatives will likely be funded. The most obvious relation in the sector is likely to involve how artificial intelligence can be used to find efficiencies. The Treasury also published a further document outlining some of the ways in which the public sector is and could be finding further opportunities. This document uses the School Resource Management Programme as a case study of where this is already happening. 

Capital Underspend

Whilst not mentioned in the speech, further scrutiny of other documents published for the Budget revealed that the government has revised down its estimated spend on education capital projects from £7bn to £6.3bn. Some of the savings (£250m) have already been spent by partially funding the 6.5% teacher pay rise for this academic year. Union leaders have criticised the move with NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman saying it was a “clear example of robbing Peter to pay Paul.” The capital expenditure budget is also due to fall to £6.1bn for next year and is a further bone of contention with union demands for greater funding for the sector.


In conclusion, there wasn’t a great deal for the Education sector to cheer in the recent Budget and certainly nothing on the scale that had come in previous spending updates such as the additional £2bn of school funding that came in the 2022 Statement. The lack of additional school funding that unions are campaigning for has put the government on a clear path to further trade union disputes on pay and funding with an increased likelihood of further industrial action later on this year.

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