Michael Gove is acquiring the reputation as the most “accident prone” member of the government. A reputation that has been enhanced by a letter received by schools and local authorities last week, which has come into Uncut’s possession. The letter, which could win the Sir Humphrey Appleby award for lack of clarity, explains that the government is not paying councils the last instalment of the school standards grant before it is abolished at the end of the financial year and the money merged into school’s mainstream funding.
The letter reads:
“we recognise these developments may cause an accounting issue for local authorities”.
What “these developments” actually do is cut, at zero notice, £150 million from a grant dedicated to raise standards in education.
The school standards fund is paid to councils, who then hand it on to schools to pay for a range of work to, as the name suggests, improve standards.
These range from providing extra staff for pupils who need the support, meeting the costs of running homework clubs after school, recruiting advance skills teachers and a whole lot more. At a time when schools budgets are being cut in real terms across the country, this sudden loss of money will have a significant effect. The impact of the cut is exaggerated by its suddenness, giving local authorities and schools no time at all to plan for its impact.
Over 100 local authorities have protested to Michael Gove about this change, which many local councillors and head teachers are calling a “stealth cut”. Either this cut was planned for some time and simply not announced or, rumours suggest, the department for education is struggling to balance the books at the end of the year and looking for quick ways of saving money.
If so, it adds to the weight of evidence that the government’s cuts package cannot actually be delivered in reality.