UK Policy Briefings
Spring Budget 2021: Education and gender
Date Posted: Monday 1st March 2021
- A well-funded, high-quality public education system is vital to economic prosperity, as well as to reducing inequalities.
- With successive lockdowns and school closures widening gaps between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, adequate funding for schools is even more important now than it was prior to the pandemic.
- Between 2010 and 2019, schools in England saw per pupil funding decline by 9% in real terms. While the 2019 Spending Round sought to reverse these cuts through £7.1 billion of additional spending, some of these gains are now under threat from Covid-related pressures.
- A recent survey found that nearly half of schools said they were having to draw on reserves to cover Covid-related costs, and a similar proportion said they were unlikely to balance their books by the end of the year.
- Additional support from government has been modest and poorly targeted, with an £80 per pupil catch up premium and £350 million tutoring scheme, but only the latter targeted specifically at disadvantaged pupils.
- Working in the education sector during the pandemic has impacted the wellbeing of its mainly female workforce and there are indications that infection rates were higher among teachers than the general population, although this is not evident in ONS statistics for the whole of England.
- Even prior to the pandemic, the teaching workforce was struggling with recruitment and retention due to low pay and poor conditions. In July 2020, the government announced a 3% year-on-year pay increase for teachers, with the highest increase for starting salaries so that these reach £30,000 by 2022.
- Women continue to earn less than men at all levels of education and are, proportionally, less likely to be in senior roles than men. The biggest gender pay gap – 31.7% – is among staff in Academy and Trust schools.
- Further education receives the least educational spending of any sector and has seen the biggest decline in funding since 2010. The Skills White Paper released in January 2021 sets out ambitious goals for the role of the sector in ‘building back’ after the pandemic. For these to be realised, the White Paper will need to be matched by equally sizeable funding increases and a commitment to ensuring that access to apprenticeships and training leading to higher paid roles (e.g. engineering, construction) is widened.
- The funding of higher education teaching through tuition fees and loans is having a disproportionate adverse impact on women. Women pay a significantly larger proportion of their income back in loan repayments than men because of the gender pay gap in graduate occupations and due to time out of the workforce for unpaid caring. Having a student loan also appears to have a negative impact on when women, but not men, marry and begin having children.
- The gender pay gap for university staff is on average 13.7% and women are under-represented in senior roles.