Education groups doubt Scottish Budget can create ‘transformative difference’

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John Swinney has said education funding in the Scottish Budget will help create a “transformative difference in the lives of our young people” but college and student organisations warn it does not go far enough.

The Education Secretary said: “Education is this government’s defining mission and we are determined to improve the life chances of our children. That is why improving outcomes for children, young people and their families is at the heart of this government’s agenda and spending plans.

“This Budget will deliver £243 million of investment for the expansion of free early learning and childcare, £179 million to support attainment and close the poverty-related attainment gap and a real-terms increase in funding for colleges and universities.”

Colleges Scotland welcomed extra funding to cover the cost National Bargaining in setting out pay for lecturers, as well as increased capital cash.

The organisation’s chief executive Shona Struthers added: “However, other than National Bargaining costs, the budget presents a flat cash settlement for the sector in cash terms.

“Finances will continue to be tight, and colleges will have to carefully consider how to make the best use of the resources available for the coming year to ensure that they can continue to deliver the professional, technical and vocational skills and training required for a strong and sustainable economy, without impacting on the quality of the learner experience.”

Student union NUS Scotland said the budget is a “missed opportunity to fix Scotland’s broken student support system” criticising the lack of an announcement on increasing the student loan threshold, which the government previously committed to increase to £22,000 by the end of this parliament.

The budget pledges £5 million for the initial implementation of the findings of the Independent Review of Student Support, which recommended creating a minimum income of £8,100 for both college and university students.

NUS Scotland President, Luke Humberstone said: “The investment put in place by the Scottish Government for initial implementation of the findings of the student support review is a positive start but it is still a long way from the reform that students, particularly the poorest students, need.

“If we’re serious about widening access, we need to see serious new investment in financial support for students to access and succeed in education.”

Universities Scotland welcomed the 1.1% year on year increase in higher education revenue spending and the broad retention of the status quo for the sector’s capital budget.

Andrea Nolan, Universities Scotland convener said: “We welcome today’s budget and recognise this is a good outcome for higher education given the challenging fiscal context.

“The settlement will support universities’ work to ensure that every student achieves their full potential.”

She also welcomed the announcement that the government will continue to provide universities with charity relief from non-domestic rates, going against the recommendations in the Barclay rates review.

Teaching union the EIS praised plans to scrap the 1% public sector pay cap.

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