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EDUCATION TOP STORIES

Parliamentary research says UK schools face $2.24 billion (£1.7 billion) pension gap

Parlimentary research says UK schools face $2.24 billion (£1.7 billion) pension gap

Figures compiled by the House of Commons library and released by Labour, suggested that increased pension contributions for state sector staff could run to $5.27 billion (£4 billion) for the government as a whole

Out of those, schools would have to face having to pay up to nearly $2.24 billion (£1.7 billion) by the end of the current parliament.

While the Department for Education (DfE) is to receive extra funding to meet the higher contributions for the first year– Peter Dowd, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said that the government should commit to paying the extra pension costs in the spending review.

Dowd said: “These cuts are the equivalent of paying the salaries of nearly 22,000 teachers – staff whom we desperately need after eight years of crushing austerity in education.”

“The chancellor must immediately own up and commit to meeting these extra costs, not just push them on to struggling schools, whose budgets have already been slashed.” He added.

The government announced this late last week, and for the second time in recent years that school budgets will have had to absorb unfunded pension increases—which the House of Commons calculations anticipate would increase by $1.09 billion(£830 million) a year, after a potential 7% increase in employers’ contributions. The calculation is based on new rules announced last month by the Treasury for the valuation of public service pension schemes.

A large number of universities in England and Wales, whose staff are members of the teachers’ pension scheme– will be hit by the increase. Pension schemes for the NHS and local governments are also likely to be affected.

“Theresa May told us that austerity is over, but now it looks as though the Tories are sharpening the knife for more,” said Dowd.

Labour made the claim as Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn clashed at the dispatch box over the government’s record on education, after the DfE was reprimanded earlier this week for its misuse of statistics by the UK statistics watchdog.

May told MPs: “We now see 1.9 million children in good and outstanding schools compared with 2010, and part of that is based on the reforms we’ve put forward.”

However, earlier in the week, Sir David Norgrove, the official chair of the UK statistics authority, told the DfE that the 1.9 million figure “does not give a full picture.”

After a Whitehall protest by headteachers attracted wide publicity, the government has remained under pressure over school funding ahead of the spending review on 29 October.

A letter from headteachers–backed by the WorthLess campaign group lobbying for improved school funding, thanked parents for their “overwhelming support” for the protest.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, total school spending per pupil in England has fallen by about 8% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2017-18, once rising pupils numbers and cuts to sixth-form and local authority funding are taken into account.

A DfE spokesperson stated: “The changes to the public sector pension scheme will mean better benefits for teachers and staff working throughout our education system – on top of what is already one of the best pension schemes available in the country.

“We have already made clear that we intend to provide funding for state-funded schools and further education colleges for the additional costs in 2019-20, and we will be consulting on this shortly to ensure that our proposed approach is the right one.” Added the spokesperson.

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