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Keegan: ‘Hard to guarantee’ we’ll fund teacher pay rise

The education secretary has said it will be “hard to guarantee” that government would fully fund a teacher pay rise, despite schools struggling with budget squeezes.

Gillian Keegan asked about pay and school funding during a Q&A webinar this afternoon, amid concerns schools don’t have enough to cover even this year’s rise.

Six of the most liked questions were about school funding.

One attendee said they had worked in school finance for 25 years and “never known us to be this short of funding before”.

“Can you assure us that the next round of teacher and support staff pay increased will the fully funded?” Keegan was asked.

She said after taking the job in October 2022, she had faced two pay “challenges” – funding rises of 5.4 per cent for the 2022-23 academic year and 6.5 per cent for this year.

“Both of those challenges were put to me then and I got the additional funding to make sure that schools are fully funded for those pay rises.

“The difficulty in answering the question right now is, obviously I need to be given the challenge first, which is what [the School Teachers’ Review Body] will come back with. And then we need to figure out what that is and how we can fund that.

“I guess what I would say is I have a track record. But it’s hard to guarantee because I don’t know what they’re going to come back with.”

But “one thing I do know is to fund it last time, we really had to look at into the department’s budget”.

“We didn’t get additional funding from the Treasury because of all the other difficulties they had. We did the year before, we got an additional £2 billion.

“But this last year, we had to find it within the department. So we prioritised some things and you know, moved some capital into revenue that we thought we wouldn’t utilise, But once you’ve done that, it’s difficult to do it again.”

However she added: “I will take on the challenge as I have done the last few years.”

Schools Week has revealed how the department is facing finding at least £1 billion from its budget to fund both this and next year’s pay rises.

Several government schemes have already been axed or scaled back.

Meanwhile, schools are reporting a funding squeeze. A Schools Week investigation in February found many reporting “severe hardship” this year.

Another report found three-quarters of primaries had cut teaching assistants.

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