19th February 2013
Department of Education and Children's Budgetary statement
THE Department of Education and Children’s budget for 2013/14 is £94.3 million. Whilst this appears to be a reduction from the £95.8 million budget set for 2012/13 there are factors, such as the transfer of some services and budgets to other Departments, which make a simple year on year comparison, complicated.
Overall, once factors such as inflation are taken into account, the budget available to the Department for the coming year will be broadly equivalent to that in 2012/13. The Department always faces a conflict between the financial year, running from April to March, and the academic year, running from September to July. Financial commitments in place in September in terms of staffing and services must extend until the end of the academic year.
That means that economies resulting from the Budget in February cannot be introduced until September, leaving the DEC less time than other Departments to make savings. Therefore, the DEC has worked closely with the Treasury to agree budgetary targets that run over the three financial years up to March 2016.
As a result, it has proposed changes to Student Awards Regulations that will achieve a saving of around £3.8 million by the financial year 2015/16 while protecting front-line education and the services it must statutorily deliver. While the DEC continually reviews all areas of its service to make sure that resources are being targeted effectively, no other significant cost-saving measures are planned for the coming year.
The Department has had to make difficult decisions about its funding in recent years and has been proactive in meeting the cost-saving targets it has faced. Since 2010 the DEC has reduced expenditure by £4.6 million and has absorbed cost increases amounting to a further £7.2 million. These reductions have led to significant decreases both in the DEC’s central staff and in its workforce in schools.
The reductions have led to increased class sizes, the removal of the teaching of primary French and the transfer of services such as pre-schools and the Family and Mobile libraries to the private and voluntary sectors. It was in that context that the DEC decided to review its approach to financing higher education. This is an aspect of the DEC’s expenditure that has grown to the point where it costs around £11.5 million – 12 per cent of the Department’s budget.
The changes Tynwald are being asked to agree would mean all students would contribute £2,500 a year towards their fees from 2014 assisted with a Treasury loan repayable only when their salary, upon starting work, reaches £21,000. While, ideally, the DEC would have maintained its current level of support, the changes would mean that students would share the cost of their higher education more equitably with the taxpayer, as current circumstances demand, but are not priced out of attending university.
Tim Crookall MHK, Minister for Education and Children, said:
‘We are having to make difficult decisions about the funding for student tuition fees, but these are difficult times. I feel that what has been proposed, together with the flexibility of a three-year budget target, will enable my Department to continue to invest in young people by delivering the high levels of core services through its schools and college that the public rightly expects.’