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How will the spending review affect teachers?

Teachers were always going to be affected in one way or another by the government's spending cuts. The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed that the schools budget will be cut every year of the spending review period. However, it claims that because of savings elsewhere, the real reduction in resource spending for the department will be three per cent by 2014-15.

It also said that the average annual capital budget for the period will be higher than that for the 1997-98 and 2004-05 periods, although it does not clearly state if this is in real terms. Commenting on the cuts, Secretary of State Michael Gove said, "The size of the deficit means we have had to make tough decisions. There will be many savings across the Department but the coalition government is committed to improving education for all. That's why we're protecting the frontline, handing power to teachers and introducing a pupil premium for the poorest."

However, many of the teaching bodies certainly don't view these cuts in the same way. One of the most high-profile schemes to be axed is Building Schools for the Future, which was introduced by Tony Blair in 2004 and aimed to renovate or rebuild every secondary school in the UK over the next two decades. The obvious impact of this on teachers is the cancellation of 700 rebuilding projects, meaning many schools will not get the facilities needed, particularly in the most deprived areas. Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: "The money now allocated for spending on school buildings is a poor substitute and represents a 60 per cent reduction in real terms."

Another contentious funding issue to arise from the budget is the allocation of a Pupil Premium. Some £2.5 billion has been allotted for disadvantaged pupils, and will be used to encourage better schools to take youngsters from a poorer background.Mr Gove has admitted that this money has been found from within the DfE's budget, effectively meaning that some schools will be gaining extra funding at the expense of others.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, issued a damning review of the policy. "The hype around the Pupil Premium does not stand the test of scrutiny," she said. "Masquerading behind the pretence of fairness and protection of funding, the truth is that school budgets have been plundered to pay for the Pupil Premium."

Worryingly for teachers, there are also those that predict the Pupil Premium could cost them their jobs.Andy Burnham, Labour's Education Spokesman, is quoted by the Guardian as saying, "The new premium is simply recycling existing funding from one school to another. As a result, some schools are facing significant cuts, hence reports today of 40,000 teaching jobs at risk."

The view that teaching posts will be lost following the Comprehensive Spending Review is one shared by NASUWT. Ms Keates said, "Even a cursory examination of the CSR figures indicates a substantial loss of teacher and support staff jobs in schools and local authority central services."

Existing teachers may also be affected by the changes to public sector pensions announced in the review. Teachers will also feel the effects of the public sector pay freeze. Public sector workers will be expected to make a larger contribution to their pensions in the future. The government plans to begin implementing progressive changes, which will lead to savings of £1.8 billion a year by 2014-15, it claims. Some £1.1 billion is expected to be saved in the DfE by the public sector pay freeze, with the government claiming that a further £1 billion will be placed in frontline teaching by "procurement and back office savings".

Ms Blower highlighted that the increase in the retirement age coupled with the pay freeze will mean teachers will "have to work longer for less". She added, "Teachers will see this as a long way short of the 'gold standard' George Osborne describes."

Another issue that may concern those in the teaching profession is the uncertainty which the NUT and NASUWT believes still surrounds the funding for schools. NASUWT described understanding the spending review as like "knitting fog", while the NUT highlighted a number of questions that it believed went unanswered surrounding the Pupil Premium and Sure Start. "Even in relation to school funding, to say that per pupil funding will be maintained in ‘cash terms’ points towards a per pupil cut in funding in real terms. The Chancellor will need to reassure parents and teachers on this point," Ms Blower said.

With new facts and opinions emerging every day, it could be some time before the effect of the spending review on teaching can be fully understood.

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