UCU responds to budget statement

3 March 2021

UCU today described the chancellor's budget statement as a missed opportunity and called for more support for education staff as well as better mental health funding in the sector.

The union said the sector needs huge investment, particularly in staff, as education would be fundamental to the post Covid-19 recovery. The union also said that with health staff currently working on Covid-19 wards saddled with huge debts, now was the time to acknowledge the current higher education funding model is not fit for purpose, abolish university tuition fees and fund education properly.

UCU called for increased funding for mental health services in post-16 education as well as proper, long term investment in lifelong learning and adult and community education to ensure that all young people and adults can access the learning they need. The union added that increased funding for apprenticeships should be used to support front line delivery and raised concerns over unintended consequences it may cause to youth employment. 

UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: 'Today's statement rightly recognises the importance of education and skills to our recovery from the pandemic. However, this Budget is a missed opportunity to invest in rebuilding the education sector to meet the country's skill needs after years of funding cuts, jobs losses and pay cuts. We need investment now in the education workforce to ensure the sector can recruit and retain the staff it needs to deliver on the government's skills ambitions. 

'Student and staff mental health has been a serious issue in education for many years, but the pandemic has compounded the issue and more funding aimed at mental health services across post-16 education is urgently needed to address this crisis.  

'Now is the time for the government to step up, fund the system properly, abolish fees and ensure that education is available and accessible to all. If the government is serious about ensuring equality of opportunity, it must ensure stable funding for the sector so institutions impacted by the pandemic do not rush to make damaging cuts to courses and jobs which would undermine future capacity. 

'We also need massively increased investment in adult and community learning, accompanied by a coordinated strategy to ensure that all adults - whether in workplaces or prison cells, care homes or colleges - can access the learning that is right for them. Increased funding and flexibility for apprenticeships is welcome but it removes the extra £500 incentive to employ younger people. Funding for apprenticeships should also be prioritised towards frontline delivery if we are to ensure they are an attractive option for young people. 

'Education staff have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to support their students and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances - decent pay and secure employment is the least they deserve. We need more investment in public services and fair pay for staff to ensure that we have the skills to get the country moving again. If this pandemic has taught us anything it's that public services and key workers are the people who hold our country together. They must not pay for this government's mistakes.'

Last updated: 4 March 2021