There was relief in Hackney when the Osborne spending review failed to deliver expected cut-backs in children’s services.
Primary school education is to be protected and an additional 15 hours per week will be offered to disadvantaged two year olds.
Sure Start funding will also be protected, which is good news for the 24 children’s centres in the borough of Hackney.
Colleen Sterling, head of Woodberry Down children’s centre, said: “It’s great news for families. We are relieved but we’re not complacent. We’ve been looking inwards and we’ve realised that we can do a lot more with the money we have.”
In his Comprehensive Spending Review speech this afternoon, George Osborne said that he wanted to “find more resources for our schools and for the early years education of our children”.
The budget for schools is set to rise in real terms for the next four years, from £35 bn to £39 bn,
Osborne also promised to spend £2.5 billion on a “pupil premium” that schools will receive for taking poorer pupils.
Despite scrapping the Building Schools for the Future project, meaning that 700 rebuilding or improvement projects were abandoned prior to the review, the government has allocated £16 billion to refurbish schools.
For Hackney nursery, the Fire Station Community Nursery based in Stoke Newington this could mean the loss earlier this year of a £330,000 Early years Capital Grant may not spell the end for their refurbishment plans.
The nursery, run by a team of dedicated volunteers, has already paid £40,000 for two architects to draw up plans for the outside playing area and gone through the planning permission application.
Anne-Marie Lawrence, manager of the Fire Station Community Nursery, said:
“It will be money down the drain if we do not receive funding to carry out the rest of the work. We are based in an area where parents really need our help.”
Older children in Hackney may be affected by the decision to axe Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for 16-19 year olds to remain in education, which will be replaced by unspecified “targeted support”.
Child Benefit will continue to be paid until children leave full-time education at the age of 18 or even 19, however families with a higher-rate taxpayer will no longer receive Child Benefit. Some people believe this move to be unfair; under the new system a single woman earning £45,000 will lose out whereas a family with two earners each on £44,000 will keep their benefit.
In response to the Spending Review, Glyn Harries of the Hackney Alliance, an anti-cuts group, said:
“Young people aren’t just affected by education. Housing opportunites are getting more and more limited. The people I know in education aren’t convinced that funding in education is going to be protected, that it will only be protected in certain areas, in others areas it won’t be.
“A lot of people won’t realise that these cuts will have to be implemented on a local level. The government have the purse strings but the people who implement things are the local councillors who live in the area. Obviously people are calling on them not to make these cuts.”
The Hackney Alliance, along with other local organisations will be lobbying a council meeting next Wednesday at 6pm calling for no cuts in Hackney.
Reporting by: Jenny Cosgrave and Hanna Woodside