Investment in education is a win-win for the entire nation. When today’s students enter the jobs market they need to be equal to or better than their counterparts from around the globe. In time-honoured tradition they will also need to be sufficiently economically productive to support their children’s generation through school and their parents generation through old age. The scale of these twin challenges is growing, and those wistful Brexiteers blissed-out in their dreams of waking to a new dawn in sunny uplands need to WAKE UP! They will not see that day simply by closing our boarders to the immigrant labour currently recruited to fill the skills gap. When the free movement of labour is curtailed, the excess demand for skilled workers will need to be met by a newly refreshed and suitably qualified pool of domestic labour. If that demand can’t be satisfied businesses will move to where they can find the skills they need.
Anything less than a wholehearted properly funded commitment to education at every level will condemn our nation to a low wage low skills economic life in the slow lane.
What We Have Is Not What We Need
Good, appropriate, and effective education requires a level of investment which the Tories are demonstrating they are not prepared to make. While we are told spending on education has never been greater, just saying and repeating often does not make it true. Analysis of spending per pupil gives the lie to this boast. After factoring in the increased pupil numbers, reduced buying power after inflation, increased payroll and employer pension contributions, the value of education spending in England is reducing. Like so many fly-by-night spivs the Tories are trying to wing-it on the cheap.
The Grim Reality
Balancing their school budget for many head teachers is at crisis point. The Tory mantra of ‘efficiency savings’ is ringing hollow, and further real terms cuts will bite ever deeper in to front line services. Vacancies are left unfilled, class sizes are increasing, subjects are being dropped, after hours activities are ended, skilled experienced staff are leaving the profession, and parents are being asked to make direct cash payments to cover the shortfall for day-to-day expenditure.
Meanwhile the Education Secretary is grandstanding plans to reintroduce grammar schools; the state funded selective schools where the offspring of wealthier parents are grossly over represented. The corollary of this will be the downgrade of comprehensive schools to Secondary Modern status. Introduction of these regressive proposals will herald a return to the selective secondary education relic from the 1951 Tory administration. We will once again have a society where a large majority of children are intentionally left behind from the very outset.
The truth Behind Justine Greening’s Fig Leafs
- To claim that reintroduction of grammar schools will provide choice to parents is disingenuous; any choice rests with the selection process. This brands children a success or failure and often determines whole life outcomes at age 11.
- To suggest that grammar schools foster social mobility is a discredited myth. Grammar school pupils do better than their counterparts in non-selective areas, but those who don’t get in to grammar schools do less well than their counterparts in non-selective rea’s. (see IFS, Sept. 2016)
- To pretend that grammar schools will ‘work for everyone’ is a statement of the ridiculous. Compared to children from the state education sector, children from independent Prep schools are 10 times more likely to gain entry to existing grammar schools than pupils in the state sector on free school meals. 53% of pupils attending existing grammar schools come from wealthy families. (see Sutton Trust, Dec 2016)
The Final Analysis…
Is the aim of the Tory government to provide a place for every child in a good or outstanding school? No doubt they would say it is (because to say otherwise would be political dynamite). It is a worthy objective, but one which regrettably is not supported by the current funding settlement, or compatible with their grammar school proposals. A less easily defended position is difficult to imagine, but ploughing on with a policy which is good for the few at the expense of the many has never yet dissuaded a Tory from pursuit of their folly.
Now Consider The Alternative
Labour’s Pledge On Education:-
“We will build a new National Education Service, open to all throughout their lives. We will create universal public childcare to give all children a good start in life… We will bring about the progressive restoration of free education for all…” read more here