Abandoned by the Coalition Part 2: Those dependent upon State Education

by Ray_North on August 12, 2014

images-5I am a governor at little Ryan, Iorweth and Declan’s school – it is a wonderful village primary school with a wonderful head teacher and great ethos and super staff. It has been well run, and, yes, I accept that, socio-economically it may not be in the most challenging of locations, but it is testament to how good state education can be.

Next year though, despite the fact that it is so well run, despite the fact that it is successfully sending eleven year old children into the tougher cauldron of secondary education they have had to cut down on the number of teachers by two – the result is that next year the pupil-teacher ratio will be up and the number of classes will go down. Now I hope that this will not prove too catastrophic for my boys, but, the point is, that with something as fundamental as their education, you want something more certain than ‘hope.’

In the next village to mine, the local secondary school has had to shelve the building of a new science block due to a lack of funds.

That may be catastrophic for many young pupils who have a talent for science.

But, of course only for those who are dependent upon the state school.

The coalition’s education policy is this: Free Schools, more tests, increased tuition fees for Universities, less funding for state schools, every encouragement to public schools. And the effect of this is obvious – the children of those who can afford to go private or move house or have parents who have the time and inclination to set up a Free School are to have a better education, whilst those who don’t have this privilege are left behind. State education, which has never been particularly cherished by the Tories is being destroyed by a mixture of underfunding and over-burdening of teachers with bureaucracy and the massive pressure of getting their kids to pass exams. Because, alas, modern politicians, have forgotten (or indeed never knew in the first place), that education and school and learning is about unleashing the potential of young human beings, about nurturing their skills and trying to enthuse them with a confidence and feeling that they can obtain anything they set out to achieve, rather that trying to get them through their exams in any way possible, so that they can enjoy some kind of political kudos.

They hope that if pupils can pass exams, then somehow society will benefit – now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against exams (christ the fact that I’ve passed a few has stood me in good stead over the years), but, I am saying that education is far far more than simply getting an A, B or F at the end of Year 11. Which is why every good public school has great playing fields, great libraries, lays on guest speakers and brilliant trips and has a low pupil, teacher ratio, because the public schools know that they have to offer everything they can to tap into the potential of the little rich kids who pass through their hallowed gates – so,if it is accepted by the leading private schools, that this is the best way to achieve a good and rounded education then why is this not replicated in the state system? Why does my local primary school have to cut their teaching staff, and the nearby comprehensive cease their plans to build a new science building? Well, we know why – the state is cutting back on funding so that it can maintain the current low tax, low spend economy.

So, in the face of reduced spending, the coalition’s education policy has centred around Free Schools and the Pupil Premium – now, I have nothing against the Pupil Premium, that would be churlish, but, whichever way you look at it, it is a pittance offered to poor parents, as a sop for the fact that society has pretty much failed them. Whilst the policy of Free Schools, and let’s not beat around the bush here, is just another way of trying to force divisions into society by allowing some parents to remove their children from the schools that they see as being populated by kids who are socially inferior.

I am at an absolute loss as to a single thing of benefit that Free Schools will bring to the United Kingdom – it is a policy that is profoundly regressive.

The increase in University fees is similarly regressive – now, there is an argument that there are too many university places, and too many rubbish degrees on offer, but, simply attempting to control the demand for University Places by charging high fees for courses is crazy – it is surely common sense that a successful nation would want to encourage clever kids to go to University to study and become the leaders of the next generation – alas, the coalition don’t get this, the coalition equate clever kids with rich kids, they assume that we will prevail regardless of the fact that whole swathes of the current generation of school kids will, in increasing numbers, decide not to go to University.

Does that make economic sense? No of course it doesn’t.
Does it make for social cohesion? No, the abandonment of the children of the less well-off, the children who are dependent upon state education, will simply add to the increasingly socially divided state that we now have.

Alas, the continued policy of austerity and the adherence to the economic orthodoxy of Thatcher and Reagan will see a whole generation of kids abandoned and forgotten, with their skills left un-utilised and ignored.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

George_East August 12, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Free schools have nothing to do with the quality of education, they are all about the privatisation of the state education sector. The Tories will go into the next election promising to allow Free Schools to run as ‘for profit’ schools, then you will have vouchers and free schools will (like the universities now are) be able to set their own fees and that will be the end of state education altogether.

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