Road repairs versus education – the need to adopt a ‘cradle to grave’ approach to education

Who would ever have believed that a Chancellor of the Exchequer would put more monetary value on potholes than education?

While recognising the potential hazard created by untreated potholes – to cars, their passengers and to cyclists of course, it should not be more important than funding our schools.

In this week’s budget, Philip Hammond committed the Government to hand schools a one-off capital injection of £400m to pay for ‘the little extras’. What an arrogant, insulting, patronising and ignorant comment to make in an environment of unprecedented cuts to schools’ budgets.

On the evening of the budget, a headteacher was interviewed on television saying that what he needed was the money to replace the five and a half teaching posts he had had to cut and to restore two subjects which he was unable to provide within the curriculum.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated per-pupil funding has seen an eight per cent cut since 2010. Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said Hammond had, “shown in this budget the depth of his ignorance on school funding.

“Schools are struggling to provide a full and well-rounded education and many schools have fallen into debt – money for ‘little extras’ won’t cut it. Parents, teachers, headteachers and school staff will be dismayed,” he said.

This budgetary decision followed a unique protest of over 2,000 head teachers from England, Wales and Northern Ireland – including head teachers from East Sussex – to Downing Street to present a letter to Phillip Hammond saying that the funding cuts were unsustainable.

A large percentage of schools and academies are in deficit as a direct result of the government’s cuts since 2010 and are having to find ways of raising the money to pay for basic supplies for their students. How can the Government expect headteachers to provide the necessary environment for positive learning, meeting targets, dealing with social and mental health issues affecting their young people and support their staff in such a climate?

No wonder it is reported that there is a shortfall of 30,000 in teacher numbers and that they are leaving in droves due to unreasonable workloads and stress levels.

To end this article on a positive note, the only solution to this problem I believe is a change of government. The Labour Party has pledged to create a unified National Education Service (NES) to move towards cradle-to-grave learning that is free at the point of use.

The NES will be built on the principle that ‘every child and adult matters’ and will incorporate all forms of education, from early years through to adult education.

When the 1945 Labour Government established the National Health Service, it created one of the central institutions of fairness of the 20th century. The NES will do the same for the 21st century giving people confidence and hope by making decently funded education a right, not a privilege, and building bridges where the Conservatives build barriers.

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Jay Kramer is a former deputy leader of Hastings Council and former East Sussex county councillor.  She’s also long been a community activist and Labour Party member and officer in Hastings.

 

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