Our Schools are in Crisis

In My View… by Tristan Price, Education Coordinator, South East Cornwall Labour

Tristan PriceIn Cornwall and across the UK our schools are in crisis. Class sizes are growing, school buildings are in a state of disrepair – in some schools children are being taught in corridors – and teaching staff do not have access to some of the most basic classroom resources.

The single biggest cause of the crisis in our schools is the cuts to school funding under this Conservative government. The institute of fiscal studies (IFS), which is an independent body, has calculated that the government have cut funding by 8% per pupil since 2010 in real terms.

In the South West the level of funding cuts may be substantially higher. According to schoolcuts.org.uk, an independent organisation that calculates changes to school funding, schools in Cornwall are facing cuts of £225 per pupil from 2010 to 2020. The result is that most schools in the county are losing tens of thousands of pounds from their annual budgets.

These figures demolish the government’s claim that school funding is now at its highest ever level. Such a claim does not take into account inflation and neither does it consider that, because of cuts in other areas, schools are being required to make their shrinking budgets stretch ever further.

It is not only the issue of funding cuts that has contributed to the crisis in our schools. An obsession with endless assessment, a narrow curriculum and real terms cuts to their pay are driving teachers from the profession. According to the government’s own figures, 30% of teachers in English state schools quit within the first five years. Moreover, the government have consistently failed to meet their targets for recruitment into the profession to make up for the numbers leaving.

After years of below inflation pay increases, the School Teacher’ Review Board recommendation to award teachers a 3.5% pay rise is to be welcomed. However, the government have announced that the extra money is to come from the existing Department for Education budget, meaning that any increase in teacher pay will have to be funded through further cuts in other areas of education.

In the Labour Party we believe that there is nothing more important than the education of our children. It was a Labour government in 1965 that introduced comprehensive schooling in the UK and it was a Labour government in 1997 that provided sustained funding increases in every year of that government to reverse the years of underfunding by successive Conservative governments.

The Labour Party campaigned in the last election on a manifesto pledge to create a National Education Service. This would mean protecting school budgets in real terms, ending the obsession with testing, and reducing class sizes.

In the meantime we will hold the current government to account for their reckless approach to our children’s education. We urge readers to join our campaign against the school cuts.

If you want to get involved in our campaign, or just find out more about it, we will be collecting signatures for our petition against school cuts tomorrow (Saturday) in Callington (next to the Co-Op), on Saturday August 18, at Fore Street in Saltash, and on Saturday August 25, in Looe.

First published in The Cornish Times 10/08/2018

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