More than 120 people attended last week’s Education Question Time meeting to discuss current pressures on education. The panel was impressive, the discussion wide ranging and contributions from the floor were excellent.
What we learned:
School budgets are failing to keep up with demands – more pupils, increased NI and pension contributions, the apprenticeship levy. The National Audit Office says that school funding will decrease 8.7% over the rest of this parliament, a £3 billion funding gap.
For most schools in Brighton and Hove, this means a cut of over £330 per pupil this year. For a class of 30, that’s £10,000 – so teaching assistants, sports, arts, even whole GCSE courses are going.
Academisation is still a pressure. Multi-academy trusts (MATs) reduce parent involvement; their teachers earn less but their executive heads earn more.
While parental choice is still promoted by the Government, decisions are taken by unaccountable regional commissioners. Consultations are a sham.
Government pressure is aimed at increasing selection in all schools, not just grammars. But selection reduces parental choice and has worse outcomes overall.
The professionalism of teachers is undermined by Government policy. Teachers must be trusted to teach, assess and report – they shouldn’t have to record every detail, photograph children’s work, provide evidence of every child’s involvement in every activity.
Key stage 2 SATs mean that pupils are taught inappropriate maths and English. The tests don’t tell us anything teachers don’t already know.
Teacher recruitment is declining everywhere, as are retention rates, particularly among young graduates – perhaps because they have recently experienced the realities of teachers’ working lives.
In higher education, lecturers’ conditions are becoming more precarious. Pay is being reduced. 50% of teachers in HE have been there for less than 10 years.
Further education colleges face the same pressures, with anti-union managements imposing worse conditions on lecturers, cutting courses, abandoning students with specific needs.
The student loan system destroys the idea of education as a common good. At the same time, it is failing. Many graduates can’t pay back their loans. Germany is reverting to a free HE system – it can be done.
The Higher Education Bill will destroy the collaborative environment in HE and lead to destructive targets, competition between colleges and poor quality courses for those who can’t afford Russell Group prices.
What can we do? What are we doing?
School Funding: This is a major motivating issue for parents. Save Our Schools is organising a launch event on Thursday 30 March. https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurSchoolsUK
And make your voice heard: write to your MP and ask your Governors to express their concerns too.
SATs: Parents can boycott the tests (but their children are still taught the same material). Both parents and teachers are fearful that they, their children and their schools will be targeted if they organise a boycott – it needs to be widespread.
University of Brighton: Some part-time lecturers’ pay has been cut by 70%. Management has refused to negotiate. Members of UCU voted 3:1 for strike action. Support their campaign to defend education and lecturers. http://ucu.brighton.ac.uk
Sussex Defend the NHS can act as a model; meetings and demonstrations in Brighton and Hove, forming a national network, organising neighbourhood groups. http://defendthenhssussex.weebly.com