There are many things in UK politics that are hard to stomach right now. As we slowly watch our country tear itself apart I thought it could not get any worse… and then I read the Schools Week exclusive on Lord Agnew’s cost-cutting consultants and the advice they had been giving to schools. It sickened me to my core and is testament to a deceitful charlatan with the moral backbone of a spineless, champagne swilling, bottom feeder. How have we sunk so low? That we can celebrate 35 million in savings knowing that what we did to achieve it was ethically penniless. We are scavenging for scraps whilst ripping out the heart of all good schools, the people and compassion, and then gambling this on the well-being of its entire workforce. To celebrate this as a good thing should shock us all into immediate action. The fact that it does not, that it only makes us a little angrier says so much about England 2019. The arrogance of such a strategy is almost mind numbing in its absolute conviction and the fact that is has already happened:
Replacing experienced teachers with support staff
Covering three classes with one teacher
Keeping 50% of money raised for local charities
Cutting the curriculum
Slashing the number of hours in a school week
Limiting pupils lunch portions
As we see other countries invest in their education system and we hear their pride as they build systems for the future… we are left to watch the sinking ship groan as it plunges deeper and deeper into the sea of austerity – cast adrift upon crumpled life boats held together with spit and sawdust…
This has been a choice made by our government since 2010. This week there was a report that stated that nearly three million children were in poverty. 70% of the parents in this statistic were working? The behaviour of this government towards the most vulnerable in society has made us poorer as a society. It is attitudes like those of Lord Agnew’s ‘school resource management advisers’ that results in actions that hurt us all the more – As they look out from their ivory towers and justify their actions with, ‘we ALL have to tighten our belts’. No, what you really mean is the most vulnerable have to suffer more. I rarely see those making these statement suffering like a homeless child. It seems that many of those who make such important decisions that impact upon society have such little understanding of poverty and the need for quality education for ALL that they can somehow justify it to themselves. I’m not sure if this is a criminal act or just plain stupidity?
In The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better by Kate Picket and Richard Wilkson they argue that the effects of inequality on societies is significantly worse in more unequal rich countries. This argument could be levied at education in the UK. Good school systems make a difference, though the real difference is getting people out of poverty. How can anyone justify MORE children in poverty and not do EVERYTHING to change this? Surely that is the legacy you want to be remembered for? When the history books are being written on this period (which is now) just think about what we did to stop this happening. We live in such an unequal country right now and it is the likes of Lord Agnew’s approaches to schools that deepens this divide and creates even bigger problems within health and society as a whole.
As a way of creating a more equal society schools have to take back control of the education agenda. It would seem that current political process cannot do things well anymore. The interference within education by politicians have set us on a course that is akin to blind mice at a cat convention looking forward to the evening meal. We are running on the fumes on a wing and prayer that it will all be ok in the end. It will not be. In fact, it no longer is. Just look around you and see children in poverty increasing despite parents working, school budgets impossible to balance even after we have cut staffing, trips and the arts, local authority services gone, thresholds for being vulnerable and needing help higher than ever, doctor surgeries sending parents back to schools for help; the list goes on and on… But not to worry there’s a ‘school resource management adviser’ on hand to help – at 2.3 million of ‘extra’ funding.
Communities need to take back their schools. They need to make it clear that they want schools that help their children to become more independent, successful and engaged citizens – with a purpose and belief that they can make a positive difference. Keeping them in poverty and demolishing the very foundation of their schools will only hurt them more and make them angry. We are a country too driven by external experts with no real understanding of what it is like to live in ‘that’ community, or teach in ‘this’ school. Power is so detached from authenticity and that makes it impossible for the right decisions to be made.
This is the problem I have with Lord Agnew and the politics in education right now. It is clear what we need to do to make a positive difference that will be better for ALL the citizens in our country. We could make a difference to our future generation by investing in them rather than skimping and cheating them out of a better future. These people who we entrust to represent us end up representing something that the vast majority of us do not recognise and it has to stop. Rather than cutting our schools to pieces, stealing food from children’s plates and offering them a substandard education we should be doing the opposite and giving them the very best we have to offer. Shame on us all.