In Britain, when PM Tony Blair formed his first Labour government in 1997 he set out their top priority as being “Education, education, education”. Whatever one thinks of his three premierships, his insight on that issue was certainly astute, don’t you think? But in his ten years he got well blown off course on that didn’t he (the focus was on making war), and how have we done in the last five years since Labour as well?
Oh yes, large sums of money were pumped in early on – more and higher paid teachers & teaching assistants, smaller class sizes, school buildings replaced or renovated, substantial capital investment particularly in information technology – but whether the cash was wisely spent under Labour is a moot point, isn’t it?
But why is education so important to our Country then? It is because we are living in an increasingly competitive world where technology, training & qualifications, and widespread ability (not brawn), are the factors that will differentiate between those countries that will make it and those that will go down the pan. Britain might feel self satisfied with our increased education budgets of the Blair years, but we started from a low base and that insular attitude simply ignores what our competitors in industrialised countries are doing – they are not standing still either, are they?
When Conservative PM David Cameron took over in 2010 he chose ideological Michael Gove to run Education. Before Gove was replaced last summer, he had in four years brought mayhem to State education – with controversial destructive reforms, dismantling of structures, making changes galore that caused chaos and infuriated the professionals and have had an unknown impact. Indeed he showed more interest in self promotion in the media than in engaging with the teachers & educationalists [he devalued and called them “the blob”], who he repeatedly & regularly antagonised and he totally lost the support of the whole profession. He succeeded in undermining the standard curriculum and existing examination processes, and if he doesn’t go down as the most hated Secretary of State for Education ever, it will surprise many of us, won’t it?
Perhaps the most worrying tack of the Tories has been the ideological transfer of State responsibility for school education into the ‘private sector’ – they have spent a fortune from the education budget setting up so called ‘free schools’ and academies – which basically means that they are totally outside normal controls and can do what they like, including spending money like water, employing unqualified teachers, and power allowing children to be brainwashed with religious dogma instead of following a normal curriculum.
You see the problem we face in Britain is that the Conservative elite (Cameron et aL) don’t give a damn about State education, do they? This is because none of them has ever had to use it, have they? They have all been educated at private and independent schools before swanning off to Oxbridge for their top degrees. As long as the Public Schools are well looked after, our top Tories are happy and the Council house family offspring can take pot luck. Don’t get too excited in the hope that the Labour top boys are big State school supporters – they are all mostly from the privileged classes as well, who have had their advantaged education outside the State system [that includes Blair and incumbent Leader Ed Miliband].
Blair spends his life now earning money & generating a personal fortune in a way that any Tory grandee would be proud of (hardly a true socialist pursuit you might think?). Cameron can’t wait to lose the General Election in May so he can jump on the same gravy train – do you believe either of them actually care a hoot if millions of our poorer children don’t get the education they need to make their way in the world?
[Our performance in the field of education (including Secondary schools & Universities) compared to other countries is increasingly dire, and we progressively slip down the ladder – there is no time and little hope left, so in the United Kingdom get used to being a loser, and accept that our star is falling from the sky].