Education, education, education – cut, cut, cut.
And it transpires that more than £2 billion will be cut from the schools budget.
With 22,337 state schools in England, this represents a cut of £90,000 per school – roughly equivalent to three teachers or £275 per pupil.
Since there is an assurance that ‘front-line’ services (whatever they are) will be protected, Ed Balls wishes to axe up to 3,000 senior school staff, including headteachers and deputies. He is using the budget crisis to force schools into federations – multiple schools run by a single team under a ‘Super Head’ – which are presently merged only to assist underperforming schools.
The enforced federation of successful schools is a back-door strategy to achieve universal comprehensive education. When headteachers of grammar schools become ‘Super Heads’ and lead secondary moderns and other schools in their area, there can be no denying that the result is a monolithic structure for the provision of comprehensive education under a single director. Over time, courses at one school will be offered to pupils at another, and mixed-ability teaching will become the norm in order to sustain a viable pupil-teacher ratio.
But what does the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families think these manifestly dispensable senior school staff do?
Does he not realise that their interminable days are occupied dealing with ‘initiatives’ from his department for literacy, numeracy, ICT, inclusion, the Gifted and Talented, Work Related Learning, Every Child Matters, Extended Schools, Specialist Schools, workforce remodelling, changes to curricula, qualifications, inspections and buildings?
And all of these programmes have only succeeded in breeding a culture of mind-numbing, box-ticking mediocrity. Schools do not now so much inspire learners to a genuine life-long love of intellectual discourse; they produce citizens who are able to regurgitate bite-sized snippets of pro-forma answers which subscribe to the state-decreed orthodoxy.
And some leave school without even the ability to do that.
Many teachers are profoundly disillusioned with the extent of the Government’s failure. And it is not only teachers who have had their eyes opened to the vapid emptiness of Labour’s perpetual boast that it has revolutionized provision and raised standards. The OECD have shown that British pupils have a poorer grasp of literacy and numeracy than most other children across the developed world. Their report reveals that in the past six years, the United Kingdom has fallen from eighth to 24th place in the international league table for maths, with British 15-yearolds said to be ‘below average’ in comparison with their peers in other countries.
When it comes to education, the choice is now clear: it is between Labour cuts and Tory reform and investment.