Pay rises, extra money, Nick Gibb saying he’s looking forward to sorting out education spending, a new Secretary of State for Education who actually has a link to teaching, a new optimism in politics. The future is bright, surely?
Except we’ve heard it all before, haven’t we? Every time there is a change in leadership or reshuffle, we get the same old rhetoric. Let’s make our education system the best in the world, let’s raise standards, let’s finish the job this government has already started. Unfortunately, it is a load of old cobblers.
But why? I think the people who have said this down the years have genuinely meant it. They do want our system to be the best, and they do want to fund it, but their hands are completely tied. Not by chancellors or austerity or spending cuts, but by simple necessary prioritisation.
Education will never be life and death, and that is the reason why it will never get the spending it deserves. The NHS is crumbling and struggling to cope under winter demand and the outcome is that people die. Defense spending is cut, our troops die. Crime rates go up and there is less policeman, people can die. Housing is mess, same scenarios. If education is underfunded what is the worst that can happen? That little Johnny doesn’t have a gluestick? We all know it’s much worse than that, but politics is never about the long term. The other public services have serious short-term impacts of underfunding so get the money quickly. The effects of underfunding on education won’t be seen for years and years, by which point it is too late. This is why education is only ever paid lip service too. It will never be important enough in the here and now to warrant a substantial and meaningful cash injection. I’m not saying that other public sector workers don’t have similar feelings – the NHS is testament to that. Workers there will feel the strain just as much, or even more so than teachers, but my point is that when use comes to shove, the NHS will get the funds. Push will never come to shove with education.
This infuriates me. Why should my first concern over a child’s support be whether I can fund it, not whether they need it? The short-term views of politicians and policy makers will never place education high enough up the list to see their ideas through. There are no votes in education, because the effects of underfunding can never be seen vividly enough in the public domain. Standards are rising, funding is better than ever, pay is better than ever, it is fairer than ever, more children have access to a good or outstanding school than ever.
That will always be the argument. But education is life and death. Not literally, but it is the key to everything politicians want for this country. Strong export businesses, strong economies, low unemployment, the actual vote winners. We all have the common sense to see that an education system that doesn’t work will cause more problems further down the line. It’s because of this that teachers make sure it won’t happen. They give everything to give children meaningful, memorable and effective educations that will help them. The politicians know this. They know teachers won’t stop and will keep providing great education, and that’s why they never have to pay more than sound bite lip service to our education system. Let’s hope that this time I’m wrong.