Thursday, 5 January 2017

Tories wrong on education again(2)

Having taught for many years in one of the poorest areas of Merseyside, I remember the 1980s as being particularly difficult; it wasn`t so much a matter of pupils having to share a text-book in lessons, as teachers having to share the same half-set, and plan lessons accordingly. With large classes, and pay always falling well behind inflation, I became convinced, then, that the Tories were not really bothered about what happened in state schools, especially those miles away from the leafy suburbs of the south.
 The news, therefore, that schools are again facing "the biggest cut to their budgets in a generation" comes as no surprise (Teachers` jobs to be cut as school finances fall off cliff, heads warn, 04/01/17). A caring government, supposedly keen to help the "just about managing", and unwilling to rule for the benefit of the "privileged few", would never have allowed the teacher recruitment problems to become a crisis in the first place. To add salt to the wounds, funding per pupil in the north is still way below that for London. Back to the 80s we go!

Sir Michael Wilshaw would be far better advised to leave education policy advice about grammar schools being "economically disastrous for the country" to Labour and all politicians anxious to retain their seats, and stick to the job he is paid to do (Grammars will damage UK economy, says Ofsted chief,24/12/16). Far better if he had apologised for constantly and unduly criticising teachers throughout his term of office, and acknowledged that the resulting recruitment crisis should be top of his successor`s priorities. He should also have admitted that there are hundreds of schools in the north of England achieving fantastic results, especially considering that most receive grants per pupil well below that of London schools, and that thousands of brilliant teachers work diligently, enthusiastically and successfully there. Demanding a pay increase for classroom teachers would have been a far better "parting shot"!
       Your list of quotes in the column, "Wilshaw in his own words" did not include the one most teachers associate with him: that when staff morale in a school "is at an all-time low", the headteacher knows he/she is "doing something  right"! 

The Tories are using the same argument for their "controversial reforms to higher education", that their bill will increase competition and choice in the university sector, and raise standards, as they used in the 1980s, when privatising the energy industry (Rebellion over university reforms, 02/01/17)! The idea that "free-market" universities will improve standards is just as ridiculous as Tory claims that having more energy companies would cause prices to fall.
     That Tory higher education policies are off course is further illustrated by the plans to link tuition fee increases to teaching quality. The latter is to be determined by the Teaching Excellence Framework, where teaching quality is judged by students` views, the number of students dropping out before course completion, and the number of graduates getting appropriate jobs. Only Tories could possibly think such a system efficient!

  Making it "easier for new institutions to be awarded university status" can only lead to profit-seeking colleges being set up; the last thing the country needs is privatisation of higher education!

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