Children pay for education cuts

by Daphne Liddle

EDUCATION standards in England’s schools are falling according to a report published last week from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development with our 16 to 24-year-olds falling behind their European and Asian counterparts.

This follows year-upon-year of reports that children in Britain are among the most unhappy in the world, according to their own self-description.

In our modern debt-ridden, long working hours society young people simply do not get enough adult time and attention.

Thousands are educated in seriously sub-standard buildings as time after time repair and renovation programmes are described as urgent and then cut.

Added to this is an education system obsessed with testing, making children from a very early age as “failures”, continual changes in the system for political reasons and a war going on between teachers and a Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, who seems to want to turn the clock back to Victorian times and whose understanding of education is mechanistic and backward.

And we have a ruling class that despises the working class, regarding most of it as redundant as technology advances and fit only to be trained as servants and menials to do what they are told and not think about it too much. The only skills they need for that are basic writing, reading, arithmetic and advanced grovelling.

When skilled workers are needed, they can be imported ready-trained from India, Pakistan or wherever.

The OECD’s repor t showed that England is 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24 countries.

The OECD’s Andreas Schleicher warned of a shrinking pool of skilled workers.

Unlike other developed countries, the study also showed that young people in England are no better at these tests than older people, in the 55 to 65 age range.

And it showed that there are 8.5 million adults in England and the north of Ireland with the numeracy levels of a 10-year-old.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the Nasuwt, one of the two major teaching unions, said: “There are a number of key factors which all of the best-performing countries highlighted in this report have in common: investment in education, respect for the education workforce, employer engagement in education and training, and an education service which creates effective links between learning and work.

“Sadly, these factors are entirely absent from the education reforms being pursued by Michael Gove.

“This Government’s time in office to date has been characterised by deep cuts to education, the denigration of vocational education and the adoption of a narrow curriculum.

“The gap in literacy and numeracy levels between young people in the UK and other developed nations identified in this report must be effectively and urgently tackled.

“We need to radically revamp the current arrangements for work placements and careers guidance, ensure employers invest in high-quality learning opportunities for young people and take steps to ensure that all young people can afford to continue their learning beyond 16.

“The Coalition should heed the findings of this report and reconsider their damaging and elitist approach to education reform which will not address the issues highlighted by this report.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the other main teaching union, NUT, said: “With almost one million people aged under 25 unemployed, it is vital to develop a skills strategy which prepares young people for work and is based on the concept of lifelong learning.

“While basic skills of literacy and numeracy, as well as technology, are essential, the report points to the importance of a rounded and balanced education.

“This contrasts with the approach of the Secretary of State who has focused on a ‘one size fits all’ academic curriculum, with vocational and practical subjects, where skills for life and work are in danger of being side-lined.

“The eradication of the Connexions services and the lack of investment in personalised careers guidance, means that those who already face the greatest social and economic exclusion are affected most.

“The NUT welcomes the development of new maths and English qualifications for post-16 students which aim to help students improve their literacy and numeracy skills.

“There now needs to be stability in qualification reform in order to ensure that these qualifications are valued by students as well as employers and higher education.”