The nature of this blog is to question the status quo, to be an agitator, not simply for the sake of agitating of course, no one likes someone who agitates, just to agitate. Or uses the word agitate quite so much. The reason I’m trying to rock the boat is that I think there’s an institutional ennui that means in many areas schools have simply given up trying to do things better, they do what they do and good enough is good enough. Naturally enough because of this schools will find themselves in the crosshairs most often. Because for every bone idle, lazy, self indulgent shit waiting for their pension to kick in there are 10 good, diligent, hardworking and committed teachers being undermined by those above them or working next door. However today’s post is not about the feckless gits determined through inactivity and arrogance to bring each subsequent generation to its knees but rather the bone-headed incompetence of the new national funding formula.
Now although I went to a private school where different rules are applied, from the age of 7 I went to school from 8.30 until 5.00 six days a week and I still struggled to fit everything in. We had all sorts of enrichment lessons, sports everyday, clubs and societies. We had debating and chess and once a week a lesson called Current Affairs where we discussed what we had seen in the news. Yes that may well be the province of the lucky few but I suspect it was less about the fact that they were trying to do everything to tick certain boxes and more to do with the fact that it was just a very old fashioned school and the Headmaster was old and that’s what he’d done at his school. Now – why am I telling you this? Other than highlighting how an old fashioned approach of trying to encourage engagement with the world may be a good thing, if the aim of creating ‘citizens of the world’ is to ever be achieved – it is also to highlight the fact that even with the long hours we put in we struggled to do everything. Now because of the idiocy of the new funding formula there’s an increased risk that schools will have to do short weeks. The cost of which will be absolutely deleterious to progress, children’s learning, structure not to mention the additional cost of childcare for every working parent and the impact on productivity (given the latest GDP figures this should set alarm bells ringing).
The Government keeps bragging about how education funding is at a record high but so too is the population, more children than ever need to be educated. In my professional capacity I have seen the amount of money that can be set aside for those little ‘extras’ like competent careers and university admissions advice slashed. As a governor I’ve seen the numbers for the region I live and work in and the new ‘fair formula’ will see pretty much every school thousands of pounds worse off. Indeed the National Audit Office estimates by 2020 schools will be down about £3 Billion because of rising NI and pensions costs and increased student numbers (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39758108). The kind of inane, beatific smile that keeps being returned when Westminster are confronted about these highly apparent and very damaging cuts suggests a political class that like the ostrich are content to stick their head in the ground and ignore the imminent danger.
The money has to come from somewhere, I’m not naive, I understand that generating money is not a simple matter of nipping into the back and printing what you need, but given the self-generated economic arse kicking we’ve embarked upon, investment in our future is surely the most critical point on any agenda. If we can not compete on the world stage with our education how can we possibly hope to survive, even if no one gives a shit about the individual children’s life chances you’d think self interest would kick in at some point and they’d recognize that truth. We’re already doing terribly, we’re 23 in the world rankings at reading, below Vietnam, a bunch of communist countries and former Eastern bloc ones, and languishing at 26 in maths. We arrogantly presuppose that because we enjoy a certain cache in the world it will always be that way and sneer at the other countries that I highlighted above, but the truth is we’re standing on the edge of oblivion and less money and shorter school weeks aren’t going to cut it.
Investment and more of it is the order of the day, not throwing money at schemes and programmes and initiatives but striving for everyday excellence, a consistent, well funded and well thought through education system that supports children in their personal goals but also gives them crucial skills to keep the whole toppling folly bumping along. So come on DfE stop fannying about and put your shoulder to it, this shit just got real. Altogether – I believe that children are our future…