In recent weeks, many unions and organisations in the education sector have raised their concerns about school cuts and the future of education funding. Unfortunately, the news hasn’t got any better, and recently more groups have come forward and voiced warnings about the current situation.
Leading the way, Andreas Schleicher, the head of PISA (Program for International Student Assessments), questioned the cuts that many UK schools are facing. PISA is an organisation that evaluates education systems around the world. Mr Schleicher said:
“If you take the same system and you take money out of it, you lose and lack in quality. I think there’s no question around it.
“The school system today is your economy tomorrow, and that is something I worry about when governments have an attitude of, ‘Oh well, let’s cut some corners here’.”
His comments came after it was revealed by the UK government that extra funding which schools had been promised has now been taken away. Nearly £400m of extra funding, originally earmarked for helping convert schools into academies, must now be returned to the Treasury. Perhaps it’s understandable, as the government has scaled back its academy conversion plans, but it’s still money that schools desperately need.
According to the “Northern Powerhouse” government initiative led by then Chancellor George Osborne, the schools in the north of the country could certainly do with that extra funding. The think tank behind the project pinpointed schools in the region and the education system in general as the factors that would make the biggest difference in the future for the northern economy. At the time, Mr Osborne said:
“We can either make use of the momentum behind the Northern Powerhouse to really close the North-South gap, or we can let the moment pass and leave our country divided and the North left behind.
“Overwhelming evidence that attainment at 16 is too low in the North, leaving us lagging behind the UK and international competitors.”
One last story in recent weeks that again demonstrates the need for extra funding and the damage caused to education by the cuts was a report by the Teacher Development Trust (TDT). Its report found that 20,000 teachers in schools in England no longer had any training allowance. Contrast that with the thoughts of the School Commissioner who recently talked up the importance that professional development schemes had in the teaching industry – especially when it came to battling recruitment and retention issues. Currently, as per the TDT report, some 600 schools have next to nothing to invest in such programmes.
Unfortunately, the outlook for education once again does not look too bright this week. Taking away previously promised funding must sting in particular. And although the argument is that the plans have changed, earlier funds that were taken away from local council education because of the planned academy expansion have not been reinstated either. The inconsistency is frustrating and the justification seems flawed. Of course, the Government must try to allocate funds carefully and try to balance its books – but many experts and organisations believe that the best bet for future prosperity lies with investing in the education of future generations.