This is a quote from Sarah Harries, a parent whose child attends one of the schools halving the teaching hours on Fridays in order to save money. I think missing the point would be a colossal understatement.
It’s true that schools lessen the burden when it comes to childcare. But the reason hundreds marched against the reduction of hours in July was not because of the cost of getting a childminder for an extra afternoon in the week. It’s because nowadays, education is rightfully seen as a human right for children – most of us don’t want that right to be taken away simply because our government values austerity over the lives of the underprivileged.
Thankfully, the opposition has something to say about it; Labour MP Jess Phillips now takes her child out of school on Friday afternoons to demonstrate outside Number 10. The irony, as she commented on, of the fact that she could be fined for taking her child out of school on a Friday afternoon in protest of the government doing the same thing demonstrates quite how nonsensical it is to drain schools of their funding until they have no option but to close early.
One school which has had to take this drastic measure, as documented by the BBC, is actually providing childcare until the original closing time. It was a form of childcare before this, though. Whilst, yes, the pupils are looked after in school, caring about children’s welfare also means giving them the best possible start in life. Education plays a huge part in that.
Of course, the (recently resigned) Tory education secretary decided to point the finger at parents’ responsibilities when it comes to children’s education. Yep, there’s no typo. Rather than suggesting an improvement in the funding of said education in schools, he wants to try to change the way that people parent their children en masse. It’s much easier, after all, to make widespread changes in something the government has no control over rather than sufficiently finance the place built solely for the purpose of educating children. Right?
Aside from the fact that this is a blatantly obvious attempt to distract from the fact that the government is failing the country’s children, it’s pretty ironic that a Conservative called for improvement in the home life of young people. That would undoubtedly involve a reduction in the child poverty that Damian Hinds’s party has so kindly increased over the past decade.
Aside from those extra half a million children who will struggle to prioritise education due to their austerity-driven home life of poverty, even the children who are yet to be touched by these particular effects of a Tory government are being disadvantaged. For example, £96 million meant for improving “underperforming” schools under a Tory government ended up being used for academies instead. If Damian Hinds had really cared about the education of children from all backgrounds and home lives in his time in office, he’d have argued that his party’s policy of take from the poor and give to the rich was wrong.
Of course the Tory education secretary is going to argue that being born into low-income backgrounds or attending “underperforming” (underfunded) schools is going to have more of an affect on education than something which is much easier for the government to change. As someone who voted to raise the cap on university tuition fees, and more recently against the scrapping of said fees, I’m not sure I’d say that he was ever the best person to be put in charge of education for those of all ages. For someone who cares so much about how home life affects children’s education, he doesn’t seem to care all that much about what happens a few years later to those children whose home lives mean that they will be plunged into an immense amount of debt if they want to further their education?
Unfortunately, the new education secretary Gavin Williamson shares this lack of regard for people who will find it difficult to shell out almost ten grand a year just to gain a higher education. Despite being the second ever education secretary to have been taught at comprehensives, he’s still a Tory.
Just days before this post was due to come out, the government announced plans to radically increase funding in education (in a move which is almost guaranteed to be for political, rather than compassionate reasons). Whatever their motivation, though, whether it’s because they’re preparing for a general election or… I mean that’s the reason, but quite honestly, I couldn’t care less why they’re doing this. I look forward to seeing an education system backed up with the finance it needs to properly educate the country’s children.
Despite the fact that this makes my blog post somewhat obsolete, I’d still like to post it not only because of the effort gone in to writing it, but because it must be known the point that we had to get to before something was done.