Funding of education is certainly a problem, but far more important is the lack of consistency across our education system as a whole. We have a plethora of types of schools and, inevitably, of teaching and learning as a result. The teaching profession battles hard to raise the standards everywhere, but the postcode lottery remains.
The core problems include the anachronistic preponderance of faith schools. Education should be secular – the place for religion is in the home and church and mosque not in the classroom. Next find a way to raise standards by incentivising teachers to work where the need to level up is greatest. At present many of the best teachers go into the private sector where the money is. Pay them more , much more, to work where the educational challenges are greatest.
We have a government where 65% of the cabinet went to independent schools. Frankly the difference between the education offered to the 7% in the private sector and the rest is enormous and socially divisive. Can a cabinet like the one we have understand that ?
Independent schools set a high standard in teaching and facilities – the state sector should aspire to do the same. Equality of opportunity starts at the schools, or should. But in fact it’s privilege that begins on the playing fields of the independent schools – many state schools don’t even have playing fields. And the housing market is skewed by education with property commanding premium prices in areas with better schools. Money buys advantage throughout our society, and especially in education.
A simple , maybe too simple, goal definition for educators is to release the full potential of their pupils. Of course these pupils vary in ability and attitude. But a good school with good teachers will measure the capabilities of their pupils and adapt their teaching accordingly. Mixing academic focus for the brightest with more practical teaching for those with more limited exam-passing potential makes sense.
The Education Act of 1944, a “triumph for progressive reform,” genuinely predicated a good education for all. That lofty ambition has been watered down over the years as market forces have increasingly dictated the quality of teaching a child gets and church schools, madrassas and yeshivas have confused the need for learning with religious indoctrination.
We need an education revolution if we are serious about “Levelling up”. Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that if society is to change we need to start in the schools. It’s in part about funding, but it’s as much about attitude and understanding.