The average level of spend for developed countries across the world is roughly 6% of GDP. The UK is currently at 4% of GDP.
The National Education Union held a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference today on the funding cuts to our education and at its opening one panellist from the Union stated, ‘Education is an investment in the UK’. This is clear and yet shocking that we are still at a stage in our society that we require reminding of that fact.
The UK currently has the lowest skill levels in the G7 countries and with the gig economy and automation taking more and more unskilled jobs, surely investing in education should be a clear priority? On average, most developed countries spend about 6 per cent of their GDP on education, we spend 4 per cent. In real terms, we are currently putting the same money into our schools as we did in the 1950s.
The issue with that, of course, is that in the 1950s kids left school at 15. Yes, there are more teachers than ever before (a fact the government will not let you forget) however, there are also more pupils and schools than ever before.
Justine Greening MP, Education Secretary, did pledge more money to the sector but is it enough? The current funding formula has several issues with schools in small rural communities and schools without disadvantaged kids being hit hardest.
Kevin Courtney, Join General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
‘If schools don’t have disadvantaged children they will often be disproportionately underfunded due to the formula’.
Social mobility is a big issue at Conference this year, with many speeches and fringe events referencing it. Education funding needs to be put higher up the agenda as the next generation is the future of this country and their upskilling is important, despite this often being forgotten.
With the event going into Q & A, an obvious questions came from the audience: ‘where is the money coming from?!’ and ‘why is it always money?!’
The UK is falling down on the OECD league table which could suggest a fall in teaching standards, but when you consider the example of Chorley, a town whose school will be receiving a better funding deal under the new funding formula, its funding increase will not match inflation meaning that despite it getting more money it will still be worse off in real terms.
The issue of our education is often overshadowed by Brexit and other more sensational stories, but the issue remains that with us leaving the EU and the advancements of technology we need a skilled workforce that can help us make Brexit the best it can be. This upskilling of the next generation can only be spearheaded by schools and to do this schools need to have the funding required to make that happen.
Why do all talks revolve around money? Our system, capitalism, revolves around money, money is required to make anything happen and although teachers are working flat out around the UK despite limited resources, with limited resources come limited capabilities.
When looking at the example of Red Bridge school, a teacher there told us:
‘In the outer East London borough where I teach, the education budget is being cut by £15 million or £338 per child, or between £400,000 and £500,000 per secondary school’.
Because of such cuts one of the teachers there was allocated no money for textbooks. Given such examples, the issue clearly is money and priorities.
We can only hope that before Brexit happens, our government takes a look at its priorities and ensures that enough is put into the next generation’s future, with a fair education budget that allows us to upskill our future workforce. This will undoubtedly be a key component to making Brexit a success. The money for this to happen is out there, after all, if we have money to send to the DUP in Northern Ireland to prop up Theresa May, why not give the magic money tree a shake for our schools as well?