The Guardian writes that anyone who recalls the 80s and 90s knows you can’t keep cutting services without children bleeding.
England is on the turn, like a pint of souring milk, and schools are smelling the whiffs. The number of children in care is rising; gun and knife crime are up; waiting lists for children’s mental health referrals are lengthening. The question is: how long before the whole thing goes completely off?
Four billion will barely touch the sides when considering the wider context in which schools are working. See, it is the welfare cuts in the other parts of the system that are starting to gnaw. Pupils are being forced to move with their families – sometimes 40 miles away – because their parents can’t afford inflating rent costs given tumbling housing benefit. To keep at least their schooling stable, especially if they’re doing GCSEs, children now take three buses each way. Imagine how exhausting that is for a 15-year-old. Imagine the impact on their exam results.
In addition, the number of children in care has started to rise disproportionately in some parts of the country. While in London, numbers of primary-aged children in care have dipped, in the north-west and south-east they are up by 37%. “Parents can’t afford to feed them,” one local authority worker bluntly put it. The increasing number of homeless adults on the streets don’t have homeless children with them for a reason: they’ve put them into care.
Elsewhere, children with special needs “too difficult” – read: “too expensive” – for mainstream schools to educate, are pushed into full-to-bursting special schools or into the private sector, at growing cost to the state. And London gun and knife crime is up 25%, at levels not seen since 2011.
These are complex problems in need of complex solutions. So what are the main parties offering? Grammar schools and a battle over lunch v breakfast.
The schools manifestos are weak. Grammars are a terrible idea. Coco Pops v sandwiches is a sideshow. The real issues, even for schools, are welfare and housing. That is what both parties need to sort out, before it is too far gone to save at all.
Is welfare and housing the root of the problem? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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