Growing up in northern England I learned that while politicians will always do stupid things, you can’t let it get you down. Sure, the government might be ready to walk the country off a cliff – like they did to my little industrial hometown in the 1980s – but it’s only when they affect your hope, as well as the economy, that you’re truly sunk. The Guardian reports.
Somewhere in the middle of last week, after the spring statement, my hope finally slid away. The chancellor’s continued silence on school spending was deafening. “We are waiting for the autumn spending review,” say Conservative insiders, who seem not to understand that some schools are so squeezed they are seeking to close on Friday afternoons, or that council budgets are so shredded that special needs places are in crisis. Things are so bad that desperate local authorities are cutting back in ways that are barely legal. Last year, more than 2,000 families fought the lack of services for their child through the courts – and 90% won.
The working-class communities who, we are told, voted for Brexit because they felt left behind won’t feel any better, whatever happens at the end of March, when the legacy greeting them is crumbling schools and a four-day school week.
Furthermore, if we swallow the idea that walking out of Europe means we are entering a global economy race, then we need to be matching others in the fight who are pumping cash into developing a well-educated population. China has committed $30bn (£22.6bn) to education technology research over a four-year period to 2020. We have given less than £1m over three years.
The Middle East countries are pouring cash into their schools, which are sucking in British-trained teachers at a rate of knots. Even during a recent visit to St Vincent, a small island in the Caribbean, I had my ear chewed by a bus driver who was evangelical about the resources its government was putting into sending young people to top universities around the world. He could name every campus they were at, and sparkled with pride.
Education is not a public service that can wait for later. Every month money isn’t provided, every week schools close on a Friday, every day a child sits at home waiting for a place in a special school, is time we can never get back. Which is why I beg Theresa May to find a way to guarantee time for new education legislation in the next parliamentary year, and accept the call for a decent 10-year funding plan for education. Brexit matters, but so do children: they are our best hope for tomorrow.
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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