Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/388/4395
New Labour's education failure
Why our classrooms miss out on Blair's 'bounty'
EDUCATION IS one issue where New Labour think they have a clear advantage in this general election campaign. They claim to have made big spending increases totaling some £19 billion.
But has this money brought real improvements? The increased staffing that teachers, parents and students need? Smaller class sizes in schools?
BOB SULATYCKI investigates.
MUCH OF this £19 billion 'new spending' has been double-counted, unfortunately very little of these "increases" reaches classrooms. In some areas, London for example, pupil-teacher ratios and therefore class size, are at their worst for 30 years.
Government spending on education under New Labour remains well below the average for developed countries. The pupil-teacher ratio lags behind all other developed countries except the Czech Republic, Mexico, Korea and Turkey.
The average UK state school primary class now has 26.8 pupils, compared to an OECD average of just 22.1. Of the major developed countries, only Korea and Japan have bigger classes in both primary and secondary schools.
Last year, English primary schools lost 800 teachers who were not replaced and class sizes increased. Thousands more infants (5-7 year-olds) are being taught in classes over 30.
New Labour has not increased overall funding. Two years into a Labour government, education spending fell to just 4.5% of GDP, the lowest proportion for 40 years. Spending rose slightly after then, but the extra money hasn't made a difference in most schools.
This additional funding was used in pet projects such as the misnamed 'Excellence in Cities' scheme. Some of this spending also goes on inflated salaries for head teachers and extra money for a few specialist schools. And they spent £22 million on management consultants over the past five years and £200 million a year on the OFSTED inspection body.
A financial crisis looms in schools, foreshadowed by the numbers of redundancies made in the summer term. Is that why the government is so keen to press ahead with the 'remodelling' exercise? This will enable thousands of classroom assistants to be employed as, in effect cheap labour, replacing qualified teachers.
In The Socialist 14 April 2005: