Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/219/9163
Labour Fails The Education Test
EVEN BEFORE the new academic year starts next week, a crisis is gripping the education system.
England and Wales is facing its worst teacher shortage for 40 years according to the government's own chief inspector of schools.
New Labour is under increasing pressure to scrap tuition fees. Reports in the Sunday Mirror say Tony Blair is considering abolishing them.
Higher education colleges are facing huge funding shortfalls because they can't find enough students willing to face £15,000-plus worth of debt to take places on courses.
The reason for this crisis is simple enough: Labour believes that education is a commodity that can be bought and sold. Everything in education now has to fit in with a profit-and-loss balance sheet according to New Labour.
But this is producing huge strains. London teacher and union secretary Bob Sulatycki explains: "The crisis arises because there are less entering teaching and more teachers are leaving due to low pay and low morale.
"Also, many now can't afford to live in inner-city areas because of high accommodation costs. There was an example last week of a teacher who will be commuting daily next term from Huddersfield to work in Islington, London.
"The teacher shortage figures are probably an underestimate. It's difficult to work out exact figures because the government covers up shortages in different ways. For instance, the employers use supply staff, who are supposed to be covering for absences, to cover up the shortfalls and this can mask the vacancies.
"They get teachers to teach outside their specialisms, or they can alter the timetable. Either way the curriculum is distorted. Teachers' non-contact time is also eroded and we are expected to cover more when teachers are ill or simply not available.
"There needs to be a fight on this issue from the teaching unions, rather than helping the government to cover up the full extent of the crisis."
Whether it's in schools or colleges, the Socialist Party is campaigning for education provision that isn't ruled by the profit motive. Join us to bring back a decent and free education system for all throughout people's lives.
The Socialist says:
- Pay a living wage to all teachers and education workers.
- Scrap tuition fees -- for a living grant.
- End the funding crisis. Free good quality education for all, from nursery to university.
In The Socialist 31 August 2001: