As with all the basic essentials for a decent life, education is a right, not a privilege. We all benefit from a strong education system. Holistic and accessible childhood and adult learning, free at the point of use, can enrich our communities, allowing us to reach our full potential. Sadly, this is not the system we currently have in place.
A decade of cuts means the Tories are failing to provide a decent education for our children, while chronic underfunding of education services has led us to a situation where our educational system is under unprecedented strain. On top of this, academisation has led to lack of accountability, ballooning executive pay and recent scandals and accusations of corrupt practices, like those reported at Philip Morant School by a recent Panorama investigation.
Over 1,000 schools are forced to rely on online donations in order to obtain the basic essentials for their classrooms. Excessive workloads have resulted in a mental health crisis among teachers, while funding pressures have lead to experienced staff being lost and replaced with Newly Qualified Teachers, facing huge challenges at the start of their careers. The underfunding of apprenticeship and adult-learning programmes are preventing people from gaining vital skills and experiences for professional and personal development. At Colchester Sixth Form College, lessons that used to be an hour long are now covered in just 35 minutes, because a lack of funding means they simply don’t have the staff to get through the material otherwise, while schools lay off Teaching Assistants and cancel extra-curricular clubs because they can’t afford to keep them. Our children are being failed.
What needs to change?
- Invest in and overhaul our education system making it inclusive and focused on delivering a well-rounded education
- Introduce a National Education Service based on the principle that every child and adult matters. We will provide for all aspects of our learning arc, from early years nursery places through to adult education courses.
- Reverse failing academisation and bring schools back under the democratic control of local authorities.
- Scrap league tables and performance related pay, which introduce perverse incentives to game the system through unhelpful practices like grade inflation and teaching to the test, which focus attention on government targets instead of the education of our children.
What will this mean for Colchester?
- First and foremost it would address the funding crisis in Colchester’s schools – across Colchester 71 schools have suffered cuts to per pupil funding since 2015 totalling £17.7 million – that’s £17.7 million less to spend on staff, books, repairs, training, courses, etc.
- Reintroduce proper accountability to our schools by ending academisation. Academies overspend on executive staff, employ questionable procurement practices, have less democratic oversight and make it easier to sack good teachers. All of Colchester’s secondary schools are academies, yet currently there is no legislation to turn them back into local authority-run schools – this needs to change.
- Reduce pressure on our teachers and young people by ending the insistence that they all work to unhelpful targets and trusting our teachers to get on with their job.
- Uniforms change annually adding an unnecessary financial burden onto parents.