Where's the 'meaningful vote' on education in Britain?

The vast majority of parents, even the really hopeless ones, want their children to have the best possible start in life.

Monday, 11th March 2019, 7:19 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th March 2019, 6:45 am
Education Secretary Damian Hinds leaves 10 Downing Street after a cabinet meeting last week.

It is hardwired into human nature that most adults will do what it takes to nurture their young and help them grow into fine little people and there is a wide range of tactics used to achieve this. Some dead-eyed obsessives will march their offspring around auditions and talent shows until they are discovered by Simon Cowell while others will take junior down the park every afternoon until they really do learn to bend it like Beckham.

Most of us, however, believe that success in life boils down to one thing and one thing only, a good education. It is not exclusively the case that the straight A whizzkids who routinely missed Neighbours and illicit Benson and Hedges behind the caretaker’s shed in order to focus on advanced trigonometry homework end up the successful ones.

However, those of my contemporaries who took school really seriously 25 years ago now tend to be enjoying the fruits of their teenage labour while that is not always the case for the Herberts who used to spend their time in chemistry blowing up Bunsen burners and attaching crocodile clips to Miss’ frock.

Such is the importance placed upon education that it has long been considered to be a ‘political football’ something which the elected members both in Westminster and council chambers love to shout about. This particular Government is no different from previous administrations when it comes to telling anybody who will listen how much they value our ‘world class’ education system.

However, there are plenty of education professionals out there who will eagerly shout that we ‘could do better’ when it comes to supporting our youngsters through the 12 most important years of their life. This includes the 7,000, yes 7,000, headteachers who last week put their names to a letter which was sent out to parents, explaining what they are trying to do to tackle the funding crisis affecting so many of our country’s schools.

The Government line is that more money is now being spent on education than at any time in our history, with funding set to rise nationally to £43.5bn by next year but official figures are hotly disputed by those on the frontline with WorthLess?, the campaign formed to tackle the issue, estimating that school budgets have been cut by 8 per cent since 2010, the year the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition took power.

Last autumn 2,000 headteachers, including my daughter’s, converged on Westminster to hammer home their point that some schools really are worse off than others in different parts of the country. It can’t ever be right that some children’s schools are so much more badly off than others less than an hour’s drive away.

It is now commonplace for parents in some parts of the land to make a ‘suggested donation’ to the school coffers, while others send out online wishlists, asking families to pay for basics such as stationery. Some parents can and will put their hands deep into their pockets but a good education in Britain is supposed to be accessible to all.

Rather than Brexit, it is this issue, an issue which matters more than any other, which should be front and centre of the national debate right now. We owe it to our kids.