The coalition’s educational cuts create more than just physical problems

The nation has been on tenterhooks this week as the media continues to announce the swift and staggering cuts being made to public spending by the coalition Government.

The effect is numbing. Budget cut details are coming so hard and fast that it is almost impossible to keep up. And now the latest news surrounds potential cuts to the well-guarded NHS budget, which faces pressure from Tory MPs who ask why other departments are facing reductions of up to 40 per cent, whilst the NHS remains untouchable. I don’t need to enter into an argument about exactly why the NHS is an exceptional entity, and should be safe-guarded with such special immunity.

But this is not to say that other departments don’t have an extremely valuable part to play in a progressive society. Education, education, education has been the political hot potato this week. The news that schools would face a £1 billion cut and that the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme would be axed was met by leading Tories with predictable references to Labour’s old ways of “needless bureaucracy”.

Whilst drawing comparisons between BSF’s efficacy in schools with building an airport in Hong Kong may possess rhetorical spark, the reality, as always, is startlingly different – and forces great fissures into the arguments made in cabinet.

Here in Yorkshire, some of the poorest communities in Britain still exist (perhaps not within the affluent idyll of York, but certainly just 30 miles down the road in Doncaster, for example). I have spent the last week on the phone to a number of schools in South and West Yorkshire (not out of choice, just to let you know – my summer break hasn’t reached that low point just yet) to gauge their reaction to the axe.

From what I have seen in most of the national press, I was expecting some signs of disappointment and an overall consensus that the money really didn’t help that much. I anticipated a response along the lines of, “the school buildings needed a few licks of paint here and there, but we’re mostly all fine and dandy, thank you very much.”

Not so. Liz Churton, the Headteacher of Knottingley High School, has accused the scheme’s stoppage of “taking the heart out of the community” as her school is to be left in “complete disrepair”. Paul Frazer, the Headteacher of Airedale High School, cited how the funds were going to be used “to transform the way we deliver education” in his “ageing and deteriorating” Wakefield school.

Education is not just about a school and it students. Education is also about a community and its residents, and ultimately England as a whole led by a Government that respects all of its citizens.

Depriving the most needy schools of a financial safety net used to improve the physical outlook of a building affects the self-esteem of students and teachers alike, in addition to preventing spaces for academic, athletic and cultural flourishment, such as science labs, as well as sports and performing arts centres. Whilst this axe may, on the surface, seem like a pragmatic move in light of the current economic crisis, the social repercussions will reverberate through communities across the country.

So in actuality the question is: are we really a ‘progressive’ society, or just merely ‘progressing’? Who are we to judge superlative progress? The evidence in my view stands as showing only one thing: that in fact, we are a society regressing.

This can only be compounded by the news today that the Government plans to give teachers more power to be tougher on kids in classrooms or, as the Daily Express puts it so astutely, as always: “At last… teachers can use force on yob pupils again.” Sigh.


  1. 7 Jul ’10 at 8:45 pm

    slanting... slanted... fallen off a cliff edge

    Cuts are inevitable,
    Labour would have made cuts, just later than this emergency budget did. Alastair Darling’s last budget was basically a story of, wait for now to ensure recovery, do the cuts later.
    The Conservatives may be making deeper cuts than a different government would have done, but would cuts made under Labour have been any more Holy?
    You seem to seem to be basing the article around this concept of a ‘progressive society’, an ambiguous term to say the least. You could easily argue we a setting up fiscal financial stability, so we can be ‘progressive’ in the long term. Perhaps you are just short-sighted in your scathing analysis.
    Why education especially? If cuts to police lead to higher crime, that could be called ‘regressive’ for society. Cutting nuclear funding and increasing dependency on fossil fuels could be called ‘regressive’.
    I get the impression, that although you may have an objection to cuts to education in particular, that you are trying to justify an anti-coalition sentiment through this particular channel.
    Also, i’m almost certain that you didn’t expect, “the school buildings needed a few licks of paint here and there”, only someone who was trying to make their article more dramatic would pretend that they thought that.
    Times are hard for a lot of people, but ring-fencing multiple areas and not making meaningful adjustments to the finances of this country may make times in the future a whole lot harder.

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  2. An eloquent and succinct argument Laura.

    My personal view is education is our highest priority. It is far more important than the NHS, which largely keeps geriatrics alive for a few years longer. Education increases the wealth and prosperity of everyone and is the only thing we have over up and coming economies such as India and Brazil.

    If cuts have to be made, turning the bottom 50 unis into polytechnics and slashing most arts courses within them would be a far more efficacious cut. It’s better to have solid primary and secondary education than a bunch of 3rd rate universities churning out degrees not worth the paper they are written on.

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  3. 8 Jul ’10 at 7:39 pm

    Dismayed Liberal

    “It is far more important than the NHS, which largely keeps geriatrics alive for a few years longer.”

    You can’t be fucking serious.
    I expect your opinion would turn on its heel were you to, say, get hit by a bus.

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  4. Privatise the NHS.
    Go further with education reforms and allow companies and or individuals make a PROFIT from setting up schools. Give a concrete incentive to drive up standards.
    Cut social security by a third…be realistic!
    Increase tutition fees as many of us can afford to pay more and at the same time increase bursaries for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
    Privatise the BBC.


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  5. 9 Jul ’10 at 2:13 pm

    Luke Brownbridge

    Doncaster is mint. This article is boring, can we have normal news please?

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  6. What a load of rubbish.

    1) Labour was not only spending money which it did not have, but promising funds in the run up to the election which it knew it could never deliver. And you want to blame the Libs/Cons for acting responsibly and trying to pay off the national debt?

    2) In terms of higher education, the government is not cutting places but reducing the number of new places created, which is sensible.

    3) Your last paragraph is indicative of the mindset which is ruining education. To have an excellent school, all you need is an excellent teacher with complete control over the class. Buildings and equipment are nice, but not usually essential.

    4) The label ‘progressive’ is very condescending. It implies that if I disagree with you, I am therefore regressive, or at least suffering from a case of arrested development.

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  7. Should read ‘new buildings and equipment’, since nobody’s talking about demolishing gyms and stealing the kids’ bunsen burners.

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  8. Terrible article. Wait till you start paying taxes, love, then you can complain about money and where it goes.

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  9. 14 Jul ’10 at 9:26 pm

    Conservative education policy

    ‘since nobody’s talking about demolishing gyms and stealing the kids’ bunsen burners’

    what a spiffing idea jimbo, can’t believe we missed out on this when we were busy selling off all the school playing fields in the 90s. why can’t everyone just go to eton anyway, tally ho!

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  10. Selling off all the playing fields? Think you’ll find that more land has been grabbed under New Labour

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