By Cormac Kelly, Socialist Alternative West Yorkshire
Nothing sums up the failure of British capitalism more than the state of education. Since the economic crash of 2008, the school system has faced an intense crisis in funding. Growing class sizes, falling living standards for staff, recruitment and retention problems together with the state of slum schools riddled with asbestos and crumbling RAAC concrete, illustrate the complete failure of the free market to provide a half decent education system for our young people.
This comes in the context of 4.2 million children living in poverty, most of whose parents work. Food, mattress and uniform banks have never been busier, a searing indictment of a failed economic system.
The mess schools are in
Recent research by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that school spending per pupil in England fell after taking into account inflation, by 9% in real terms between 2009/10 and 2019/20.
This is the largest cut in over 40 years. This has forced education institutions into desperation as they struggle to find resources. Total spending on education was about 2% lower in 2021 than in 2010.
In every area of school expenditure vast cuts have been made. The 32nd School Teachers Review Body (STRB) report on teachers pay endorsed an unfunded average pay increase of 5% in teachers pay from 1 September 2022, which was accepted by the Secretary of State, and another unfunded increase of between 8% and 9% for support staff pay which is to be backdated to April 2022. This provoked fury amongst school staff provoking the biggest number of strikes in years.
Yet school budgets only increased by 3%! On top of all this, the government has admitted that it lied about a 2.7% increase in funding up to 2025 and that the real value of the rise is only 1.9%, a £370m. cut in school funding! Sunak and Gillian Keegan are now refusing to put this money back into the schools.
In Further Education, the Institute for Fiscal Studies of December 2022 identified that college spending per pupil in 2024/25 will still be around 5% below 2010/11 levels, while school sixth form spending per pupil will be an outrageous 22% below 2010/11 levels!
The Energy Supplementary Support Grant for schools ceased on 1 April 2023, meaning that all schools will have to meet any increases in energy costs themselves, along with additional inflation costs associated with food, and other essential consumables.
State education has become a profitable outlet for private capitalist investors and companies. For years money has been wasted on profitable schemes devised by the Tories including academisation, free schools and the general involvement of the private sector.
This also includes the disastrous private tutoring scheme which was projected as ‘Covid recovery’ but which has failed miserably and left an underspend. These so-called reforms are mainly designed to put money into the pockets of the rich and take it out of the classroom.
What should socialists campaign for?
Capitalism can’t provide a fair and equal education system meeting the needs of all. We demand:
- A fully funded education system in which there is a huge and comprehensive rebuilding programme of all the semi derelict and slums schools in Britain; no one should work in dangerous conditions.
- All teaching and associate staff should be paid a decent wage.
- All schools must be run by democratically run local authorities. End academisation and free schools.
How to win our demands?
The Tories will not finance schools properly unless it is fought for. It will be necessary to have school, pupil, parent and community based campaigns to challenge the chronic underfunding of schools. Greater union organisation should be built across all sectors. Unions in our schools and colleges should organise planned coordinated strike action across the country to challenge all these inequalities.
Finally our education system should be under the democratic control of the working class to build a real socialist education system for all.
Join the rally against education cuts!
The NEU have organised a rally on Wednesday 22 November to coincide with the release of the Autumn Statement by Jeremy Hunt. Join us there!