Blog by Patrick Vernon on 'Should politics be kept out of education?'
In an ideal world, politics should only enter the classroom as part of a debate between students or as part of the school syllabus. Increasing battles over funding, teachers’ resources and the education system as a whole mean that education has become politicised.
Starting with childcare
The political debate between government and childcare providers has been rumbling on for most of the 21st century. The former Ofsted chief, Michael Wilshaw, believes that ‘children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds should be taught from the age of two.’ When the Labour government introduced the concept for nursery education for all during its years in power, educators welcomed this move. Bright, well-equipped nurseries, furnished with educational games, toys and resources from Hope, among other reputable companies became the norm.
Then came the recession. Changes in government and austerity cuts started to dominate any debate about education. An article on the academic website The Conversation, commends the current government’s plans to provide free childcare for 30 hours a week, but points out that this is of little use if disadvantaged families don’t receive additional support to cope with their particular circumstances.
The curriculum always breeds discontent
Government and teaching unions frequently come to blows over the national curriculum. A recent article in The Spectator suggests that government should keep out of this debate altogether and leave the contents of the national curriculum to the experts; the teachers. In 2014, the Liberal Democrat politician, David Laws, even suggested that, “the school curriculum should not be set by the ‘whims of here-today, gone tomorrow politicians.’” In fact, when setting up the first state funded schools in 1945, the Education Secretary, George Tomlinson said, “the minister knows nowt about curriculum.”
More changes ahead
Every time a new government comes to power, yet more tinkering to the UK’s education system will be unveiled. According to The Guardian, David Cameron recently stated that his government wants to ‘give all schools the opportunity to be free from the control of local authorities.’ While in theory this might sound like a wonderful idea, in practice employers will have problems in recruiting pupils who have been educated to local, rather than national standards. Also, teachers will have to spend even more time than they already do teaching, administering and marking lessons, as well as ensuring that all pupils can cope with the pressures of scholastic work.
Politics cannot be kept out of education
Education has always been a unifying subject, in that everyone has an opinion on the matter. Sadly, that’s as far as it goes. The introduction of privately run academies to replace the old local authority run state school system causes huge discontent among parents and teachers. The greatest problem, is that children hear all of these debates and wonder how it affects them and their future. Perhaps it is time to find a more rational way for all parties to improve our children’s’ future and stop using education as a political football.
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