Give Us The Money and Leave Us Alone

My title is a cleaned up version of the words I use when helpful people get me to my feet after one of my occasional running accidents: “Thanks very much now…..” Just to remain obscure it is also a paraphrase of the 1970s German band, Can, singing a twisted love song, “If you really love me, don’t turn on the light, and leave me alone.

The government’s contempt for education has suddenly shifted our way. Suddenly, there is a teacher recruitment crisis; suddenly, a pay rise is advisable. Amusingly, the reinstated despicable Gove argues that ministers should listen to experts. When you are again vying with Johnson and Davies to depose the leader to whom you pledged loyalty your stated views count for nothing. Gove said, on education reform, “We have had enough of experts” and smashed the wrecking ball through rational thought.

Even I I have been surprised that there is no depth of backstabbing deceit and contradiction that politicians will not wallow in. Ex PM John Major, lightened my mood when he said, of the Tory-DUP pact, “Be careful who you get into bed with.” and then, moments later I was listening to Edwina Curry on Radio 5 dismissing the election result. We have to find amusement where we can.

It looks like we are returning to the dark days of Irish politics, banging a lambeg drum for the Democratic Unionist Party and their paramilitary allies in a doomed attempt to shore up a troubled British government writhing in weakness and confused chaos. The road to power is paved with hypocrisy and littered with discarded principles and manifestos. The DUP would build a society on superstition, prejudice and bigotry.

I am saddened to see that the peace-broking British government, which did so much to end the “Troubles,” should be risking Irish lives for a few more months in declining political power. As a teacher I worry about the DUP’s intolerance of homosexuality, promotion of single faith only teacher training and their pro death penalty and anti-abortion stance. And the world is only 6,000 years old; there were no dinosaurs. The tourist attracting Giants Causeway is not 50 million years old at all: God made it just before King Billy appeared on murals – that’s round about mid July 1690.

We now have the least strong and stable structure since my mate Dave tried to dance a jig on a bannister. We have to accept creationism in return for the politicians vying to replace the ruined May. On carrion they swoop: Davies, both Johnsons, Greening, Hammond and the chameleon Gove, all prepared to abandon their manifesto, contradict their previous statements, suddenly end austerity and embrace anything that offers them power. How much for a principle?

Tories now want to give some public sector workers a pay rise. Why? Nothing has changed, except that the firefighters are now deemed necessary and anti-terrorist work was compromised by under-funding of the police. The Education Secretary, Greening, clamours for £1.5 billion for education. Why now? Co-incidentally, she was not consulted on her own party’s election manifesto.

Most parents know that there is an immediate funding crisis in schools.. We have a 7.5% increase in staffing costs and those costs are around 80% of a typical £5million secondary schoolbudget. That make the cost increase around £300,000. Each year. Funding per pupil is to fall by 6.5% by 2021(Institute for Fiscal Studies 2017)

All state schools are, or soon will be, facing damaging choices: fewer teachers, less support for children, fewer subject choices and bigger class sizes. But many will just go bust.

Headteachers, unions and parents have paused for breath in the lobbying for decent funding for our children’s education. This crashing, fading wreck of a government must now give schools the money and leave us alone to get on with educating young people in an inspiring and exciting manner.

Stop meddling.

Here are the Tory disasters; careless, ideological games they have been foisting on parents, children and teachers, at a cost of billions and billions.

Grammar Schools do not meet any educationally sound, evidence-based agenda. Selective and notoriously biased against poorer children, grammar schools popped back into Theresa May’s now confused mind to woo UKIP. Sadly, it is unlikely that UKIP voters’ children would have featured greatly in grammar schools.

Selecting the brightest pupils at 11, stick them all in a couple of schools, use raw exam results as the success measure and then claim grammar schools are good. We might as well argue that sticking all the brightest kids in purple rooms shows that purple is best.

Hundreds of millions of pounds earmarked for more of these schools, rather than properly funding existing good schools to get even better outcomes for all our children.

What we need is to improve standards in all schools not relegate 80% of them to secondary modern status and all those children to the shared expectation of failure and knowing their place in some 1950s throwback to an industrial age.

Free Schools Free schools are a fop to middle class luvvies bribed to propagate the Govian idea that any idiot can teach kids.

Free schools are experimenting with our children, situated in areas that don’t need them and are massively costly. Originally allocated £450m in 2011 Michael Gove, he Free School building programme will cost £9.7bn by 2021. Taxpayers must meet a bill of£2.5billion just to purchase the building land in estate agent heaven.

Meanwhile established good schools fall into disrepair.

The Department for Education has given the National Audit Office the figures for school funding:

A place at a secondary free school costs an average £24,600.

It’s £21,100 for each place in a primary free school.

A place at a state school costs just under £4,800 (DfE figures 2017)

Give state schools 5 times the current funding and watch our children reach the stars.

The government spent £19 million in setting up University Technology Colleges (UTCs) and Studio Schools to take students from existing schools at age 14. The NFER report that UTC students are performing worse than their peers in their previous schools.(NFER 2017)

37 of the 48 UTCs are less than half full and 7 have closed since their inception in 2011.Without trying to condemn UTCs why would a bright 14 year old move from a school to a UTC?

15 of the 35 Studio Schools have closed. Designed as an alternative to mainstream education for 14 to 19-year-olds. They provide a work-related curriculum. However, set up without consultation with established schools and FE colleges and in areas where they were not wanted, UTCs and Studio schools have wasted tens of millions of pounds and failed young people.

Behold, said the conservatives, in times of racial and religious intolerance, let’s segregate more of our children as early as possible, hide them away from other faiths and make them believe in intolerant archaic prejudice more appropriate to The Daily Mail Sidebar of Shame than a democratic inclusive country.

At the start of January 2017 there were 6,813 state funded Faith Schools in England. The majority were primary schools: 37% of all state funded primaries. The chools were the most common type among primary schools (26% of all primaries); Roman Catholic schools the most numerous type of faith school at secondary level (9%). Non-Christian schools were very much in the minority; there were 48 Jewish (up by 6 in six years) 27 Muslim (up15 in 6 years) 11 Sikh (up by 8) and 5 Hindu schools (up by 4) All stats are from the DfE 2017)

Are we really surprised that Muslims do some Islam related teaching, that their ethos may be a bit different to the mass-in-school-time Catholic faith schools ? Do boys in Jewish faith schools wear the kippah, Sikhs turbans and Muslim girls the niqab? Surely the refusal to insist on secular state schools means we tolerate faith schools praising and proclaiming their own religion just a bit. Do we doubt that the Methodists, Greek Orthodox and United Reformed Church who all have state funding for their schools, sometimes go on a bit about what they consider the best bits of their faiths? Allow and encourage faith schools and we must accept that elements of separatism will pervade. The Quaker school might mention pacifism when talking of war, much to the distaste of those who glorify British wars. And as for the new Hindu Free schools with a ban on sausages…

If we segregate children by religion are we surprised they become segregated socially. Why would the Tories want to expand faith school provision?

What else am I against? (In Marlon Brando’s words in The Wild Bunch: “What ‘ve you got?”)

Schools Commissioners are all powerful, undemocratic and unaccountable. They replace Local Education Authorities and act pretty much as they choose. They can, and do, pick up the phone and close schools. Strangely, don’t seem as committed as one might expect. All it takes is for a Multi Academy Trust to come waving a £200,000 cheque, and there you go.

There are 8 regions each with 1 commissioner and the programme has run since 2014. In that 3 year period 7 schools commissioners have resigned. Nobody wanted them in the first place and they ran for more money as soon as it was dangled.

It seems to me that Multi Academy Trusts have been an opportunity for headteachers to become Executive Heads on high salaries. What on earth does an Executive Headteacher do? ARE THERE Executive bakers? Will an Executive Head Barman sell me beer?

What a surprise last night.; One year after almost half our 11 year olds were told they were failures, after a whole 12 months, all the results improved by around 5%. .Bruiser Nick Gibb say,s “Thanks to their commitment and our new knowledge-rich curriculum, thousands more children will arrive at secondary school having mastered the fundamentals of reading, writing and maths, giving them the best start in life.”

Oh thank you Nick, you were right you havre performed miracles. Or might Gibb and his cronies have been fiddling around?

I see and hear of worried, unhappy 10 year olds endlessly practising for SATs that serve to protect schools from Ofsted and headteachers from the sack.

Let the kids enjoy learning for as long as humanly possible. Give our teachers the opportunity to explore the joy of learning.

And. to paraphrase Bob Geldoff, Give us the bloody money!”

Dennis O’Sullivan

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