March, 1946: Clement Attlee PM and Ellen Wilkinson (Minister of Education) announce free milk to all school children and free school dinners for all grant aided schools. Fast forward to early 1970s: Margaret Thatcher, Minister of Education cuts free milk tokens.
Fast forward again to 2010.
We now have free child daycare centres, under the name of Sure Start. We also have the genius of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), giving less well off people the opportunity to go to college or sixth form. These are important, successful tools given to us by the Labour government, over the past 12 years. I refer to them as tools, because they are useful ways of helping people to get out from under the poverty line.
Now, the Conservative Party shadow Education minister, Michael Gove MP, is looking to hinder the whole ethos of equality in education.
In their party manifesto, the tories are proposing to build 5000 “new schools” (according to The Times). For a party who are talking about making spending cuts to public services, we must ask ourselves where Mr. Gove plans on getting the money from to set up so many new schools? Unashamedly, he admitted that money would have to be taken from other schools to fund these plans.
Let me backtrack a little. New schools are not publicly run schools: the responsibilities such as the curriculum and admissions are left to parents, charities or businesses. But they are funded by the state. So assuming that a school is being run by a collection of parents – they will have the ultimate say in who is allowed to attend such schools. New schools do exist now, but are independent from the state. They are very selective and totally “middle class”. In their very nature, it is hard to imagine a school being run by somebody who doesn’t have a lot of money. People who don’t have much money have to work to get by. So here, ladies and gentlemen, is a very obvious middle class policy, aimed at middle class people.
Recently we have heard of children not getting their first choice places at school. Who created this element of “choice” in education? The tories – who else? Who is this policy good for? The middle class – who else? It is only people with a certain level of wealth or social capital that can trick the admissions catchment area system, by moving closer to the school of their choice, or even using fake addresses to appear to live nearer. The element of choice in education is very unfair on most people, and can result in the wrong people going to the wrong school. What is wrong with going to the school that is closest to where you live, seriously?
I find the new schools policy as nasty as the nasty party. The idea of removing funding from schools that already are struggling to give to a middle class few, so that they can set up their own schools for middle class children, and teach middle class ideals is beyond me.
Lets say no. Game On!