Why do Labour politicians prefer arguing the toss about school structures instead of concentrating on the quality of education? This approach obviously has resonance with people who work in an educational setting but seems to me to have very little traction with the wider electorate. You could think of this as the ultimate 2.7% strategy. In particular, at this time, why are they not beating a path to every news studio, every journalist, with the message that there is a financial crisis in schools?
I think I know why. They’re scared. I don’t mean that they’re wimps in any way, but they are scared of the question that comes next. “How are you going to pay for this?”
I would say that if you can’t make this argument then you shouldn’t be in politics.
Look. It is so simple.
Schools educate children.
The better a school is the better the children end up being educated.
If you remove funding from the school system the schools within it are, on balance, going to get worse, and provide a less good education for the children in them.
The better educated a population is, the better the GDP growth is.
Investment in better education increases GDP. And that starts with schools.
So here’s the script.
“The chancellor has made significant changes to the pension and NI system. Because the biggest cost in a school is the cost of staff: teachers, teaching assistants, dinner staff, cleaners etc., these changes will have a disproportionate effect on schools.
Already schools have borne the brunt of front line savings with pay settlements way below the national averages. School budgets are now cut to the bone. Next year a significant proportion of schools, if not the majority will be in the position where their costs are greater than their income.
This means one thing, real cuts in those schools. And given the scale of cuts required it is people that will be cut. Teachers, teaching assistants, dinner staff, cleaners.
The consequence is straightforward. Whilst they will try to minimise the impact the reality is that when the amount that schools have to spend falls at the rate we are talking about, the quality of provision will suffer. It doesn’t matter if they are in a LA school, an Academy or in a chain, children will have fewer opportunities. Standards will fall.
If standards fall, our long-term economic outlook will suffer. All the pennies we save today will mean pounds of national wealth lost in the future.
We will find the additional money that schools need to compensate for the NI and Pension costs that the chancellor has taken away from them so that we can protect the future prosperity of our national economy.
We want better educated children growing into adults with greater opportunities to build a more prosperous country.”
If they can’t get that across, or if they are frightened of making an argument based on education and prosperity, then really, they should be in a different job.