Education, Education, Education?

Monday, September 21st, 2009 - Education, Employment, politics, sunday thoughts


Education, Education, Education?

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It is clearly the start of the UK Political Parties conference season, and in the run up to an election in 2010 it is even more intense than usual.

As a recruiter who focuses on employment, there are far too many subject lines to pick on to blog about this weekend:

  • We could have chatted about Baroness Scotland and her illegal home help – pathetic, when you consider the paperwork the rest of us have to go through
  • We could have chatted about the Unemployment figures – appalling, and will get worse!
  • And we could have talked about the fact that JobCentres are not working – the FSB came out this week with a wonderful condemnation!

But instead I have decided to pick investment, and specifically what the next government should invest in while trying to not only restrain – and hence tax more and cut back on spending to do so – but what should it spend at least as much if not more on.

Education policy

If I remember rightly, one of Tony Blair’s speeches both in his 96/97 election campaign as well as his early speeches about as Prime Minister was about his priorities being Education, Education and Education. Great I thought, I agree. Didn’t actually persuade me vote Labour, as locally the LibDem’s in Tunbridge Wells had a better chance of ousting another “donkey” candidate in Archie Norman, but did make me think when he won he had his and his government in waiting had his priorities right.

In the end, Archie Norman turned out to be as bad at front bench politics as Frank Field. He left after two terms and no chance of power, back to business: I met him the once on the day of the hunting protests at Westminster – nice guy amongst an awful scene, and a beautiful night over looking the River Thames.

But also in the end, it seems Labours promises of their priorities being education, education and education were false. This morning Education Secretary Ed Balls writes in the Sunday Times that £2Bn can be made in cuts top the UK Education budget, in part by conglomerating schools and cutting back on head and deputy heads; and then also cutting back on the central advisory roles and teams that have created the new UK schooling system. One of the facts that come out, is that in real terms teachers pays has risen by 19% during Labour’s period in power.

Now, this is political dynamite compared not only to Blair’s promise, but also to what was said in Alastair Darling’s pre-budget speech less than six months ago, when the scale of the UK Budget deficit was very clear:

Everyone under the age of 25 out of work for 12 months or more will be offered a job or a place on a training scheme. In addition, the government will create or support up to 250,000 jobs in deprived areas.

Sounded great – and it is. But as I pointed out then it hides or tries to further disguise some very frightening statistics:

Did you realise that there are more people in China learning English as a secondary language, that there are people in the UK?

To me, this further adds to the perception that after 12 years of a Labour Government, that it is acceptable that 20% of the population can’t read, and half are under educated. Trying to compete with lower cost economies with lower educated people is not a strategy for the short or long term. We now can add to this the fact that 20% of under 25’s are unemployed, and the opposition debate in May on Skills in the Recession brought up even more evidence of both under investment and poor management of funds being sunk into the education system.

For me, the next government is the one to answer the question to Education, Education, and Education with results: not placing in an uncompetitive position against the rest of the world.

Good Luck!

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