The education system in this country is failing our kids – the increasing privatisation which starves schools of resources and teachers is widening the gulf between the most privileged in society and the poorest. These cuts most severely affect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society, namely the 4 million children living in poverty, but this crisis is rapidly engulfing all working-class children.
A group of students from South London called Education Not Exclusion covered advertisements on the tube this summer with a mock tube map, stopping at “detention”, “isolation”, “exclusion” and “prison”, showing the link between school punishments and criminality.
35 students every day are permanently excluded from school, with only 1% of these excluded pupils receiving any qualifications at GCSE level. Furthermore, a shocking 25,000 children under 7 years of age were excluded from school in the year 2015/16. Who in their right mind would argue that exclusion is appropriate for infants? Yet this is clearly the policy in our schools.
Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Education Union, explained: “members tell us that as the curriculum gets narrower and children’s experience of school is ever more focused on preparation for tests and exams, more students are becoming disengaged from school which in turn leads to problems with behaviour and mental health problems.
“Cuts to school and local authority budgets have led to pastoral and mental health support services being scaled back or axed. Some schools have had to reduce the number of teaching assistants employed. This clearly has an impact on the help schools can give to individual pupils as and when the need arises.”
While resources for working-class children are constantly axed the government continues to push its programme of grammar school construction and academy conversion, notably elitist institutions. A study by the Centre for Economic Performance concluded that “academy schools in England… show higher rates of pupil permanent exclusion than otherwise comparable non-academy schools.” So as state-provided education is slowly but surely stolen away from children by underhand privatisation, more and more working-class children will be refused the right to an education and any chance of a productive and fulfilling life. These cuts inordinately affect the already vulnerable and excluded in our society.
As the vicious privatisation of our education continues (on average a thousand academies are created each year since 2014) the national crime rate has skyrocketed, with 100,000 more crimes being reported each month in 2018 compared to 2014. In London alone murder rates have risen by 47% since 2013. It is increasingly urgent that we reverse this privatisation before a decent education becomes the sole preserve of the elite.