Not only do we have our third prime minister in two months, we have our fifth education secretary this year. Last Monday, the new Ministers for the Education Department faced their first oral question time with MPs in the Commons. By the end of the week, just one of the five was still in place. So I want to talk about the hidden issue: education.
The headline-grabbing instability of our current government hides a real and growing crisis in our education system.
This week I met with a group of headteachers in my constituency. All of them were approaching despair over their schools’ financial plight and the horrific decisions they now need to make – including every one of them having to lose staff.
By 2025, spending per pupil will still be lower than it was in 2010, and a recent survey by the National Association of Head Teachers found that 90 per cent of state schools in England will run out of money by the end of next school year.
The government agreed to welcome pay rises for teachers this year, but then didn’t give schools the money they needed to fund this. Neither were schools given additional funds to cover the quadrupling of energy bills. Schools are seeing a rise in children with special needs, but no rise in the money they need to support them. Add this to the lost income endured during Covid, you will see why my local heads are so anxious.
Teachers see firsthand an increase in social, emotional and mental health needs among children who’ve had their lives hugely disrupted over the last three years. School closures and subsequent disruption led to limited socialization and greatly decreased resilience for learning, and even for coping in a school environment.
Poorer children are falling further behind. Absence rates since Covid closures mean there are thousands of ‘lost’ children no longer attending school regularly.
Teachers and support staff are drained: by the Covid fall-out, increasing behavioural challenges, and the prospect of cutting essential staff to balance the books.
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