They say you reap what you sow. Is our educational crop, measured by children’s ailing exam performance, embodied by the decaying state of many school buildings and classroom resources in which our children are schooled?
Fundamentally we are suffering from decisions made 50 years ago. Schools originally designed for a 25 year lifespan are now some 50 to 60 years old. Their decay is no fault of the architect or builders, the schools which are now literally falling apart have outlived their design specification by 100 per cent. Yet they represent the cornerstone of our educational teaching resources and represent the investment in the school children destined to provide the wealth of the nation in future years. So why have got it so wrong? The recessionary effect has certainly put the brakes on the school repair and replacement programme, but this is only just happened. The short term recessionary restrictions in the investment programme are perhaps much easier to adopt than develop the real answer to the educational situation. Even if the now cancelled school rebuilding programme of the labour government had been allowed to continue it was horrendously overdue.
The educational budget is understandably large and in value second to the NHS in total UK expenditure. But it is a long term investment programme and should be regarded for the benefits it will generate in future years and thereby protected from short term manipulation. Our primary employment base is evolving from manufacturing to support and services industry. This must be matched by an effective educational curriculum and teaching resources capable of achieving this evolution to world class standards. Currently we do not. Critically our primary focus on school performance targets has resulted in an excessive amount of teaching time devoted to passing exams rather than increasing our children’s knowledge of an enlarged curriculum. And the walls are falling down.
The Department of Education and government must seek to release funds into the rebuilding programme and the quality of schooling to demonstrate commitment. Maybe a lesser needed programme elsewhere within the government operations could be sacrificed to release the funds. Maybe we could look to Europe and see if we really need as many MEP’s; now there’s a huge way of saving money to fix the roof and sowing the seeds for the future.