What is at stake for UK education in the upcoming General Election?
The upcoming election is a hot topic around the water cooler at the moment, and we here at Wildfire are certainly not the only ones who are discussing it.
But of course, our particular interest lies in the future of UK education, and we are keeping a close eye on the issues that are being raised in the education sector as the election creeps ever closer.
So, what is at stake come the 8th of June?
Popular topics include grammar schools, school lunches, EMA allowance, and tuition fees. Teachers’ salaries are also under discussion, with the recent drop in teacher recruitment being the key consequence of tight budgets and unattractive salaries. With so many different considerations, and a plethora of promises and approaches from different parties, the whole thing can be a bit overwhelming, especially for such an essential element of our society.
However, whichever party you support, most agree that education is an important topic, and deserves serious consideration by our government. From academisation to the introduction of more grammar schools, politicians are fighting it out to be heard on the education issues that they deem most pressing.
In a recent report from Katie Razzall of BBC’s Newsnight, it was noted that the UK is indeed inevitably divided in its views towards various issues; not least Brexit and the ultra-competitive job market in the UK. Indeed, in a report from the TES, there has been a concern voiced that education may be overshadowed in the election due to Brexit. Speaking to TES, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union the NAHT, said: “There are vital domestic issues to tackle; many school leaders will fear that education has been forgotten at the expense of Brexit.”
But proponents of the education debate are warning that ignoring the burning issues of teaching and learning can lead to problems in a multitude of other areas of society; not least the job market.
The focus on university, and the importance of a degree to gain employment, has been a large part of education rhetoric for the past decade, at least. However, less than 50 years ago (a tiny fraction of time in the grand scheme of things) it was possible to gain meaningful and gainful employment without any educational qualifications. Speaking to the BBC, Jackey Weatherstone, who left school at 16 to work as a fisherman and is now aged 80, said that young people who leave school at 15 or 16 now without qualifications have very little hope of gainful employment. The job market in the UK is such that industries we once relied upon, such as industry and what are now deemed ‘non-graduate’ jobs, are few and far between, and leaving many young people without hope of employment.
So how do we address the skills gap, the crippling debt for students, the dwindling employment market, and the disparities in the quality of education available across the country? There are innumerable answers to that question, and the discussion of what they might be can easily lead to red-faced screaming matches across the dinner table. But the one thing all parties seem to agree on, is that it does need to be addressed somehow.
We are keenly anticipating the outcome of June’s election, and wait with bated breath to find out what is to become of the UK education system.