Britain’s Political and Educational System Needs a Break

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Britain’s education system is in desperate need of a break. Schools and universities have been closed and exams suspended. Learning has stayed at home, gone online or been delegated to private tuition. Higher education has become increasingly virtual, with ever-diminishing contact hours. And at the height of the pandemic, the country’s top education minister was unceremoniously sacked.

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There have been seven education secretaries in the past six years and three in the past two months. Like Keeper of the Wardrobe or Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, the job means nothing besides acting as a visible reminder of the decay of serious government under Boris Johnson.

 

After two years of trauma, Britain’s education system desperately needs a break. Schools and universities have been closed and exams suspended. Learning has stayed at home, gone online or been delegated to private tuition. Higher education has become increasingly virtual, with ever-diminishing contact hours. And at the height of the pandemic, the country’s top education minister was unceremoniously sacked.

 

There have been seven education secretaries in the past six years and three in the past two months. Like Keeper of the Wardrobe or Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, the job means nothing besides acting as a visible reminder of the decay of serious government under Boris Johnson.

 

The education system is not just any policy area but fundamental to our society and economy. It shapes who we are and what we can achieve. And yet it is treated as an afterthought by this government.

 

According to the latest OECD data, the UK spends less on education as a proportion of GDP than any other major developed country. This is not just a matter of money but also a question of priorities.

 

After the GCSE and A-level exams were cancelled last year, the government’s response was to commission a review of the entire education system. But rather than an opportunity to reflect and learn from the experience of other countries, the review has been used as a pretext for further cuts and deregulations.

 

The result is a system that is increasingly underfunded and unequal. Private schools are being given tax breaks while state schools struggle to make ends meet. University places are being allocated based on ability to pay, not merit.

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And all of this is taking place against a backdrop of soaring levels of student debt and graduate unemployment.

 

The education system is in crisis. And yet the government seems more interested in using it as a political football than in addressing the root causes of the problem.

 

It is time for a new approach. We need an education system that is fit for purpose in the 21st century. We need to invest in our schools and our universities. We must give our young people the skills they need to succeed in a global economy. And we need to do all this without saddling them with a lifetime of debt.

 

The next education secretary must be up to the task. They must be passionate about education, understand the importance of investment, and commit to giving every child the best possible start in life.

 

The government’s priorities are clear: Brexit and tax cuts for the wealthy. Education is an afterthought.

 

The education system needs a break – and a decent minister who will put it first.

 

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