Even in this age of dreadful Austerity, I’m sure no-one would have thought that the concept of free state education for all children could ever possibly be threatened. However a recently-published report shows that due to cutbacks, a creeping threat now exists even in this area, and that 1 in 4 state schools are now asking parents for ‘contributions’ for basic requirements such as pens, paper, textbooks or activities related to the compulsory curriculum.* Although most requests are so far quite small, a few schools are asking for hundreds of pounds from each parent per year. In some cases, where not enough parents are able or willing to pay-up, essential teaching activities are being cancelled.
One of the most fundamental parts of a civilised society is a good education system, and one of the most essential aspects of it is that the quality of education should not be dependent on parental wealth. Otherwise inequality becomes entrenched, and children of poor parents are burdened with a massive disadvantage in life. If cutbacks in the name of Austerity are starting to impact on our ability to provide this – and as this is clearly the thin end of a wedge, the situation is only likely to get worse – then clearly our society is moving in the wrong direction. Of course there’s no shortage of money in our society: if the government had the political will to clamp down on Tax Avoidance that alone would bring in £95bn each year, enough to fund plenty of schools. But tax avoiders are the wealthy friends of our current political class, whereas people who most need a good state-education system are the ordinary public whom the government cares little about. So you can be pretty sure this trend will continue, with wealthy parents continuing to be able to afford a good education for their offspring, while state schools are forced to make ever-greater cutbacks and provide a steadily deteriorating standard of tuition.
The government seems to have found a new way to make our already very-unequal society even more unequal. Isn’t it just great!