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We know the price of beer and a pint of milk. Why not the cost of educating a child?

Nov 20, 2018 by

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Laura McInerney –

The underlying problem with the schools funding crisis is no one has calculated precisely how much schools need.

Margaret Thatcher famously knew the price of milk. David Cameron had crib sheets showing the cost of beer in Sheffield and London. But does any politician know the price of a primary or secondary education?

School budgets are squeezed, with some headteachers so cash-strapped they have taken to closing at Friday lunchtime to help balance the books. Others have protested on the streets of London.

Yet the underlying problem is that no one knows how much the schools system needs. In the past five years I’ve sat in umpteen dinners with MPs and philanthropists who loudly proclaim that the public purse simply can’t stand an ever-increasing budget for schools. “It’s just too expensive,” they say, “it must be possible to run schools more efficiently.” What no one says out loud is that to them, efficiently really means more cheaply, which translates into fewer teachers, on lower pay, with fewer resources.

When Philip Hammond insulted the entire teaching profession by offering £400m for “little extras” in the budget – a lower amount than was given to potholes – it was fair enough for Labour to complain. But how much more ought he to have provided and what would it buy? The teacher unions are pushing for an injection of at least £2bn, but that figure appears to be cited on the basis of no more than that it would take schools back to 2015 funding levels. Why is that the bar? If more money is needed, a positive case should be made for what it will be spent on and why. “It’s what we did in the past,” is lazy politics.

Now, the Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who also leads parliament’s education committee, has broken ranks and called on the government to stop the uncertainty and create a 10-year funding plan for education. After all, if the NHS can do it, why can’t schools?

Source: We know the price of beer and a pint of milk. Why not the cost of educating a child? | Laura McInerney | Education | The Guardian

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