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Michael Gove today cancelled Labour’s school building programme, suspending projects for 715 new schools as part of the coalition’s latest tranche of spending cuts, which also saw funding culled for new housing projects, school swimming pools and eco-towns.
A report in Monday’s Guardian, gave testimony to the true level of valued that the Coalition place on fairness and education. That value is none! The ‘offer’ to all UK schools to buy their way out of the system and become Academies was carefully laid down prior to the announcement of this cut to spending on education. This, in no way exonerates them from this shocking act of Thatcherism. The cancellation of 715 school building projects has been determined the best way to ‘ease the deficit’ but more spending cuts are yet to be announced.
The coalition government took its axe to a further £1.5bn in spending commitments, cutting £1bn from the schools budget and millions from the business department, communities and local government and the Home Office.
The education secretary has also announced that the £55bn, 20 year Schools for the Future project will be scrapped. It is no wonder then that they had to use the Academies bill beforehand in order to mask the real issue: that the coalition were going to cease investment in the education of our children by as much as they could get away with. While VAT rises, and the banks pay back the float they were loaned as slowly as they can, and MPs refuse to pay back the money they stole on ludicrous expenses claims that would have gotten anyone else fired, who will really pay back this deficit we hear so much about? It won’t be us paying it back. The withdrawal of education funding and schools being virtually forced into choosing academy status means that the people who will be paying for this will be our children. Michael Gove told the Commons that the scheme had been hit by “massive over-spends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy”.
“”He said: “There are some councils which entered the process six years ago which have only just started building new schools. Another project starting this year is three years behind schedule.
“By contrast, Hong Kong international airport, which was built on a barren rock in the South China Sea and can process 50 million passenger movements every year, took just six years to build — from start to finish.””
He compared the building of a single airport with the plans for building of over 1000 schools! Is this guy for real? Having worked in the building industry myself for several years (I was an administrator for a builder’s merchant for seven years), I at least have some idea about the limitations to even a single building project besides the countless surveys that must be carried out and plans approved. The “bureaucracy” is the administration needed to manage the task. THE WEATHER can halt building for days, and the list goes on. Delays happen on any building project for numerous reasons.
“Ed Balls, the shadow schools secretary, said: “Today is a black day for our country’s schools, it is a damning indictment of this new Tory/Liberal coalition’s priorities and a shameful statement from this new secretary of state.”
The Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Danny Alexander, claims to have found £154bn of spending commitments made in the ‘dying days of Labour‘. These would apparently been impossible without either additional borrowing or under-spending in other areas. The departments involved have been instructed to reduce their spending.
The Department for Business, Innovations and Skills, has been ordered to find £265m in savings. These have been identified as loans to the Forgemasters of Sheffield steel works and the automotive industry (or what is left of it) Which means our industry will further suffer and add more strain to the public purse through job losses. The Communities and Local Government Department have announced that £220m, for new housing projects, will no longer be going ahead but gave no further details. Meanwhile the Home Office must find £55m.
The Department for Education will be axing £169m of capital expenditure projects and £831m will be saved on greater financial control by
- Clawing back ‘under-spends’ on existing school projects.
- Non-allocation of £110m contingency fund.
- Scrapping £24m on co-location of health and social services on school sites.
- Scrapping £15m on public swimming pools.
- Scrapping £2.5m school contribution to Eco-Towns Initiative.
- Scrapping £50m Harnessing Technology Grant to improve IT in schools.
- Scrapping £50m on improved IT system for social services.
- Scrapping £13m for Youth Capital Fund to provide out of school activities for teenagers.
They have given us neither figure nor time-scale for the cuts planned for the Sure Start budget. Instead they have given an entirely non-committal briefing mentioning ‘managing down’ the expenditure on Sure Start, Early Days, and Childcare Grant and again been waxing lyrical about ‘discussions’ while giving no indication as to either what these involve or what their true intentions are. This is contrary to a statement made on the 7th June 2010 by Gove, assuring us that NO cuts would be made to Sure Start funding.
A Whitehall source said the whole process of deciding how much of the Building Schools for the Future programme would be scrapped had been “bloody chaos”, and that the weeks of uncertainty had cost schools, local authorities and the construction industry time and money in preparing for schemes which have now been scrapped.
Mr Alexander has since decried the spending commitments on education as unnecessary.
Some time ago I wrote a piece on the dangers presented to UK schools by the Academies Bill. In particular, I mentioned that these schools would be able to enforce their own ethos on the school, select students and choose their own board of governors. Aside from the obvious risk of exacerbating a two-tiered schooling system, with levels of education limited by the money parents can afford, there is also the risk of children of non-religious parents being sidelined in the system. It will be a return to the middle ages. Platitudes of ‘non-judgement’ mean nothing when the law and public services are so heavily biased in favour of organised religion and the religious.
“The BHA has condemned the Government’s decision not to protect the inclusive nature of community schools which become Academies, following yesterday’s Report Stage debate on the Academies Bill in the Lords.”
I am glad to see that I am not alone in my concerns but I am also greatly dismayed to see that these issues are being invalidated by those who have a vested interest in the ‘autonomy’ of these schools. Even worse are the criticisms from those who do not see the danger or are convinced by these dismissive attitudes. Schools who select their students on the basis of their parent’s faith, and accept the faith that otherwise nonreligious parents are willing to fake to in order to meet ‘entrance guidelines’, only add to the erosion of public integrity.
“I share her concerns about creationism, but one of the core aims of the [Academies] policy is precisely that the Secretary of State should not dictate to academies what they should teach … I fully accept that if you trust people things do go wrong, but that is the direction that we want to try to go in.” – Lord Hill
Is this the same trust we placed in the banks to act responsibly and not behave in greedy, money-grubbing, and otherwise highly questionable ways? Or the trust we gave our Ps to not fiddle the rules and treat the public purse as their own personal piggy banks? Any trust placed in the church or other religious institution to behave responsibly with the education of our children is misplaced trust! This abdication of government involvement and ‘do-less’ mentality is a façade for a far more sinister and insidious series of events. They’re not only planning on doing less for the country, they are handing the control of our country and our futures to the Church (who already have an interest in the perpetuation of their current privileged status) and to those with the money to invest.
‘It is disgraceful that the Government refuses to protect the inclusive nature of community schools. There is a very real risk that the Bill will lead to a proliferation of new “faith schools” by allowing community schools under religious influence – from religious organisations offering financial support, for example – to take on a religious character after conversion. This would be a hugely retrograde step, extending the discriminatory and divisive effects of “faith schools” to many more areas of the country and removing inclusive schools from local communities. The Academies Bill is supposed to be about freedom and choice, yet it risks removing parents’ freedom to choose an inclusive school for their children.’
The Church in particular has a proven track record of being unreliable with the truth and the fact that we are still uncovering priests that have been moved around rather than being handed to the police for their abuse of children should be enough to tell us that these are definitely NOT the people we should EVER trust let alone want to take charge of our schools. It is bad enough that The Conservative Party is trying to sell off our schools (a clandestine privatisation of the education system in the closest way they can get away with) to make a short-term saving, but to openly give organised religion a free hand in the running of it is wholly unforgivable!
“The Government has admitted that it shares our concerns about the teaching of creationism, for instance, yet it is unwilling to do anything about it. It is simply not good enough to say “things go wrong” – it will be parents, local communities and pupils themselves who will be left picking up the pieces.”