The Independent in the UK warns that class issues are reappearing in classrooms as school become effectively class-segregated by reforms and spending cuts.
The poorest children are suffering most from the “toxic” effects of socially divided schools, according to the leader of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. “We have schools for the elite; schools for the middle class and schools for the working class,” Mary Bousted said. “Too few schools have mixed intakes where children can learn those intangible life skills of aspiration, effort and persistence from one another.”
Of particular concern to Dr Bousted were the withdrawal of the education maintenance allowance which encouraged poorer students to staying on in education after secondary school by giving them an allowance of up to £30 a week if they maintained close to 100% attendance. There was also a closure of 124 SureStart centers after the organization suffered a 22% cut in grant funding. One in five councils no longer supply library books to primary and secondary schools as a result of cuts in local authority funding. Overall there will be 13% real-terms cut to public spending on education by 2014-15.
Dr Bousted said: “If you are a child in a poor family, that is how you will feel now in 2012 – that you are on your own, alone with your parents or carers, with precious little help available, even though it is desperately needed.”
At a time when many panels and government experts are laying the blame for last summers’ riots on a disaffected youth population failed by the education system, many feel that Government should be spending more to address problems in education for poorer children and making sure fewer of them slip through the cracks in the system to develop into a rioting underclass. Instead they are faced not only with spending cuts, but cuts which union leaders like Dr Bousted claim are unfairly targeted at working class education.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education accused Dr Bousted of “defending a culture of underachievement”, saying: “Schools cannot solve all problems. It is clear though, that a lot of schools have not properly addressed poor performance.
“The public and many teachers will be confused that union leaders dislike the idea of schools being given the freedom to pay good teachers more.”