Like many parents, I received a letter from my school on Friday about school funding cuts.
I was sitting typing away when, ping, a message came in from one of the secondary schools on Friday. It outlined the level of cuts being faced by schools and the fact that head teachers from many schools had called for urgent meetings with the Secretary of State for Education, only to be told he was a bit too busy. It is hard to imagine what he might have on that was more pressing than the future of schools. As my son would say, the future of schools is literally his job.
The letter spelt out where cuts would be made. The sixth form, which daughter two is hopefully about to enter, is facing cuts of over 20%. Also hit is counselling. This I already knew. Daughter three was told there was no counselling available when she was having panic attacks and I couldn’t get her into school. Schools are on the frontline of the mental health tidal wave facing young people. The impact on the workplace in a few years’ time is difficult to imagine. This is surely an issue for all of us and part of it is to do with creating some sort of positive vision for the future – and not one built on fantasy. I was talking to a teenager over the weekend about the climate march on Friday. “What is the point?” she said. “It is already too late. No one in power cares.”
Young people are often acutely aware of the funding crisis in schools because they are at the receiving end, whether that is reduced counselling or a reduced curriculum offer. Daughter three is just coming up to choosing her GCSE options. She is very definite on what she wants to take and what she doesn’t, but she may not have too much of a choice. Parents are also very aware of the cutbacks. We are often being asked for money – whether on a voluntary or mandatory basis – and we are having to cover when school time is cut and to worry when teaching assistants are reduced. Put together – children, teachers and parents – that makes a lot of worried people and a lot of current and future voters.
I was also sent an email on Friday, asking what is the main thing that would lead to greater female empowerment. Given women are often the ones in the lowest paid jobs, the most likely to work in public sector jobs like schools and the NHS and the most likely to rely on their services, it would seem that better funding of those services is a prerequisite for female empowerment. That and a recognition that issues such as childcare are of wider benefit than just to individual parents, particularly in a country where our ageing population means we will need to encourage more people to work and pay tax if the welfare state is to survive.