James Konn argues that education cannot bear the costs of further budget cuts if it is to serve our children and the future economy

Written by James Konn
Images by Kimberly Farmer

The first 16 years (at least) of every UK-born residing citizen is characterised by education. This is where we reside for the majority of our week for years, yet these very places which dominate our early years are under strain. They are not getting the funding they need to provide the education every child deserves. It is imperative for their future, and the country’s future, that this is changed. 

They are not getting the funding they need

In real terms, education spending this academic year is less than what it was in 2009-10; the legacy of austerity. The education sector needs this money even more now, considering the closure of schools and other education disruptions caused by COVID-19. Greater funds are needed to ensure that schools can carry on giving children the same experiences and skills for later life as before the pandemic.

Sadly enough, this isn’t being done. Due to the rise in the cost of energy and an increase in teachers’ pay, schools are struggling even more now, with over two-thirds of head teachers (mainly of primary schools) saying that redundancies and hour reductions are needed. The first casualties will be the teaching assistants who are needed to support those with extra needs in the classroom. This means those that are already most likely to be behind will fall even further behind. Then, all school children will be affected when teachers’ jobs are used to make savings. This is a recipe for disaster and must be stopped. 

We shouldn’t just be thinking of our schools in terms of ensuring they can just about manage, but rather in terms of how they can thrive. This was understood by Tony Blair who declared Our top priority was, is and always will be education, education, education’. Unfortunately, our country faces many challenges, so education may not be the top priority, but it doesn’t mean we can neglect it. It cannot be allowed once again to face cuts and hardships due to our financial situation. Investments must be made now for the sake of younger generations needing a great start in life, and for the sake of our economy, which needs those with the knowledge and skills to work the high-paid jobs of the 21st century. 

Education has suffered enough

Education spending is a great form of investment. By investing in our children, we can ensure they will have the qualifications and soft skills needed to do the jobs needed to be filled for growth. This is especially true when our country is transitioning from a fossil-fuel-based economy into a green-energy-based economy. The jobs of the last 50 years will not be the same as the next 50 years and we need people to take these jobs. We need to home-grow these talents, as the very individuals that are in schools now will be the workforce of our green future.  

Our leaders face tough decisions as to where to make savings in our public services. This will not be an easy time for most, but we must recognise our priorities. Education has suffered enough, our children need to be protected and must be ready for our green future.