The Covid-19 pandemic has proved just how valuable schools are to children, young people and society.
During the last year, education staff have created new ways to support learning, keep students connected and nurture those who need extra care.
It’s reminded us all how much school contributes to the lives of young people and how much rests on the professional skills of our educators.
But coronavirus has caused huge damage to children and young people’s learning and tested the current education system to the limit. Moving beyond the pandemic, things need to change.
That is why the National Education Union (NEU) has launched Value Education, Value Educators, to highlight the concerns of our members, parents and students so that, together, we can change things for the better.
The costs of Covid-19 have been borne by our schools and colleges which just haven’t been given the necessary funds to help children succeed.
Education funding needs to increase substantially if we want every child to fulfil their potential. The amount pledged by Government to compensate for lost learning amounts to just £310 per pupil. Other countries are spending far more – the US £1,830 per young person and it’s £2,090 in the Netherlands.
Class sizes continue to increase – secondary class sizes are at their highest since records began; primary their highest this century. Teachers and support staff have a far harder job ensuring every child gets the attention they need.
The most successful nations are developing education systems which enable them to compete in a world where new technologies and industries are changing the way people work, communicate, learn and develop.
The UK is being left behind in this.
Disadvantaged pupils in England are 18 months of learning behind their more affluent peers by the time they finish their GCSEs.
Covid-19 has shone a harsh light on the plight of 4.3 million children living in poverty in the UK. That’s 31 per cent of children, or nine in every class of 30.
Child poverty destroys children’s potential. An estimated nine per cent of UK families do not have a laptop, tablet or desktop computer. Two million households don’t have access to the internet.
Forty per cent of the education attainment gap is set in stone before children even start school. And 70 per cent of children growing up in poverty live in a household where at least one person is in paid work.
The English education system tops the OECD league table for the number of tests its pupils take.
Over-testing has a profoundly negative effect on pupils’ attitudes to learning and the development of their skills.
Children entering education in 2021 will be young adults in 2033. Schools can prepare them for jobs that have not yet been created, for technologies that have not yet been invented, to solve problems that have not yet been anticipated.
Students will need to develop curiosity, imagination, resilience and self-regulation; they will need to respect and appreciate the ideas, perspectives and values of others; cope with failure and rejection, and move forward in the face of adversity.
To achieve these goals, our curriculum and assessment system must be changed. Our children and young people need experience of making and doing as well as reading and writing. They need more teaching and less testing.
Throughout the pandemic teachers, leaders and support staff have been on the front line – teaching children remotely, safeguarding and caring for them.
But England’s education system is weakened because our teachers are leaving the profession increasingly early – one in four within two years of starting the job, nearly 40 per cent within ten, driven out by excessive workload, lack of professional agency and stress.
To make matters worse, the Government has imposed a pay freeze. This will only contribute to the recruitment and retention problems in the profession.
The National Education Union represents teachers, support staff, school leaders and lecturers. Our members see the effects of underfunding, over-testing and child poverty every day of their working lives.
We need you to join with us to Value Education, Value Educators and help create a system fit for the future and fit for our children.
Please sign up to our campaign at www.valueeducation.org.uk