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It was a defining belief of the Twentieth Century – that education was a right to be extended to all; that through access to education people from all backgrounds would have the chance to make the most of their talents.

Today we see students being priced out of those opportunities. I feel particularly strongly about the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance. My mother had to leave school, because her family needed her to bring in an income. She was capable of benefiting from further studies and attending university – but was denied it. Thankfully the Open University was created by Harold Wilson and Jennie Lee – and she had the opportunity to study for a degree. Later in life she became a respected teacher in the local school. We are going backwards if we return to the days when children are withdrawn from school because their families can’t afford to let them continue in education.

The plans to raise student fees – and much of the nitty gritty detail of changes in the student loans system again are denying some young people the opportunity to achieve their potential. This isn’t a theoretical claim – a bit of scaremongering – there are young people out there who are reluntantly concluding that they can’t afford to go into Higher Education.

At the same time the provision of education is being decimated. Funding for teaching at universities is being slashed. Committed educators are to be made redundant – and new recruits to teaching are being turned away. It is not only in Higher Education – but in primary and secondary education. The promotion of higher standards in core areas, although stated to be a priority, is being undermined by the destruction of teams in local authorities who are supporting teachers.

One way of judging a generation – is whether they leave a better world – one with greater opportunities – for their children. In the Twentieth Century our parents enabled the extension of university education to ever greater numbers – be it through traditional universities – or through the opportunities offered by non-traditional institutions such as the Open University. We moved from a system which condemned over half the children to labelling as “incapable of extended learning” at the age of only 11 – to one where children’s different talents were nurtured, whatever age they were.

We (or the State which represents us) are betraying our children. It’s time to say NO – and reassert the values of our predecessors who sought to extend opportunity.


Written by David

November 28, 2010 at 9:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Whilst I agree in principle to many of the points you make I think a number of propositions have to be established before a logical argument can be built up.

    1) We are not, as a country, in the position of having unlimited funds to spend on education at any level. This forces choice in where the limited funds are spent and means that it is all but impossible to fulfill all of the objectives mentioned above. With that in mind, what would you prioritise?

    2) Up to what level is education a “right”?

    3) At what point should people be expected to contribute to the cost of their education?

    Kay Gridley

    November 28, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    • 1) unlimited funds, no – but a choice was made a few years ago to reduce the burden on the wealthier.

      Rates were replaced by the Poll Tax which was replaced by the Council Tax. The effect of these changes was to reduce the amount owed by those who were the largest landowners. Top rates of income tax have been kept down – more people now pay them – but at the top end the tax bill has been slashed. Corporations are paying lower rates – both because rates have been kept down – and because tax avoidance has been allowed.

      As a society we can chose the level of contributions required of those who enjoy the benefits. We have chosen to limit the contribution of the very wealthy.

      Much of “public spending” ends up subsidising the rich. When I was a county councillor I was appalled by the amount of money which went from the town to the country, subsidising the choice made by some to live outside the town (and not contribute to the infrastructure which they enjoyed when they came into town). There were all sorts of grants available to villages and old properties. Corporate welfare is well entrenched. We also allow companies to avoid paying for the consequences of their actions. Every day thousands of free newspapers are distributed in London and elsewhere. The owners of the Metro and the Evening Standard make a profit (from the advertising) – but who pays to deal with the discarded papers? What contribution to the road distribution companies make to the upkeep of the highway network?

      I am not persuaded by the argument that we cannot afford Education. We can decide whether we wish to pay publicly for this good.

      2) we could get into a legal discussion about what a ‘right’ is. I think we need to go the other way and consider why we join together in a “society”. I believe that we do so that by collective action we can deliver both private and public benefits. A society which fails to allow ALL its members to achieve their potential – is a wasteful society. So the right is to be enabled to reach your potential, with collective help


      November 29, 2010 at 5:38 pm

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