The Guardian newspaper has carried out research into the impact of funding cuts on UK education, with shocking results. The findings of the investigation, published on the Guardian website, showed that deep cuts to government education funding were having a devastating effect on the resources available to pupils.
The published findings showed that many councils found their budget for school renovations and improvements stripped to just a quarter of its original size, forcing plans for new school buildings and much needed repairs to be shelved. Meanwhile an incredible 43% of schools were reported to have cut back or completely cancelled some courses, services or subjects, leaving pupils with far less choice and class sizes rising.
Many head teachers reported being forced to cancel hours of teaching in non-academic areas of the curriculum such as art, music and sport, whilst teachers of those subjects are finding themselves squeezed out of jobs altogether. Fears are rising that with a low-budget, no-frills education system, utilitarian, functional classes will leave children creatively unstimulated and lacking in ways to express themselves and let off steam.
The news was bad for sixth formers too, with schools careers services reported by the investigation to be one of the single worst affected areas. As a ‘non-essential’ resource, schools are being forced to streamline by getting rid of careers counsellors and hours allotted to help pupils with career and university choice guidance, leaving many teenagers utterly unsupported in their higher education decisions. This couldn’t come at a worse time, as the introduction of higher tuition fees means complex differences in the costs and financial support available at each individual university. For students from disadvantaged backgrounds in particular, support and guidance about which courses to apply for has never been more badly needed.
And for those students choosing not to attend university at all, perhaps as a direct result of rocketing tuition fees, the punishing job market, with youth unemployment at a record high, is a daunting prospect they will now have to navigate alone.
Sadly it is the students from the poorest backgrounds who seem to have been most severely affected by the cuts. The study reports that specific one-to-one tuition sessions designed to help improve basic skills like literacy and maths in the neediest pupils have been dramatically reduced. It was revealed that whilst funding still exists for these sessions, it is no longer ‘ring-fenced’ to force schools not to divert it elsewhere. Sadly the economic pressure of these deep cuts has forced schools to redirect funding for such pupils to more mainstream needs merely to stay afloat.
One cannot help wondering how much longer a school system can continue running on such imperatives as these before the quality of education being provided is significantly compromised. Whilst the numbers of pupils in nurseries and primary schools is set to rise by almost 10% in the next four years, budget freezes mean that almost no schools will receive an increase in funding in real terms in this time, according to a report published in October by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. With so many schools already reporting such severe struggles and restrictions, the risk posed by government cuts to the quality of UK education is imminent, and it is a very real threat indeed.