THE IMMINENT DEATH OF CIVILISATION


I think it’s always interesting to look at things you wrote long ago; they come from the mind & pen of a different ‘I’, or a different cluster of ‘I’s. Re-reading it all, you start thinking: ‘What’s different and what’s the same and what’s happened in between to make it so?’ And then ‘What of the future?’

The other day I dug up from the mouldering heaps of things I have littered about my workplace three files full of essays I wrote when I was training to be a teacher between 1964 and 1968. Those really were the days! Days, for me, of relief from the worst kind of wage slavery.

For old time’s sake, I re-read an essay called A Concept of the Educated Man and found yet again that there’s at least one ‘I’ that hasn’t changed much in 53 years. Stuck in a groove or merely very consistent… What I do remember is that, until then, although I had got good marks for writing proper essays (= ‘provisional attempts at explaining or depicting something’) on the models of Elia & Carlyle & Richard Jefferies at school ten years before, I hadn’t really mastered a methodology for developing ideas on paper and backing things up with reference material, so this was a kind of first strike – the beginning of exciting times for adding Being-fairly-competent-at-writing-I to Being-diffident-in-most-ways-I, which it still holds on to, contrary to appearances.

In 2006, on the crest of a writing wave, I wrote a book called The Campaign Against Abstractionism; I rather fancy that the 1964 essay must have been a preliminary salvo for it starts like this:-

The abstraction ‘The Educated Man’ has no real use in discourse unless it is first fully analysed and is then understood in its expanded sense: ‘there cannot be one prototypic model of the ‘educated man’ says G.H.Bantock. The usual and idealistic connotation of the phrase suggests that it is possible to draw distinctions between men who have received different kinds of education and say that a particular man after a particular course of education is qualitatively ‘better’ educated when in fact he has only received a different kind of education, has had his mind stretched in a different direction. Thus, for example, the arguments of those who put forward the claims of exclusively ‘scientific’ , ‘arts’, or ‘vocationally biassed’ educations distort the concept of the ‘educated man’ if they are suggesting that he is the result of only one of these methods; they make misleading and artificial distinctions as to the importance of man’s total knowledge of the world; they fail to consider the full man. Education is concerned with the development of a total being which has to respond in a total way to its environment in order to function fully and adequately in it.

Reading this will no doubt grate the sensitive nerves of the ‘modern’ reader, just as it does mine. The title of the essay was the one given by people who should have known better. I was later, quite rightly taken to task by another tutor, more advanced in her thinking, for talking about an educated MAN as though no females were involved. I suppose I too should have known better but it was not, in that decade, on the whole, thought necessary to challenge male-dominated thinking. I conformed to the prevailing lack of intelligent awareness. I shall edit out maleness in the rest of the quotations from the following version of that 1964 essay!

So, here goes!

Any conclusion about the relative merits of those who have been educated rests in the comparison itself and not in an ideal product. There are levels of consciousness and degrees of proficiency; depending on the development of these factors in any individual, together with increasing awareness of the world, we may make general comparative statements about levels of education. Above all, education cannot be said to be complete unless one is living the kind of life which time and circumstances demand… (The Education of Good Men [!]: M.L.Jacks)

We cannot, then, consider an educated person without looking at their relationship with the world and without some consideration of the aims and purposes of education. Only people who respond to the world in a human and integrated kind of way could be said to have been fully ‘educated’. That should be the aim of education.

It must be emphasised however that decisions about even the degree to which an individual has benefitted from an educational process rest on value judgments and are relative to one’s own politico-religious background of bias.

For a reasonably objective, full but undeveloped statement of the aims of education, we need go no further than the Newsom Report…

To digress…

I very much doubt whether prospective teachers are asked to consider the possible nature of ‘an educated person’ in these days of Thatcher-inspired crass utilitarian exploitation of young minds and diminishing resource provision: it’s probably taken as read that teachers are in business to prepare students for the ‘World of Work’, never mind being asked to think about the kind of people who would be likely to contribute to the sensitive & proper progress of humankind. The right questions are never asked nowadays; questions like – What do we really want from life? and How can it be attained? Such questions would be considered to be far too philosophical and unprofitable. Even too left wing, whatever that means.

The Newsom Report came out in 1963. Like so many of the sane educational reports from that era which I enthusiastically read in the belief that things could be made to change, it fairly quickly sank without trace. Too close to home for Establishment figures: improve things for the working classes – the very thought of it; we can’t have them properly educated – they’d start seeing through us… A member of the House of Lords stood up and said exactly this in 1808; they’ve learned not to say such things in public since then. Ably supported by the capitalism media, they even pretend to be ‘the party of the working classes’. Many (who might be considered lacking in education) believe them.

In 1964 I little realised that this was the reality of life. Being-optimistic-I was excited by the noble stimulation of our tutors (Eddie Altman, where are you now?) and by the vision of The Newsom Report which was so open, correct and well-written in a down-to-earth kind of way. Some pupils, it said,

…acquire skills slowly, and others only with the utmost difficulty… [they] may be in danger of spending their whole time at school in continual efforts to sharpen tools which they never have opportunity enough to use. They may be kept busy, and yet never have their minds and imaginations fully engaged… [they] leave school very ill-equipped in knowledge and personal resources…; because many of them do not acquire or retain factual knowledge easily, the range of information and ideas to which they are introduced may be seriously inadequate. Yet it does not follow that because they will not long remember everything they have thought and talked about in school – who does? – the experience will be of no value. How is it possible to devise for pupils of only moderate, and in some cases very limited, skills, a content of education which exercises their minds and emotions and feeds their imagination? What kinds of experiences will help them to develop their full capacities for thought and taste and feeling? Without some satisfactory answers, both the individual and society remain that much the more impoverished.

Splendid! As a budding teacher, I felt I could really get my teeth into beginning to answer this question. In the Reith Lectures of that year (1964), Sir Leon Bagrit had suggested that, with the advent of The Age of Automation it was not unreasonable to suppose that the Retirement Age could be reduced to 50, providing everybody with ‘a third age’, and the working week reduced to around three days. Machines could be organised to take over all the drudgery and make it entirely possible for people to spend less time being wage-slaves. I was fired up by this vision and The Newsom Report seemed to be taking up the idea.

In western industrialised countries, the hours which must necessarily be spent in earning a living are likely to be markedly reduced during the working lifetime of children now in school. The responsibility for ensuring that this new leisure is the source of enjoyment and benefit it ought to be, and not of demoralising boredom, is not the schools’ alone, but clearly education can play a key part. A great deal has been written elsewhere about the impact of all the vastly extended means of mass communication and entertainment. Certainly everybody needs, as never before, some capacity to select, if only in the interests of fuller enjoyment, from the flood of experience continually presented. Our pupils, more than most, need training in discrimination.

But, of course, the forces of Capitalism had other ideas. Instead of harnessing the computer to create space for people to engage in what life is really about – the creative use of special once-round-only living-time – Capitalism saw it as the opportunity to put people out of work, make the remainder work harder for less, and increase the filthy profit for the shareholders. Now the Power Possessors continue to increase the years of so-called ‘working’ life proclaiming the mantra that ‘it’s what people want’. Newsom suggested that learners be assisted in a programme of using ‘leisure’ creatively. Nobody talks about this nowadays. Gradgrindism rules. How soon before ‘retirement’ will be a thing of the past – work till you drop, slaves of the machine, unless you happen to win the Lottery, be an MP or somebody else who considers itself to be important enough to have life after work.

Newsom asked all the right questions.

How are the schools to set about meeting these deeper educational needs? When parents ask their children what they do at school, the answers tend to be about particular lessons and subjects – arithmetic, woodwork, geography. That is understandable, because that is how the experience of each day is made up. Sometimes, it may seem as if that is all school is about, especially to the more dissatisfied customers, who go on to ask ‘What’s the use?’ But it is not the whole of what school really is about. The separate lessons and subjects are single pieces of a mosaic; and what matters most is not the numbers and colours of the separate pieces, but what pattern they make when put together. Some of the most urgent questions which all secondary schools are having to ask themselves just now are about the total patterns of the curriculum, for all their pupils. They are finding that it is not enough to tinker with the separate pieces.

Beautiful ideas. Far too beautiful – “…quite out of place in a Government Report,” I hear some dimwit Minister mutter in the secrecy of its own office: “Sink it without trace before anybody takes it seriously!”

…it is not possible to offer a short and simple formula for the education of our pupils, in terms of additional lessons in English or more time in the workshop or extra bits of knowledge in this subject or that. The significant thing is the total impact. What will these young people be, and know, and be capable of doing, as a result of their time in school? No sixteen year-old, or even eighteen year-old, is a fully finished product as a human being; but each additional year in full-time education ought to be assisting the pupils in their progress towards maturity, and equipping them a little better to play their part in the world. [My emphasis]

Fifty years later, the answer is clear: all you have to do is prepare them for The World of Work; sit them in front of a computer and hope for the best. Get rid of the frills – art, music, drama – in 2017 chop the teachers – just keep their noses to the grindstone. And let the capitalists take over running the schools (ahem, ‘academies’, noses to the grindstone places – “We can’t give anybody the opportunity for the unhurried considering of anything broadly speculative…”

Newsom was quite the opposite:-

…all teachers in training should have some introduction to sociological study, such as many colleges now offer, in order that they may put their own job into social perspective and be better prepared to understand the difficulties of pupils in certain types of area. They need, we suggest, some straightforward courses in recent social history; a study of the family and its changing function and structure in present day society; and guidance in understanding the current literature of sociology and psychology and the implications of research results. Some student-teachers may need to examine their own social preconceptions. It cannot be assumed, for example, that teachers with the same social and economic background as the pupils they teach will automatically have more insight into their pupils’ difficulties; in so far as the teachers’ own educational progress may have been untypical of others in their circumstances, they may even have less sympathy with environmental difficulties.

“Bloody hell, no! Sociology, psychology, research… We don’t want any of that rubbish; we don’t want teachers understanding the lives of students; we don’t really want them talking to them. That spells danger. Some left wing plot… We don’t want people thinking…”

End of current day rumination. Return to the 1964 essay…

I quote paragraph 76 of The Newsom Report in full:-

‘Most teachers and parents would agree with us about general objectives. Skills, qualities of character, knowledge, physical well-being, are all to be desired. Boys and girls need to be helped to develop certain skills of communication in speech and in writing, in reading with understanding, and in calculations involving numbers and measurement: these skills are basic, in that they are tools to other learning and without some mastery of them pupils will be cut off from whole areas of human thought and experience. But they do not by themselves represent an adequate minimum education at which to aim. All boys and girls need to develop, as well as skills, capacities for thought, judgment, enjoyment, curiosity. They need to develop a sense of responsibility for their work and towards other people, and to begin to arrive at some code of moral and social behaviour which is self-imposed. It is important that they should have some understanding of the physical world and of the human society in which they are growing up. [My emphasis]

This paragraph is important because it sums up the basic ingredients of what it is to be educated: being possessed of basic skills but also being capable of sensitive communication with others; developing a social awareness and an awareness of the physical world.

The Report goes on to enumerate various aspects of the modern world which the process of education must take into account. You can’t be considered fully educated until you are aware of these ‘public events and fields of ideas and of knowledge which have a significance for everyone’. You must have ‘at least the vocabulary for discussion’ of such topics as the impact of science and technology on our everyday lives, automation and the reduction of the working week, the threat of nuclear war, the economic interdependence of the nations of the world, economic and social conditions in other countries, new concepts of partnership between men and women at work and in marriage and the effects of mass media on human life and thought.

In 2017, the level of public debate suggests that there are not many ‘Educated People’ around. The YaBooSucks nature of public exchanges (in Gurdjieff, it’s called ‘making accounts’ and ‘self-justification’), fired up by the ignorance of opaque political ‘debate’, is cause for despair. In 1964 I was oblivious of the fact that it did not then (and does not now and probably never has in the history of the world) suit the Power Possessors that the system produce ‘Educated People’, able to penetrate the little games they play with human life.

The Report makes the point that the separate subjects at which children become proficient are not in themselves important but that the value to be derived from formal education as a whole is in the pattern of awareness which it conveys to children. It advocates discussion ‘to develop judgment and discrimination. This may apply to enjoyment in music or art or literature; to taste and craftsmanship in the workshop; to a sense of what is appropriate behaviour in a particular situation, which will generally involve some consideration of other people’s feelings and points of view; or to an appreciation of what is relevant to the immediate task in hand…’ Educated people would have the spontaneous capacity for discussion of this kind and would be able to develop themselves in relation to opinions put forward in any discussion.

Recommendation (c) resulting from Chapter 4 of the Report is as follows:- ‘The value of the educational experience should be assessed in terms of its total impact on the pupil’s skills, qualities and personal development, not by basic attainments alone’. If this is accepted then it follows that the degree to which a person is educated depends largely on non-examinable, unmeasurable qualities. This has important implications for those who would regard an educated person as being the one who has obtained the maximum number of educational certificates.

The Report implies ANWhitehead’s statement that ‘we should banish the idea of a mythical far-off end of education’. Whitehead’s general thesis, in ‘Aims of Education’, is that we should aim at producing people who possess both culture and expert knowledge in some special direction. The relationship between education and working life requires some examination.

Too damn true it does! Fifty-three years later, the Power Possessors deem the main or only purpose of ‘education’ to be the production of dutiful wage-slaves. The word attributed to places of learning, ‘Schools’ (σχολη = the leisure to learn, the opportunity to spend time dallying with the important things…), is being changed into ‘Academies’, privatised outfits initiated by the outrageous Blair (following Thatcher like a tame poodle) in 2000; Academies teach a particular subject or train people for a particular job in life. In other words, they teach a specialism rather than offering all-round learning. And there’s a lunatic focus now on ‘computer skills’. ‘Education’ is not the same as ‘Skills Training’.

On with the 1964 essay!

In my opinion [what a strange expression!] it is not important to educate directly for an individual’s working life. Existence is much more than becoming a slave to an economic machine. Through acquisition of basic skills we become automatically capable of performing most of the tasks which are required to be performed in the industrial and commercial world. Moral and aesthetic decisions have to be made in addition to work tasks.

There is nothing especially outstanding about those who are able to attain a high degree of competence at a specialism of some kind. The specialist is not necessarily ‘educated’ in the sense of being able to make integrated responses to the total environment. The educated specialist needs to appreciate a broad and responsive culture; those who are not specialists need to be able to understand the need for specialists and to have a layman’s knowledge of their specialisms.

There is no absolute value in work. The spheres of work activity are largely determined by the temporary socio-economic set-up and not necessarily by real human needs. We require people with free minds who will be capable of assessing the actual requirements of the community. In ‘The Fear of Freedom’, Erich Fromm points out that ‘the subordination of the individual’as a means to economic ends is based on the peculiarities of the capitalistic mode of production, which makes the accumulation of capital the purpose and aim of economic activity…’ At least before we insist that education is an ‘investment’ for the future, before we say that education is to fit people into a possible work-role, we ought to examine precisely what we are investing in and,, for instance, study what possibilities there are for abolishing the tedium of office routine and factory automatism, which can hardy be called a satisfactory fulfillment of the educational process.

In November 1964 I had only escaped ‘the tedium of office routine’ a few months before so this sentiment carried much force for me.

I have briefly sketched The Newsom Report’s findings on the objectives of education. Before going on to some personal elaborations, I think it is necessary to point out that education is much wider in scope than the terms of the Newsom Report, excellent though it is, permit it to discuss.

Education is a life-long process; it is very misleading to think that it might be something which ‘occurs’ between the ages of five and fifteen or twenty. Education, learning, is concurrent with life and the progressive result is a measure of the individual’s development through life. This being so, a discussion of what it is to be educated must include a consideration of what precedes and develops out of the foundation of formal education.

The first educators are parents. Bertrand Russell writes that ‘one generation of fearless women could transform the world by bringing into it a generation of fearless children, not contorted into unnatural shapes, but straight and candid, generous, affectionate and free…’ If women are to be mothers of this kind they will require education in such subjects as child psychology, child-rearing and house management; no reason why men should not also cover such subjects.

The awareness and capacity for uninhibited discussion which the Newsom Report requires of educated human beings can only develop in children who have been exposed to a non-authoritarian, child-centred up-bringing; one in which natural curiosity has not been stifled by the priorities of adult convenience and which encourages free self-regulated development of the faculties. The desire to understand things for oneself and to question conventional assumptions can only develop in an atmosphere of freedom.

I take it that the imposition of adult authority either inspires rebellion or kills a child’s natural zest for life, forcing it to adopt stereotypical responses to situations.

Discipline, to have any useful effect, must come from the child; it is a self-imposed awareness of the world about him with all its possibilities. The parents’ task is to order the child’s environment in order to offer the maximum amount of experience while arranging protection from coming to real harm. If progressive curiosity is interrupted then there is a denial of composite experience of a small but growing world. These conditions should exist throughout school life and should lead to a growth in self-confidence.

Anticipating the experience of bringing up my own children I had read fairly widely on the subject. A developing philosophical view of how things ought to be led me via pacifism & protest to ASNeill and the concept of The Free Child a few years before I escaped wage slavery in the commercial world!

The need for the free development of the curiosity is emphasised by Homer Lane. ‘Curiosity is dynamic…disciplined curiosity is interest… [The child] will gradually become ‘educated’ or self-governing as he [she/it] acquires knowledge of facts and of their relation to one another… Every act, conscious or unconscious is the manifestation of some desire of the child-mind for knowledge’.

From this point of view education Is the emergence of the individual from its state of initial absolute dependence on its mother. When fully educated or emerged from dependence, self-regulated, it arrives at a state of self-conscious, self-willed and disinterested awareness of the world an awareness capable of avoiding what A.W.Whitehead called ‘Inert Ideas’ – ones that don’t get looked at or thought about.

Anybody who is self aware will develop an integrated personality with infinite possibilities of development,. There is a bias against this kind of freedom. Bertrand Russell has pointed out that ‘thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible’. Colm Brogan (‘The Nature of Education’) writes, ‘when any country has a large number of unemployed intellectuals It contains an exceedingly volatile and dangerous social element. These dangers must threaten any country which embarks on an educational programme far more ambitious than is needed for the time being and far more expensive than the country can afford…’ There is evidence that in our society a general fear of thought and a fear of freedom that I would expect any well-educated person to have overcome.

In ‘The Fear of Freedom’, Erich Fromm discusses the reasons for such fears: they have their roots in the fragmentation of life in our society, the way In which the individual is blinded to the fact of being human by economic and political struggles which would be irrelevant to any sane normal life. ‘Modern man’s feeling of isolation and powerlessness is increased still further by the character which all his human relationships have assumed. The concrete relationship of one individual to another has lost its direct and human character and has assumed a spirit of manipulation and instrumentality. In all social and personal relations the laws of the market are the rule. It is obvious that the relationship between competitors has to be based on mutual human indifference.

Fromm endorses the importance of self-awareness and freedom. ‘If the individual realises his [sic] self by spontaneous activity and thus relates to the world, he ceases to be an isolated atom; he and the world become part of one structuralised whole… He is aware of himself as an active and creative individual and recognises that there is only one meaning tof life: the act of living itself.

As pointed out earlier, the capacity to respond to the needs of one’s place in time and space is one of the essential characteristics of the totally integrated (educated) personality. Fromm: ‘Only if humans master society and subordinates the economic machine to the purposes of human happiness, and only if they actively participate in the social process, can they overcome what now drives them into despair – aloneness and the feeling of powerlessness…’

Educated people will transcend the barriers which have been set up in the world and break down the unnatural groupings in society. This is a statement for the future; but education is about the future; the educative process has the potential to change things.

ANWhitehead’s term ‘inert ideas’ [such a key idea in all my thinking since I came across the concept when I was in mid-adolescence] needs spelling out. He says ‘In training a child to activity of thought, above all things we must beware of what I will call ‘inert ideas’ – that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilised, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations…’ Whitehead goes on to say that the result of much teaching is the ‘passive reception of disconnected ideas’. His remedy: ‘Let the main ideas which are introduced into a child’s education be few and important, and let them be thrown into every combination possible. The child should make them his own, and should understand their application here and now in the circumstances of his actual, life.’ [My emphasis]. People educated in the avoidance of inert ideas will be aware of the limitations of language, they will easily discard the emotive suggestive forces of modern techniques of persuasion, including the directly political, and thev will constantly be examining their ideas to see that they develop….’

Finally to be called educated people must be emotionally, intellectually and socially mature. We must have grown out of absolute dependence on others. To the extent to which we can ‘…make the transition from the narrowness of a love-interest centred on their own most intimate circle to a concern with the world outside’ we may be said to be mature…’ Education is a progression towards maturity which is in itself a developing relationship with one’s environment. ‘Encouragement to growth is implicit in social life, in literature and in art; and capacity for growth is the counterpart of the individual’s need for fresh experiences and fresh conquests.’ (CMFleming: ‘The Social Psychology of Education’)

I would use the phrase ‘The Educated Wo-Man’ to mean a person who is self-governing, free, aware and mature.

My 1964 essay was described as

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It is a mortal sin that we are now subject to disconnected ideas and ‘fake news’, ill-educated to make the appropriate connections and sort out real from fake. It enables the forces of capitalistic darkness to have their evil way.

 

POSTSCRIPT

NUT Conference 2017 15 April 2017

Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto promised that a future Conservative Government would ensure that ‘the amount of money following your child into school will be protected.’ Unfortunately this promise is being broken for 99% of schools. For half of the schools in England, the money following children into schools is being cut in real terms and in the other half the money following children will be cut in cash terms.

“Unless more money is allocated, 99% of schools will be worse off in real terms even after the introduction of a new funding formula. Schools will be forced to make cuts worth £3billion a year by 2020.

“There are places where the cuts are so bad and the degree of concern so big that strike action is a real possibility. We will consult with colleagues in the regions about the readiness of members to do this. If Justine Greening announces the funding formula is changing to make things even worse in some areas, that would be very likely to raise the level of anger in those areas to a point where action will take place.

“Head teachers, Governors, MPs and parents have all made it quite clear to Government that the combination of the proposed National Funding Formula and the cash freeze on school budgets will have a negative impact on our children’s education. Schools will be cut to the bone with only the very basics being offered. Already class sizes are increasing, school staff levels are being cut or jobs not being replaced, subjects are disappearing from the curriculum and materials and resources are scarce. This clearly cannot go on.

“Running schools on insufficient funding is doing a great disservice not only to pupils but to society as a whole. The Prime Minister needs to stop burying her head in the sand and introduce a levelling up of funding for all schools. If we are to compete on a world stage we need an education system that is well funded and resourced and offers an education that plays to all our pupils’ strengths.”

*

Letter from 4,000 heads across England…

…says funding is still a postcode lottery and a new funding formula will do little to ease the crisis. Justine Greening promised an extra £1.3bn for schools for the next two years.

Sarah Marsh and Richard Adams Guardian Wednesday 27 September 2017

Thousands of headteachers across England are writing to parents to warn that there is ‘simply not enough money in the system’ to fund schools properly, as their costs continue to rise and budgets come under severe pressure. The letter from more than 4,000 heads will tell around a million families that the government’s new national funding formula still means their children face an unfair ‘postcode lottery’, with some schools able to afford class sizes of 20 but similar schools in other regions forced to have classes of 35 pupils.

The heads argue that the proposed national formula – designed to iron out historic disparities in funding – will do little to solve the funding crisis affecting many state schools. ‘The finances of very low-funded schools are still insufficient to provide the service that your child needs’, the letter, due to be sent on Thursday to parents of children in 17 counties, will say.

‘Parents and carers need to be clear that schools in very similar socioeconomic areas will continue to have entirely different levels of funding. This often amounts to hundreds of thousands of pounds in the primary sector and even millions of pounds across the secondary sector. Far from being resolved, your child’s education will still be at the behest of a postcode funding lottery.’

Calculations done by the heads found that – despite the promise by the education secretary of £1.3bn extra cash – the proposal amounts to a real-terms cut of 4.6% by 2020 compared with five years earlier. Simon Murch, a teacher in Sheffield, said most schools still faced real-terms budget cuts and were struggling to keep up with rising costs. “What this means in Sheffield is that lots of schools are looking to restructure and teaching assistant posts are being lost. Some schools are not putting salaries up. There is a lot of scrabbling around trying to find ways of saving money,” Murch said.

The letter includes analysis of government statistics that reveal a secondary school in York would get an average of £4,700 per pupil in 2018-19, compared with £6,450 for a pupil in Greenwich, London – nearly £2.5m a year less for a school with 1,400 students. Second worst off among secondary schools were those in Barnsley, where schools get an average of £4,729 per pupil, followed by Leicester, with £4,730.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education (DfE) said: “The national funding formula – backed by £1.3bn of investment – will mean that for the first time school funding will be distributed according to a formula based on the individual needs and characteristics of every school in the country.” The DfE underlined that no schools would lose funding as a result of the formula.

Earlier this month, Greening told MPs the new formula was a historic reform that would ‘represent the biggest improvement in the school funding system for decades’. The formula aims to end the uneven funding through local authorities that has resulted in some schools – particularly in inner London – receiving thousands of pounds more per pupil than other areas.

Local authorities use different formulas to distribute funding in their area. For example, a secondary school pupil with low previous results would attract £2,000 in extra funding in Birmingham, compared with just £36 in Darlington.

The headteachers concede that the new formula will improve funding for schools that are currently the worst off, but argue that Greening’s reforms would still uphold huge disparities in school budgets across the country. “A school in a disadvantaged area of Crawley or a tough part of Barnsley will receive millions of pounds less than schools from similar socioeconomic areas in London or Manchester,” said Jules White, head at Tanbridge House school in West Sussex, who coordinated the letter.

The headteachers are urging parents to lobby their MPs for improved funding… Rob Corbett, the principal of Ifield community college in Crawley, West Sussex, and one of the signatories to the letter, said he had been forced to make cuts worth £350,000 in recent years, and described the new funding formula as a ‘political fudge’. “If we do not get substantially increased funding, our ability to support the range of needs of our students becomes significantly reduced,” he said. “Our students take the same GCSEs as others in the country and we are judged by the same Ofsted framework, but we are supposed to do this for far less money per student, which seems wrong to me.”

Labour’s Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, said the letter showed the government was still not giving schools the resources they needed. “There is no new money and every penny has been found by cutting the education budget elsewhere,” she said.

John Tomsett, the headteacher of Huntington school in York, said that while the city still had relatively low funding, schools in York benefited more than any other local authority from the new formula’s increase in base funding. However, he said the formula “should not be about redistributing the same-sized pot. Instead, the pot needs to get bigger.”

Catharine Darnton, the headteacher of Gillotts secondary school in Oxfordshire, said: “This is a very difficult time to introduce a national funding formula because the overall amount of funding for schools is simply inadequate. Small increases in funding through a new formula will nowhere near offset even one year’s cost pressures in many schools.”

The headteachers put the inconsistencies in funding down to the fact that how much a school gains or loses is dependent on caps. “The caps are largely arbitrary and mean that any new per pupil funding is often based on the previously discredited formula,” the letter says.

Since Greening’s announcement, a cascade of data has suggested that the funding changes will do little to lift the underlying budget pressures facing schools.

A parliamentary question tabled by Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman, found that more than one in three schools in England ran an operating deficit last year, with hundreds of schools having dipped into their reserves for three or four years in a row.

Meanwhile, the education unions updated their campaigning website School Cuts to include the new national formula, and found that nearly nine out of 10 schools would see cuts in real terms by 2020. According to the unions’ calculations, a typical primary school will be worse off annually by £52,546, and a typical secondary school will have lost £178,000 each year since 2015.

CONCLUSION

When, under the false notion of AUSTERITY, there’s no money around, a discussion of what it is to be ‘educated’, man or woman, falls by the wayside. In spite of their continuing assertions to the contrary, the practical upshot is that the Power Possessors do not want us to be ‘educated’ in any proper sense. I was painfully ignorant of that truth in 1964. Things have moved on for me…

5 thoughts on “THE IMMINENT DEATH OF CIVILISATION

  1. Hi Colin,

    First, let me echo the comment above – your writing through the years has always been, and still very much is, wonderful! And then, secondly, let me comment on how prescient both the Newsom report (which I had not heard of up to now) and your 1964 essay have turned out to be – much to the detriment of the world we find ourselves living in today. I still cling to some slight hope that the imminent death of civilization which your title warns of may yet be avoided, or at least deferred for a few more generations. But that small hope of mine is also in imminent danger of dying.

    Tom

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