A new parliamentary cycle has begun, and with it comes the wave of skeptical students and teachers ready to contest the various educational reform bills that the government is proposing. Both the NUS (National Union of Students) and the NUT (National Union of Teachers) have been voicing concerns over some of the 21 bills brought out yesterday.
Most of the criticism stems from the funding that the government is affording schools and universities, as well as the freedom they both enjoy. Both of which could be squeezed in the coming years due to the new reforms alluded to in the white paper that the Queen presented yesterday.
There has not been a Higher Education bill for over a decade, and there are fears that the changes to the HE framework will either be minimal or fall short of their proposed goals. The bill aims to provide more ‘competition and choice in the HE sector’ which will ‘marketise’ education according to the NUS perspective.
The NUT is focusing more on the failure of the government to desist with their plans to academise all schools by 2022. The General Secretary of the NUT, Christine Blower claims that the government is not looking after the underprivileged children of the UK and claims that they have created a ‘smoke screen’ to prevent the public noticing the 8% funding cut they are imposing on students.
“Targeting schools in local authorities that the Secretary of State decides to call ‘unviable’ or ‘underperforming’ will fool no one. The scope for political partisanship is clear.” Christine Blower
Both the NUT and the NUS mention the government’s positive actions in support of social mobility but make it clear that this has been an area that needs constant support. The NUT claims that the new reform will reverse the efforts that have been made in support of social justice with the appearance of ‘deregulation, austerity and competition’.
They are also in agreement over putting an end to the ‘exam factory’ education structure that the government appears to be proposing. This is a salient factor of the bill as it adds to the competitive nature of schools and universities. Teachers will likely be payed more based on the performances of their students due to the emergence of a new ‘teaching excellence framework’.
There are some promising developments for disadvantaged students such as the lowering of the voting age and the lobbying of bus fares for students.
Whilst they will not be made clear until briefs of the specifications of the reform are released, the broader and more pertinent issues of school and higher education appear not to have been addressed with the opinion of teachers, students and parents in mind. This is made abundantly clear by the government’s persistence with the school academy reform, without a mandate or evidence.