According to the United Nations 57 million children globally receive no formal education. Many millions more receive only a very rough and ready education which leaves them barely able to read, write or add up. Most developed nations have cut their funding to support worldwide educational provision and the UK is now the largest direct donor to basic education but the overall situation is critical.
And yet in this country we are in real danger of losing our sense of what a high quality education should consist of. Pressure of rising pupils numbers, inflationary costs, increased costs to cover regulation and compliance has meant a projected 8% fall in per pupil funding in state schools between 2014/15 and 2019/20.
Britain is ranked only 109th for the proportion of budget it spends on education – just below Kazakhstan and Cambodia. In 2014, the UK government spent 11.78% of its budget on education, while Zimbabwe, which came top, spent almost three times this amount. (As a benchmark, achievement of the UN’s sustainable development goals for education is calculated to require a 20% spend.). In 2015, the UK government spent 4.7% of the country’s GDP on education, down from 5.8% in 2010.
Leaving the turmoil created by recent GCSE and A Level academic curriculum developments aside, the education white paper, ‘schools that work for everyone’ , suggests yet more change on the educational horizon. But will it deliver high quality educational outcomes which serve all our young people?
One of the major reasons why independent schools are so successful is that they can and do devote significant resources to the development of the whole child both in and beyond the classroom. Independent schools such as Canford will seek to use those resources and their greater freedom of action to ensure that the educational experience we offer is driven by more than just financial expedients. We know that academically – and in a broader sense – the personal development of our young people must be rich and diverse if it is to be truly valuable and effective. Our maintained sector colleagues are just as passionate about these issues, but they are starved of resources: four out of every ten academies were in deficit last year and the number of schools with pension deficits doubled.
A high quality education is such a valuable and life-changing asset in so many ways. Yet a narrow perspective of education and its aims has been asserting itself ever more actively in the corridors of power.