Classes not costs!

Back-to-school pawnbroker ads

This month the pawnbroker Albemarle has been targeting its advertising at cash-strapped parents who are struggling to cover back-to-school costs. The advertising campaign claimed that the pawnbroker could help with the cost of textbooks, uniforms and other school supplies needed at the beginning of the new academic year.

This is part of a general trend that has seen more and more people willing to take on short-term debt to cover what seems to be an ever increasing shortfall at the end of the month.

But this also highlights the enormous and growing cost of education in state school thanks to hidden expenses like uniforms and textbooks. Over half of parents spend over £100 on uniform for their eldest child alone and 33% of parents are required to purchase their children’s textbooks. Even more shocking, a third of state schools request contributions by parents towards the finances of the school, and half of those make this compulsory.

Such costs have always created a difficult situation for parents which is fast becoming intolerable as pay, job security and standards of living continue to decline. Cynical pawnbrokers and payday lenders are eagerly waiting in the wings to capitalise on the problems faced by parents.

But while parents are being squeezed, schools too are facing the pinch. In 2010 George Osborne announced that 25% would be cut from education spending by 2014 – it is thus no wonder that schools are putting more and more pressure on parents to cover the costs.

The effect of all this on students is hugely detrimental. School students face a poorer standard of living at home and a worse quality education at school. Financial pressures from both directions will leave school students paying for this capitalist crisis.

The solution is a fully funded state education system that covers all the costs associated with it. Students want decent teachers, who are well paid and working in good conditions, so that they can teach to the best of their ability. All this has to be funded by taking over the banks and biggest businesses and placing them under democratic control of the working class. That way we can stop wasting time and money at the whims of the super-rich and start investing it in something that will guarantee society a good return in the future – the education of young people.

by Ben Gliniecki, Marxist Student Federation