On the evening of September 10th, young people from across the country gathered to discuss the inequality in education that currently exists. This came off the back of the A-Level debacle which happened in mid August.
In this meeting, students and teachers discussed the massive cuts which have been made to schools over the last decade, and how this has affected the futures of students. Natasha, a teacher and member of the NEU, discussed the amount of funds given to educate state school students versus the money paid for private education. The huge gulf in resources between state and private that already existed has now been exacerbated by the crisis.
She explained that over the last decade, there has been 8% spending cuts per pupil, on average. This works out as £304 cut to each student’s education. Given that state schools only received £5000 per student anyway, this cut is deep and extremely harmful. Natasha compared this to the £50,000 fees at private schools, showing the gaping inequality in state and private education.
Natasha highlighted how. teachers have been given an extremely limited amount of resources to keep students, and themselves, safe. Most teachers complain that no social distancing is possible. Clearly, students and teachers’ interests are the same. However the government has failed to make either group safe.
Natasha raised the hypocrisy of the current government, most of whom went to private school and are from privileged backgrounds. She stated that no amount of funding to education can cut across the inequality that poverty brings. This raises the need for not just equality in education, but equality in every sphere of life.
Laurie, a recent A-Level graduate from Plymouth spoke of his experience in school. Laurie spoke specifically about the A-Level fiasco and how this was linked to the greater inequality which exists in education. Moreover, he spoke of his experiences working in a school over the past few weeks and the complete inability to keep the students safe. This brought up the point that students and workers face the same struggle and that we need to fight together.
Laurie mentioned that the British government had a week to turn this fiasco around after they saw the uproar from Scottish pupils. However, despite this forewarning, the government still managed to destroy the grades of millions of pupils. Laurie called out the government for its incompetence and callousness, but he then argued that this was a wider problem of inequality in education. He mentioned that in a 6th form college in Leyton (North East London), 47% of students had their grades marked down, and that this was nowhere to be seen in private schools.
Finlay, a Scottish school student then spoke about what had happened in the Scottish SQAs, proving the point that this was not just an issue of the Conservative government but inherent in capitalism. He spoke of the inspiring protest movement which took place off the back of this fiasco and how it was shown that militant and decisive action works.
Finlay explained the issue in Scotland, noting that in the most deprived areas there had been a 15.2% gap between expected passing grades and what was actually given out. This was brought into disrepute when it was realised that in the least deprived areas the gap was only 6.2%. Finlay also explained that this happened under the Scottish government, proving this is an issue of the system, not of one government.
Finally Sarah, a Marxist Student Federation organiser spoke. Here, she relayed the point that this was an issue of capitalism and class society and that we should be fighting for a different kind of education that actually inspires people to learn.
She then called for the need for an organised struggle. Exposing the true nature of inequality in education is an important part of the fight. We must understand the world in order to change it, and this is what this meeting was about.
Join the fight for a free and fair education system, join the fight for socialism. Join the MSF!