Canterbury’s two big Universities, Kent and Canterbury Christ Church, face growing financial stress because of the Tory Government’s massive reduction in funding for universities and students. A review of University finances is planning cuts in the fees payable by students, which will fall from £9,250 a year to £6,500, and stopping at least 20,000 students from going to University.
These new plans by the Tories mean big gaps between the income Universities get from fees and the actual cost of running courses and campuses. It may also mean a cap on student numbers, which in turn will result in job losses across the board.
Canterbury Christ Church has already cut some courses and jobs, and there are many other Universities across Britain on the edge.
With the national shortage of nurses, midwives and healthcare professionals, this should be a time of expansion for our universities. But the loss of bursaries and the increase in the cost of training means that they are struggling to recruit.
The consequences of the slash and burn Tory policy will be to lower student numbers, courses abolished, jobs cut, all of which will have a big knock on negative effect on our local economy.
This is really bad news for Canterbury, and we have to stop it.
Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture given by Melissa Benn at Canterbury Christ Church University. She presented the case for a National Education Service which is of course part of the Labour manifesto, although she pointed out that it has the potential for universal cross party appeal.
Her talk was excellent- she gave an overview of the history of our education system with a comparison to the NHS. She addressed the issues facing our broken education system, including: the bewildering amount of different school types, leading parents to focus on consumer choice as opposed to expecting all schools to be of a decent standard; the unnecessary high stakes testing of pupils from the age of 4 and the related narrowing of the curriculum into ‘measurable’ subjects; and the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention. There was also talk about the accountability of academies, the problem of independent schools and of course the thorny and emotional local issue of selective education.
A National Education Service would be a cradle to grave service- truly free and inclusive education for life. Schools would be put back in the hands of local authorities and would be comprehensive. Teachers and practitioners would be highly skilled and highly qualified and would be trusted to understand child development and to do their jobs. There would be proper investment in all education sectors including, crucially, the early years. She cited the education systems of Finland and Canada as examples that our country could do well to emulate. The discussion that followed the lecture was illuminating as the room was full of a variety of interesting people who knew their stuff.
The B word was largely avoided, but when a woman who had been educated in Canada pointed out that our system is seen as one of the most fragmented and insular systems in the world, I immediately thought of Gove and his arrogant disdain for ‘experts’ during his leave campaigning and the utter destruction he caused prior to that during his four years as Education Secretary. As a parent and former teacher I am keen to get the topic of education back on the table and start to reverse some of Gove’s damage. So many children are currently missing out on quality early years education, falling through the cracks because of a lack of early intervention or excluded due to lack of SEN funding or suitable provision and this all needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
While I acknowledge Melissa Benn’s assertion that the full aims of a National Education Service will take decades to achieve, I can also see the rapid improvements that could be made at both local and national level once Labour are in charge. Her new book ‘Life Lessons: The Case for a National Education Service’ is available now.