The proposed cuts will transform every aspect of education far more significantly than the ideological and philosophical debates of the past.
The resignations of a number of headteachers over the last few weeks (including a high profile educationalist on Friday) evidence the impact of the scale of cuts being implemented across the schools/academy system. Whilst the most vulnerable staff are those on low pay and short term contracts, the cuts require a radical reduction in staffing costs that includes those on the highest salaries.
The staffing structure of the future can be seen in the Free Schools, academies, through schools and university training schools that have started from scratch without inherited staffing structures. The future is one of unqualified teachers delivering a narrow curriculum focused on exam results in a competitive, marketised and commodified system. The successful CEOs will earn significant salaries but will spend little time in any one academy. The workforce will be relatively young, low paid and replaced frequently. The quality of education as measured by data will be assured by OfSTED. There is nothing new in this prediction but it has taken the proposed cuts to begin the process of making it a reality across England. Over the next few years, experienced staff from headteachers to every role will be leaving schools.
The Plowden generation of teachers will find a huge amount of pain in what is happening because a lot of what are considered gains in terms of how we support children and families will go. Parents will see little change in primary academies because there will still be an adult responsible for a class however children will find themselves more obviously divided between sheep and goats. The compliant children with strong memorisation skills will be rewarded while those who struggle academically will be less valued and those who defy authority will be sanctioned and then excluded in ever greater numbers.
To make all this work, academies need strong behaviour systems to replace relationships; good text books to replace teacher subject knowledge and a supply of young people looking for a couple of years’ employment to replace expertise.
If it were not for the human cost, I would have no problem with what is happening. As a country we voted for austerity and therefore we should not bemoan the impact of cuts but, in terms of primary education, in dismantling one of the best systems in the world, we are reducing the future opportunities of a significant proportion of our children. For that reason, I look at the proposed cuts with my eyes open and I weep.