Education, education, education

You could very easily be forgiven for not being able to name the five Secretaries of State for Education who have been in post over the last four months! I couldn't do so, without resorting to Wikipedia! Education has sadly featured very little in the polemic of politicians of both main parties in the last few months - a far cry from Tony Blair's list of priorities in the run-up to the 1997 General Election: “Education, education, education.”

There was an interesting article in the latest edition of The Sunday Times by James Kirkup, Director of the Social Market Foundation, who wrote:

As a country we do not give enough resources or attention to education. Twenty years ago, Britain devoted the same share of national wealth to education as to healthcare. Today total health spending is roughly double the education budget. Voters don’t seem to mind, or notice. The Ipsos Issues Index, a polling barometer of public concerns, recently found that just 8 per cent of the public considered education a high priority. That’s the lowest since 1984.

Rishi Sunak has thankfully said that he believes reform is needed, talking about an English Baccalaureate to replace A levels, a greater focus on vocational subjects and fewer subjects to be assessed at age 16 – all ideas that have been mooted on more than one occasion in the past, but which have failed to gain traction. This was a welcome statement, for a fresh perspective on the way in which we prepare our young people for life and work today is certainly required.

Without a doubt, you do consider education as a top priority for your children, for you have made significant sacrifices to invest in an LGS education, and to give your children life-enhancing, even life-changing opportunities – and, as a school, we never forget that. I am sure you know that official policy of the Labour Party is to remove the benefits of charitable status from independent schools and to levy VAT on school fees at 20%. This is very short-sighted, in so many ways, and would risk turning independent education into the preserve of a super-rich elite, with the exodus of many children to the state sector. It would also destroy so many of the excellent partnerships which we share with state schools, and from which many children from both sectors benefit. Two such examples this week have been our GCSE History Conference, attended by pupils from four local state schools, and our mock Multiple Mini Interviews for medics – a great opportunity, supported by our parents, and to which some students from outside school were also invited.

Let us hope that the most recent incarnation of Education Secretary (Gillian Keegan, in case you needed reminding!) lasts long enough to understand and to make an enduring, positive difference to the lives of young people. In the meantime, it is the committed work, day-in, day-out, from caring and inspirational teachers in the front line which makes the greatest impact.

Best wishes,

John Watson