WHEN parents and education professionals take to the streets in protest at the effects austerity cuts are having on the education of our children, even the most block-headed of politicians need to take note.
All of our children — with special educational needs or not — cover a wide spectrum of talents, aptitudes and abilities.
All have unexplored potentials. Each of our children deserves the best education that can be provided.
Our children deserve this not because any one child should be specially privileged but because we aim to create, as Karl Marx said: “In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”
In microcosm — and like the Morning Star which heralds the new dawn — this is exactly what the best education provides when an all-round learning begins to unlock the boundless potential in each human being.
We can learn much from the ways in which societies educate their children. The three nations that make up Britain have developed education systems that retain important distinctions, but each of them plays an essential role in the transmission of the skills and attributes that allow modern developed industrial nations to meet the needs, not only of the economy but, of society as a whole.
The inculcation of values in children is not only a product of the content of what teachers teach but also the ways in which it is taught and the structures in which education is delivered.
Labour did some useful and important things with the education system, firstly in bringing something of an integrated approach by creating, in one department, the ministerial responsibility for children, education, schools and families; and secondly in investing the temporary harvest of taxing banking profits in children’s services and schools.
Sure Start and children’s centres have been rolled back by the Tories and Liberal Democrats to the great disadvantage of working-class families and children.
Investment in the early education and social development of children is vitally important. Early years are the foundation for the later realisation of every child’s education and is specially important in spotting special educational needs.
Where Labour went seriously wrong was in the deeply divisive policy of academisation which weakened democratic oversight and fostered a morbidly competitive ethos which imbued the schools system with a dose of corrupting capitalist morality.
An obsession with testing and league tables has produced a situation where schools that have the most challenging tasks, where their intake is of children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds — and where extra resources are most needed — are placed under intolerable pressures which are compounded by a year-on-year squeeze of cash, staffing and resources.
If funding and staffing cuts have hit education in general with debilitating effects, such cuts in the provision of education for children with special educational needs is the most wounding.
According to the (Conservative controlled) Local Government Association, councils in England face a special educational needs funding gap of more than £500 million for this year alone.
Angry and concerned parents who cannot access the kind of support their children need are going to court to gain the support which educational professionals identify as the appropriate support but which councils and schools have not the means to provide.
And the government is in the dock with a judicial review pending which holds ministers to account for unlawfully underfunding special needs education.
The parents should be congratulated on their resolve and the labour and trade union movement should make their campaign our common cause.
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