Blair's F for Failure Grade on Education Policy

Article excerpt

'Education, Education, Education', was the cry of the Prime Minister. We are now more than three years into the life of a Government that has education as a priority.

Some progress has been made in primary schools, however secondary schools now have the largest class sizes in ten years because of an acute shortage of teachers. At the same time in Birmingham we have A-level classes of 30 plus. Indeed a secondary school in the constituency of the Minister for Schools actually has its tightest financial position in ten years.

The teacher shortage is a national problem. The Government has reduced class sizes for Infants. However, the number of classes with over 30 pupils (with only one teacher) in secondary schools has gone up from 245,420 to 310,521.

The worst aspect of the shortage is having schools which can only handle four-day weeks. This is caused by people choosing not to work as teachers. The Government has not helped here by wasting pounds 17 million on testing people with O-levels and GCSEs in English and maths for literacy and numeracy.

Importantly although there was a 3.8 per cent increase in numbers of people beginning training courses, the number starting one-year secondary training courses to become maths teachers this year fell by four per cent from last September. Numbers of recruits to become physics teachers were down 13 per cent and English teachers by 1.8 per cent.

Arthur Terry is a secondary school in Sutton Coldfield. They have been forced into a position in which some A-level classes now at times exceed 30. This is because as a larger school it has a lower funding level per pupil.

Cockshut Hill Technology College is in the constituency of Estelle Morris MP, Minister for Schools, yet the school is 'just about able to run for this financial year'.

Comparing Cockshut Hill's budget for 1997-8 to that of 2000-1 in real terms, there has been a 4. …