Last week the draft manifesto was leaked and following this sneak peak the national press was chomping at the bit to see how many of the policies revealed in the leak would make it into the final cut. Yesterday we got the answer. Labour has embraced a new level of radicalism which will differentiate the party from the Conservatives. At a speech in Bradford, Jeremy Corbyn unveiled the Labour Party’s general election manifesto and it is full of left-wing policies that will seriously address the root cause of many of the socio-economic problems that face the country.
Two of the UK’s education trade unions have decided to become one larger organisation. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) will merge into a new organisation named the National Education Union (NEU). The NEU will represented around 450,000 teachers and other education workers. It will be officially formed on the 1st September 2017, and on doing so will become the largest education workers union in Europe. Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, the general secretaries of the ATL and the NUT respectively, will share the role of NEU general secretary.
With Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro dead and buried, I think it’s time to review the regime he led for 50 years. Although many people have now come up with very firm opinions on what Fidel Castro did in Cuba, the one thing that all these views have in common is that despite their often violently different conclusions, all are devoid of all nuance. People on Left have started to talk about how he guaranteed healthcare and education to all Cuban citizens as well as Castro’s commitment to internationalism, and people on the Right have decried the Cuban regime’s use of torture and arbitrary detention. There are two things that need to be examined: Castro’s record in isolation; and the hypocrisy of some right-wing critics.
In the 2015 Queen’s Speech the Tories said that they would introduce measures to academise more schools, believing that academies, in and of themselves, were inherently good. The government then specified that it would go about doing this by forcibly academising all secondary schools in England. However the government have announced that the Education Bill will now be amended to encourage local authorities to convert schools, rather than impose it from Westminster. Not only is this a victory for local communities, but it is also a victory for people who understand the education system.
At the start of August Theresa May announced that her government would seek to end the ban of grammar schools. The policy itself is a clear rejection of studies that show that grammar schools do not improve the educational outcomes for working class students. The justification for this policy is that, just like a capitalist marketplace, competition is king. Another example is in the case of universities, and what the government is trying to do is pit universities against each other because according to their flawed philosophy competition trumps co-operation. This philosophical approach is dangerous because it opens the door to commercialisation and consequently social mobility breaks down.
In 2010 the newly formed Coalition government decided to increase university tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000. Despite protests all over the country from students, the government pushed through the increase.The current Education Secretary Justine Greening has said that she supports increasing university tuition fees and Universities Minister Jo Johnson has recently published a report stating his desire to linking university tuition fee increases to better teaching. Not only will this not result in better teaching, the continued rise in tuition fees discourage people from pursuing a university education.
One of the aspects of the Budget that received some attention at the time was the announcement that all schools in England will become academies. This will be one of the most drastic changes in the English education system for a generation and will be terrible for students, teachers, and parents. The Chancellor’s motivation is a desire to centralise power in Whitehall, which runs contrary to his apparent belief in ‘localism’. It is this hypocrisy that people are starting to become away of but also that the Tory education ‘reforms’, despite the justification of it being about raising standards, are only about money.