Dear Angela Rayner 

I have just received your email about the new education policy that will give the next generation “the best chance”.

I’m sorry to have to disagree (and I mean that, I’m a solid Labour voter and education campaigner, supportive of inclusive and universal policies that reduce inequalities in the long term). But you are fiddling while Rome burns, though I grant you, the fire is not of your making. All around us schools are dealing with severe funding pressures as a direct consequence of Tory government policy – and having to resort to measures such as larger class sizes and cutting teaching assistants. And access to creative subjects which should be engines for equality is increasingly reserved for those who can afford to pay. All these measures will have a direct and lasting negative impact on the next generation, even if they leave school less hungry than they do now.

At some future time there’s definitely a lot to be gained from discussing the potential benefit of universal free school meals and from getting rid of the tax freedoms enjoyed by private schools. But right now this policy is distracting from the fundamental issues which Labour needs to be responding to. Meanwhile, parents who can are switching off from Labour and turning to private education in the hope that this will give their children ‘the best chance’. All of which makes the chances of this policy becoming an own goal really rather high.

This pernicious Tory government is spending considerable amounts of energy reducing funds and opportunities for this generation and the next. You have the opportunity to set the terms and the scope of the debate on what is really needed to make our education system deliver the best chance for all our children. Please Mrs Rayner, give us the big picture first before filling in the detail.

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One response to this post.

  1. I agree Emma. Giving the next generation ‘the best chance’ will need much more than a decision about school meals. Doesn’t it, however, highlight a major problem?

    Giving kids the best chance is nowadays seen as the responsibility, solely, of their parents. In successfully gaming a complex and fragmented education landscape. So, when a school goes broke, reduces subjects, makes teachers or support staff redundant, responsibility for these impacts on children rests with parents for making ‘wrong’ choices about their kids education. They have no locus other than as consumers as political accountability is removed.

    It’s unarguable Emma, that the free school meals policy fails to address the fundamental issue of the resources allocated to children’s education. That it’s being led on now points up a wider political problem afflicting education and a range of other policy areas.

    Reply

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