There are all sorts of educational issues which have plagued the UK in recent years, which affect both staff and students.
A lack of funding from the government has caused problems for a lot of schools when it comes to financing staff replacements and a full curriculum. This has left many students worse off, as they have access to less resources and arguably a watered down education.
Some other common issues include the truth behind the stereotype that British people don’t learn languages, the rise of academies and their effectiveness, and the well being of the educators.
School Funding Crisis
2020 hasn’t been a good year, for a lot of reasons.
One of which might have gone under the radar is the school funding crisis, which is affecting educational institutions at all levels.
Things have gotten worse in the past few years, and the government has previously claimed that from 2015 onwards there have been large costs which have reduced the budget available for schools and education in the UK.
Despite recently pledging to provide £350m to education in what has been described as a ‘catch-up operation’, the government is struggling to stick to its word and many of the funds have yet to be allocated.
This promise of granting school funding isn’t new, and schools dealing with financial constraints is something most will be familiar with. The lack of proper funding for state schools is as bad now as it was back in the 1980s.
The 2010 coalition government is when the funding began to fall, and the situation is yet to be resolved.
As a result, the schools are required to take measures to deal with reduced funding, such as narrowing their curriculums and cutting back on spending in areas such as technology and teacher replacements.
The effect on schools
The biggest impact of the funding crisis has fallen on the schools, educators, and students.
Every link in the education chain has been affected in some way by the reduced funding, and it means schools have had to adapt the way they hire teachers and deliver the curriculum to students.
One of the first things to change with reduced funding is the curriculum offered by schools.
The lower the budget, the less money there is to spend on new subjects, teaching materials, and technology.
This in turn limits the options for the students, which could ultimately influence what they end up doing after they finish school.
Subjects like foreign languages, design, and music are often the first to be cut in a lot of cases.
This not only limits what the students can learn, but it also places more significance on some subjects and career paths and reduces the perceived validity of others.
A career in the arts is seen as less valuable than one in a more practical field, which can cause all kinds of headaches for students and their parents.
Why don’t British Children Learn Languages?
Brits abroad only speaking English to get by is something commonly accepted to be true.
It often appears to be the case that British children either don’t have the desire to learn foreign languages, or aren’t provided the opportunity.
The truth may lie somewhere between the two statements.
We’ll explore why this might be, to see if we can get to the bottom of the issue.
Lack of Desire
While it’s easy to make a blanket statement about how British people just aren’t interested in learning languages, the problem might be more tied to the stereotype cast over the population.
Much like how some studies have shown that when you show the elderly as helpless and weak on TV, they tend to act that way in real life, knowing the reputation British people have with languages could go some way in decreasing desire to learn them.
If a child goes on holiday with their parents and sees first hand that English is like a get out of jail free card for communicating wherever you are in the world, then the importance of language in their mind is diminished.
Lack of Opportunity
According to a recent survey from the European Commission, roughly 62% of people in the UK speak one language: English.
The lack of funding in schools has meant that some subjects have disproportionately been cut, and foreign languages are amongst the first to go.
It’s increasingly uncommon to attend a school that offers more languages than French and German.
The first time I came across Italian or Spanish in my academic life was when I studied the former at university.
This lack of opportunity boosts the idea that languages aren’t as important as the sciences.
However, it’s predicted that going forward children will have more possibilities in the form of Mandarin and other useful foreign languages. This is especially important for preparing students to go into a global work environment.
The Rise of Academies
Academies are on the rise, which raises several pertinent questions.
The most pressing of which is what level of education students can expect to receive at an academy compared to at school?
2019 marked an important moment for academies in the UK, as more than 50% of students receive an education in this type of institution.
The recent exponential rise in academy attendance raises issues over the quality of education, and the difference between an academy and a state school.
There is a wide discrepancy in quality with academies, since they are privately run, which is one of the biggest downsides.
Given that they aren’t regulated in the same way as state schools, it’s almost impossible to maintain a high standard across all academies.
The success of an academy is due largely to the person in charge of that particular institution, so it can be difficult for parents and students to ascertain whether it will be a good fit.
It can also be hard to attract the best teachers due to the lack of coordinated leadership in some academies.
There’s also the financial issues that academies have, which can make everything a lot harder.
The evidence so far suggests that this rise of academies isn’t necessarily the best thing that’s happened in UK education, but that isn’t to say that they will continue to flounder.
Accountability to local government is one idea that’s been proposed by various sources to increase the standards of academies and improve the overall experiences for all parties involved.
Teacher Retention and Well Being
One of the other big current educational issues the UK faces right now is teacher retention and the well being of the educators.
It’s one of the most pressing issues in education, and it’s something a lot of schools are struggling with.
Due to the lack of funding, more teachers are considering stepping away from the profession and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for state schools to hire replacement teachers.
UK-based education unions have claimed that issues with pay are affecting many teachers’ desire to stay in the profession.
The low pay is a dealbreaker for many educators, and is something which if not addressed, will lead to a lot of teachers stepping down from their positions and seeking work elsewhere.
Unions have been campaigning for a pay increase of around 7% for teachers, due to the ongoing issues which first started around 2010.
The other issue this causes for schools is that the lack of funding they receive makes it difficult to hire replacement teachers.
Teacher Well Being
Teachers are being asked to do more than ever, and many don’t feel like they are being well compensated for this increased workload.
While it’s easy to point to the lengthy holidays and shorter days that come with the role of teacher, it’s often forgotten how much work goes on outside of the classroom.
The teachers’ job doesn’t end in the classroom, nor does it end at the end of the school day.
Most teachers take their work home with them, and often work unsocial hours to get everything they need to do done.
They are also responsible to a great number of students who often have doubts, questions, and work that needs grading.
On top of all this, teachers can often feel pressure from their schools to hit certain academic goals, as well as pressure from parents to give their kids the best education possible.
To compound this issue, schools lack the funding to invest in software and technology which could lighten the teacher’s workload and streamline the process.
Likewise, state schools often don’t have sufficient funds to hire new teachers, so there is more work assigned to the teachers currently working at the schools.
There are several ways to address the issue of teacher well being.
A system of checking in with each teacher to make sure they’re coping with the workload and stresses of the job is one suggestion.
Another is to provide more funding to schools so that new teachers can be hired, technology can be bought, and existing teachers can be better compensated for their work.