I regard myself as being lucky to have grown up in a time when schools had books and education was seen as a priority by Government.
It is amazing to see how things have changed. From my own experience, I have visited schools where there have been no paper and pencils and books are at a premium.
The move away from centralised departments of education to schools looking after their own budgets and a reduction in money seems to have brought with it a crisis in education.
It is not surprising therefore that some schools need to ask parents for money.
It was very sad to read that a school in Tipton that asked parents to donate for play equipment allowed only the children of those who had paid to use the toys. It was obvious that parents would protest at such a divisive thing. Quite rightly, school governors intervened and all children can now use the equipment.
In the current economic climate, this is something we will be seeing more and more. But is it such a bad thing for schools to ask for money?
In the last few weeks, my local primary has asked for contributions to pay towards a theatre visit, swimming and a stay at Boggle Hole Youth Hostel. I am sure that parents would realise that the benefit of such activities was well worth the cash. Long gone are the days when schools could pay for everything and all was free.
Too many years of unfettered immigration have put a massive strain on education budgets. Wages and costs have also eroded diminishing budgets and education doesn’t seem to be the priority it once was. Society therefore has to rethink the way in which some aspects of primary and secondary education are paid for.
It is a real privilege for parents to be able to have free education for their children up to 18. We have some of the best and most committed teachers in the world doing a difficult job. We have great expectations that they will teach our children to the best of their abilities. Surely, isn’t it wrong to expect all this free of charge?
Gone are the days when we could use the argument that we all pay our taxes. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown put an end to that by emptying the coffers to prop up years of faulty business management.
Now is the time for us to re-evaluate how we pay to educate our children. Britain lags behind so many countries in the education league tables. It should be a national priority for our schools to be the best they possibly can be.
David Cameron’s Big Society failed miserably, but it did have a seed of truth within it. At the centre of its philosophy it had the principle of community ownership.
Even after trying to destroy our public libraries, they have risen from the ashes through members of the public getting involved.
Why cannot we then have community ownership of our schools? After all, we are responsible for the welfare of the children within our society. Wouldn’t it be great to see local communities raising money and giving their skills towards their primary and secondary schools?
There is a wealth of talent that goes untapped and unused. Women and men of all ages would be willing to give their time and skills to making schools even better than they already are. Volunteers from the community could be drafted in for all manner of jobs. Fundraising could become a way of life and people proud of their local centre for learning.
Local community involvement would have benefits for everyone. Schools would no longer be seen as those distant places at the end of the street behind locked gates. Many are buildings that are ideal for community use and this should be encouraged.
Everyone and not just parents should be encouraged to voluntarily contribute towards their local schools and there is nothing wrong with having them sponsored by businesses. It would be better for their brands to be seen to be behind their future workforce than supporting a bunch of overpaid men running around a football pitch.
If we want well-educated children, we cannot leave it to the foibles of a bunch of privately educated politicians playing fast and loose with the education budget.
It is time for us all to become involved and dig into our own pockets to support and fund the new generation of pupils.
All we have to do is donate to our local schools and we will see a difference in our children’s education.
It is only right in a modern, liberal society that education is all of our concern and not just the job of parents and teachers. Good, well-funded education leads to better social cohesion and a broader, more tolerant society, which in these days of division would be a very welcome thing.