Goodbye 2009 - hello 2010
2009 was an interesting year in education in Norfolk. It included the rise and rise of academies, with the county likely to have as many as six within two years. Funding for rebuilt or revamped FE colleges fell apart, consigning our post-16s to more years in second-rate buildings. The ridiculous County Hall plan to make teens pay more for their college bus tickets was dropped after a furore. I remain cynical about it, though. I think the plan was deliberately included to soak up all the attention - leaving the remainder of the £10m of children's services cuts to go relatively unnoticed. I'm not convinced the county council was ever really serious about it.
Swine flu delivered little. Children dreamed of oodles of summer days off, but yet again the government failed to deliver on its promises. We were told this pandemic would create mayhem. In the end, it was a bit rubbish.
University students rarely get any sympathy. In 2009 they deserved it, though. First the government failed to fund enough places to meet the increased demand (fuelled by the desperation among young people to avoid the recession). Then, many of those who were (un)lucky enough to get in found that they had no money. The Student Loans Company joined the likes of Capita and the Learning and Skills Council on the roll of shame of firms/quangos cocking up government projects. Will ministers finally get the hint and stop sub-contracting important services? Not likely.
It is difficult to look forward to 2010 with too much optimism. The days of big money for education are over. Ed Balls says schools will still get increased cash each year, but I can't help thinking there will be some difficult decisions for heads and governors to make about staffing and equipment.
There could be a Sats boycott by leading teaching unions. And who can blame them? The vast majority of teachers are in their jobs to be creative, innovative, and to make a difference. It is no surprise that they are running out of patience with the government control freakery and obsession with results.
Whether we like it or not, we will get more academies in Norfolk in 2010. Their results will no doubt improve rapidly in the first couple of years. But I remain concerned that they will improve by attracting students from neighbouring schools. And those schools could end up being the have-nots that slump down the league tables. Good luck to the academies, but how can it ever be fair to put so much money into a handful of schools, rather than sharing it equally for everyone's benefit?
UEA is going to have to utilise its in-house economics and maths expertise in a bid to make the numbers add up. A massive cut in funding was inevitable, but remains perplexing at a time when enhancing the skills of our students and future employees is so important. This is a cut that could cost so much more in the long run.
In summary, it's going to be a year dominated by dwindling money.
Teachers, and lecturers will continue to do a fantastic job in pressing circumstances. And the government (whether Labour or the Tories) will continue to needlessly interfere and to introduce unnecessary overhauls. Despite them, the vast majority of our children will still get a good education.
Happy New Year!
posted on 30 December 2009 09:42 bySteve Downes