In 1997, when New Labour swept to power, one of Blair’s main election promises was “Education, Education, Education”. Blair promised massive investment in education which would cut pupil to teacher ratios and see 50% of students attending university. However, Blair’s promises were broken. This year will see deep cuts in education across Britain and Northern Ireland.
Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane, has already admitted that harsh cuts in education are due this year, and for years to come. In 2010-2011, there will be a budget cut of £114 million in Northern Ireland’s schools with further cuts in the pipeline. This will result in hundreds of job losses and a poorer standard of education for young people.
Some of the measures imposed by the Assembly Executive to cut costs include merging schools – in reality another way of closing schools. The merging of secondary schools, for instance in Lurgan, will see over 1,000 pupils forced into a single school with job losses in the transition. This is to happen right across the North.
These measures will inevitably result in larger class sizes, school overcrowding and job losses. Not to mention the demise of rural schools, which are already facing tough times.
With fewer schools, teachers will have to work doubly hard to cope with bureaucratic paperwork and marking with no extra pay. This will result in less time for pupils to be actually taught in classrooms and will inevitably lead to a worse education.
The full effects of these cuts will become clear in several years. With many leaving primary school unable to read or write, can we afford this? Jobs are already a scarcity. Closing schools will result in a less educated workforce, making the prospects for job creation even worse. Every local community should resist all school closures. Young people across Northern Ireland should organise to oppose all cuts in education and school closures.