Christmas is approaching, and schools across the country are making preparations for shows, parties, and fundraisers. But as we approach the end of term there is a distinct lack of Christmas cheer for our pupils and teachers, and indeed for anyone interested in making sure that all children, regardless of their circumstances, access the education they need to thrive. The autumn budget brought no relief from the rising cost pressures affecting our schools, and last weekend the Social Mobility Commission resigned en masse, on the grounds that there is no capacity in government to actually deliver on improving outcomes for the poorest children in our society and narrowing the gap between the best and worst off.
Many teachers, especially in primary schools, dig into their pockets to buy their pupils a little token at Christmas. But these same teachers are now also having to pay for pencils and other essentials in their classroom on a regular basis, and there is no sign of that coming to an end. These are the same teachers who have endured 7 years of what the government euphemistically calls ‘pay restraint’ (in other words, a pay cut after inflation). Some of these teachers, like their pupils, are having to turn to food banks to get through the day. Yet again, the government has passed up the opportunity to invest in our children’s future, and instead continues to rely on the generosity of public sector workers to deliver public services. The government has cast itself as Scrooge, so far without redemption. Let’s hope the spirit of Christmas future visits before it is too late.