By David Slaughter
No-one knows exactly how much public money is being squandered on the bank bail-outs but most agree the figures could run into trillions.
This brings to mind a very simple question – why should the working class be made to pay for the bosses mistakes? It is a simple question which should make many bankers blush (and therefore ignore as a result!). Once that question is raised some may just accept that ‘that’s life’. Most people do not see a way out of the crisis, and so will keep their heads down and hope the crisis doesn’t knock on their door. A real lead should be shown by the labour movement but this doesn’t seem to be forthcoming, especially after twelve years of Blair and Brown. While state hand-outs to the bankers and their bonuses is acceptable press, any suggestion of nationalising say Woolworths, Visteon or Vestas in the interests of working people’s jobs is a closed book whilst big business calls the shots.
So we are left in a situation where the bankers and bosses are given a golden pat on the head when they ruin people’s livelihoods in the name of profit. The recession then subjects ordinary people to cut backs in public services – or even worse – redundancy. The chain of negative events does not end there; it is passed onto the next generation.
A poll produced for Yougov on 11th August 2009 and widely reported in the press said that 43% of parents on an average wage or below are likely to have problems buying school uniforms for their children. Over half said they would be cutting back on essentials such as paying bills or food in order to meet back-to-school costs.
For families on incomes below £12,000 a year, over half said they are likely to have problems buying new shoes while a quarter say they will have to miss out on buying their children a winter coat.
Research has shown that almost 57% of local councils no longer provide the clothing grants that many low-income families rely upon to buy school uniforms with – despite the 1996 Education Act requiring councils to help families afford school uniforms so children aren’t disadvantaged.
During the recession many parents have had to cut back on financial expenditure for their children such as after-school clubs and educational school outing.
When you think of ‘state schools’, it is natural to assume that this means schools are free but there are many hidden costs. The statistics released by the Department for Children, Schools and Families demonstrate the reality of ‘free education’. To send a child to a state primary school it will cost the parents on average £683, and to send a child to a state secondary school it is £1,200 every year. The financial leap from Primary School to Secondary School is quite large as shown by the data above. This is because there is a larger list of items and expenses parents must consider such as PE uniforms, school uniform, stationary equipment, school meals and school trips. Indeed such is the pressure on poor families that Newham council is piloting a scheme to give free school meals to all primary kids – no doubt the Tories, if elected, will cut this ‘unnecessary’ expenditure.
To demonstrate how the profit motive is embodied in the education system, we can look at one small example that I personally came across – the fee to see your exam paper once it’s marked. Even though our taxes pays for state school students like myself to sit the exams, we then have to pay a fee of roughly £20 just to see the exam paper we wrote after its been marked and even then its only a photocopy! So if you want to find out where you dropped marks, or what you need to improve on, you have to pay to see the paper which you wrote and in effect you paid for. I had to prioritise which exam paper I wanted back, as I was not going to pay £20 each for all my exams! So, in some cases students just have to accept they got that particular grade and not find out why – surely this is NOT the principle of education. This made me realise exam boards did not have just one role, to mark papers, but they also have a secondary role – making profit out of the education process. As commercial organisations they have an objective to make money rather than playing a fruitful role in the education system. The reality is that big business believes the purpose of exams is not to show how well people are learning but to divide people into groups suitable for selection for employment. In other words they need people to fail. This is one reason for the constant campaign against the current exam systems and the high numbers of people who pass with good grades each year.