A mixed pair of year 8s are gazing at something so I get between them. This new pound coin? What’s it worth? Ever the educator, I can help: ‘A pound’. ‘Yes, yes, but what’s it worth, I mean, how long’s it been around?’ This is, I suspect, precisely the existential question that standardised coinage is meant to prevent. Rather like you and I, dear child, worth does not depend on age.
We’re obsessed with money this week as the future is grim. Successive governments have longed for a schools’ National Fair Funding Formula but shied away from the cost or the carnage until now. This lot are doing it within the funding envelope, as we say now. The same money, shared out fairly. It has a brutal logic as a cold fiscal fix. As a way to support a the nations’ young, it is utterly inexplicable. Why disinvest from children?
Tallis’s total budget is about £12 million a year. For the financial year 2017- 18 we’ve been given about £326,000 less, a drop of -2.7%. We‘ll face further reductions next year, and then that lowest level of funding will be the new normal. Over the next two years we’ll try to plan to lose over half a million pounds. Which may not be possible.
Such brutality does interesting things to language. The ‘Fair’ was dropped a while ago so it’s just a formula, rage against the machine. Similarly the parroted ‘we are spending a record amount on schools’ makes my head swivel on its stalk before exploding. School funding is frozen, with inflation and other factors meaning schools have to make huge cuts on top of Coalition cuts.
So, pottering home after the A level dance showcase (brilliant, with a matchless first Little Red Rooster) I thought out loud (thankfully not on the bus), about the rationale for slashing expenditure on schools. Hana’s questions recurred: What’s it worth and how long’s it been around?
The best schools have a grand narrative: this is what we are, this our history, this our aim. Ancient schools know: educating the poor of the parish for 500 years, Honore et Labore, Sapere Aude, like we have Education to understand the world and change it for the better. But quality education for the masses is very recent, a post-war, comprehensive dream. Most of our schools, in historical terms, are modern. Does that make us less valuable?
From the standpoint of the privately educated, this must all look very clear. If schools were better they’d have nothing to fear. Most schools are not very old so they haven’t survived for a long time, and they’re not very attractive to rich people, they’re obviously not very good. Ergo, they’re not worth much, so they must be improved in whatever way seems economical at the time. Or starved of cash so the weak go to the wall. Or altered again and again and again by successive ranks of politicians who have no clue that stability and trust are crucial to public institutions.
So, Hana, perhaps the government sees it your way. We can tell what schools are worth by how long they last. In a future without enough money, subject to measurements that change every year, without enough teachers and with people rightly fearful of becoming headteachers, let’s see how they last. Like the rooster-less barnyard: everything in the farm yard upset in every way, the dogs begin to bark and hounds begin to howl.
Our friends from Taiwan came to visit to protect us from gloom, dancing and singing. 20 year 8s had a great day with them and there was much hugging and tears when they left, having given us a second rooster. It’s got a money-box slot, so we’ll perch it on reception and see if it can lay us a load of cash. The attributes of the year of the rooster, I discover, are fidelity and punctuality, and you can’t have too much of either of those in school.
So I turned to Confucius and the wisdom of the structured life. As he said:
It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.