I was surprised during the election that the parties did not get pushed harder to define what they meant by ‘frontline services.’
As the election fall-out continues, it would seem from Michael Gove yesterday that in relation to education, it means paying teachers and classroom assistants. If, however, they are operating in makeshift portakabins and crumbling infrastructure which remind us of the last time the Tories were in power, then tough … because their working environment is clearly not deemed to be part of the frontline.
I thought the Education Secretary looked nervous and faltering as he tried to justify the scrapping of the Building Schools for the Future programme yesterday. In one interview, he was blinking a couple of times every second, which suggested either he had something in his eyes, or he was feeling uncomfortable about what he had to say.
There we were, just a few weeks ago, and David Cameron was telling us that any minister who came asking for cuts to the frontline would be sent packing, and now here we are with the spending ministers begging to cut, helped along by Cleggalong who, as I tweeted last night, seems to be the original Camerosexual – the more David cuts, the more he hurts what Lib Dems fought and stnd for, the more Cleggo seems to like it and cry out for more.
I hear he got heckled opening a fete at a primary school in his Sheffield constituency the other day. There will be plenty more of that to come as he seeks to justify the unjustifiable. At least Gove had the honesty to blink and bluster last night. Clegg defends all this slash and burn stuff as a true believer.
But just step back for a minute. Building Schools for the Future … good thing or bad thing? Doesn’t take long to answer. And the real reason for the cuts has little to do with the claims made by Gove and Clegg – it is all about freeing up cash for the ludicrous Tory idea of free schools. Of course running down the buildings of existing schools will help this policy along – as the buildings crumble, parents will want a new ‘free school’, and will gang up, and instead of defending and fighting for the exsiting schools which need more support, toddle off to Dave, Michael and Nick and ask for the money to set up their own. It is ideology gone mad. At least the Tories have the ideology. For the Camerosexuals to go along with it defies any kind of belief.
We all know the deficit has to be dealt with. But it is now becoming an excuse for any act of madness that the Tories want to inflict upon us, with the Lib Dems as cover.
As Gove was axeing, I was at a very good conference in Gateshead, where ICT in schools was being discussed. Watch out for more cuts here. Becta, the agency responsible for overseeing a lot of the work in this area, has gone already. Curriculum speeches by Gove and schools minister Nick Gibb just do not mention ICT. The Rose Review recommendations on getting more ICT into primary schools have been ditched. Then, quietly, the government took £50m from the Harnessing Technology for the Future fund, and siphoned it off for the Free Schools programme.
None of these choices are inevitable. They are choices. They are not the kind of choices being made in India, China or Brazil, where governments with an eye on the future recognise that education, science and technology should not be at the front of the queue for cuts, but at the very back.
Still, we will have our free schools so called, our kids will be sitting in rows learning the names of Kings and Queens, and Dave, George and Michael will be so happy, while Cleggo will just be thanking them for the ride.
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