Though Tony Blair is not today's favourite politician both within and without the Labour Party in England Scotland and Wales, the commendable quotation from a speech he made 16 years ago is the title of this blog post. An extract from The Guardian report of his policy in May 2001, read:
Our top priority was, is and always will be education, education, education. To overcome decades of neglect and make Britain a learning society, developing the talents and raising the ambitions of all our young people.
and the BBC reported a few years years later in 2007:
There is no doubt that there has been a major financial investment. Whether the money has been wisely spent is another question - but the cash has certainly been made available, with the government now spending almost £1.2bn on education every week.
Yet here we are some 16 years after Tony Blair's "Top Priority" speech with political bickering over education in schools still continuing; claims of under funding and the converting education into skills argument being undermined by the realisation that economic productivity in the UK is still well below that of other G7 nations.
In my view the Labour party did brilliantly well in starting the trend away from Local Education Authority controlled comprehensive schools by cautiously at first, encouraging some schools to opt for Academy status and less LEA involvement.
This trend was continued by the Coalition government with the encouragement of more such Academies and its Free School initiative, under which parents teachers charities and businesses may set up their own schools again supported by the state.
The present Conservative government is proposing to take these initiatives further by encouraging more grammar schools but with the significant proviso that arrangements must be made for the children of poorer parents to have easier and better access to such schools than their wealthier neighbours. Previously the government announced the introduction of new technical examinations geared to extend the practical and trade skills of students who prefer such a route to the more traditional academic university education.
All these developments which go well beyond traditional political party lines may at last begin to improve the knowledge welfare and skills of the population in time at least.
Meanwhile the population growth in the UK is resulting in an outcry this week about schools yet again being insufficiently funded.Last week a similar outcry concerned the National Health Service.
My own view sadly in C21 is that either the basic rate of income tax needs to be increased to pay for these essential services or those users of the services who are not poorer than average, should contribute towards their cost or basic personal insurance should be made compulsory.
The government could of course simply borrow more to pay for these hugely important services today but the cost of such borrowing would fall on the next generation to repay.
Thankfully I am not a politician!