Sheffield has some excellent schools. But they are held back by funding shortages and our students are let down by national education policies which focus too much on testing and a narrow range of subjects.
Talking to lots of parents, grandparents and young people across Sheffield, they have grave concerns about plans to cut schools funding by 8% by 2020. But they have even bigger worries about the direction our schools are being pushed by the Government.
Our schools could be teaching English through Sheffield’s rich tradition of radical history; Maths through the engineering history and continuing expertise we have here in South Yorkshire; and Science about the natural wonders of the Peak District.
But instead, schools are forced to become exam factories, where pupils are pushed through test after test to help schools compete for ratings.
This damages the mental health and wellbeing of our young people.
Creative and hands-on subjects – Performing Arts, Music, Woodwork and Metalwork – have been squeezed out, as has anything that isn’t going to be tested. Their education is not equipping them for decent workplaces in the future. We already have robots; we don’t want people turned into robots.
The Green Party wants schools to be educating students for real life, not just exams. On Monday, we announced a radical programme for schools.
We would reverse the planned cuts to school funding. We would save money by bringing schools back within local authority control. It costs the public 51% more to provide a secondary place in a new “free school,” compared to a local authority one.
We would abolish SATs and OFSTED and ensure solid life skills – on nutrition and cooking, sex and relationship education, first aid and personal finance – to equip every student for adult life. The long-term aim is to reduce class sizes to 20 students.
Teachers are being squeezed into the strait-jacket of the national curriculum. The Green Party would replace that with a core of essential knowledge. Beyond that, schools would be free to focus on local interests and use local resources, particularly green spaces.
And we want every school in Sheffield to co-operate, to get the best outcome for every student. We want them to be able to walk or cycle to their local school, with their friends.
Schools competing against each other means everyone loses.
Sheffield Green Party candidate for Sheffield Central