How Politics Affects Education and How Education Affects Politics
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Anna Doyle | 12 December 2016

How should political views affect education? More importantly, how do they? From Michael Gove to the local politicians in your town, politics and education are inseparable.

 

Politics has always profoundly affected education, and in a plethora of ways, from the early 1900s when women did not have the vote and were taught skills of how to make a home, to today where Michael Gove is making the A* harder to achieve. For better or for worse, education and politics come hand in hand.

 

Many would say the most prominent way in which politics affects education is through funding. For many schools in the state sector, funding, or lack of funding, can be a school’s saviour or final blow. For example, in May 2012, a total of 587 schools applied for the cash from the Priority School Building Programme, aimed at rebuilding the most dilapidated schools. The government announced 261 schools in England were to receive money. Though this meant much needed improvements to some, more than half of the applications were unsuccessful. In particular there was anger in Sandwell in the West Midlands. Council Leader Darren Cooper said: "This announcement is a slap in the face for thousands of pupils.”

 

Secondly, ideology means that education is increasingly becoming a political 'football’, in a similar way to the NHS. Due to the fact that there is a General Election in the UK at least every five years, educational policy changes frequently as a new party holds office. The Secretary of State for Education regularly changes, for example currently it is Michael Gove, but if Labour were to win the next election it would be Stephen Twigg, the Shadow Secretary of State for Education. Without doubt these two individuals have totally different ideas about what is wrong with education and how to fix it.

 

Additionally, although it should not necessarily be the case, education affects politics. The class of 2010 is a far more elitist Parliament than its predecessor with an increase in the number of MPs who attended independent schools, Eton and Oxford or Cambridge. Research has shown 54 per cent of Conservative MPs attended fee paying schools, a disproportionate number given only 7% of England is privately educated. Therefore, without it necessarily meaning to be the case, educational policy is being decided by those inexperienced in certain areas of life. Is this what is needed in a time of recession and consequent unemployment?

 

However, in the end, education is about empowerment. It is also about credibility. It explains how a grocer's daughter from Grantham, Margret Thatcher, could become a PM, but conversely, how a millionaire's son from North London, Ed Miliband, who went to Oxford, like his older brother, can rise to lead his party, but probably won't be a Prime Minister. 

James Routledge 2016