For the Department of Education it is vital that children “catch up” on the hours of education lost due to the pandemic.
In order to help students make up lost ground, the Tories have suggested that school days should be longer and have ordered a “tutoring revolution”.
But the Tories aren’t really interested in the welfare of students, teachers and parents to achieve the level of “catchup” they deem necessary.
They are more interested in pushing children to reach certain grades at whatever cost, and to push schools into becoming exam factories.
The last thing students need after the pressures of the last year is more stress.
And teachers and school workers, who have worked flat out to provide the best possible education for students in lockdown also don’t need any more work.
The government has decided to pledge an additional £1.4 billion to help children across England recover from education hours lost due to the pandemic.
The main criticism was that the funding was too low.
This led the education recovery commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, to resign. He said that £15 billion was needed—ten times as much.
The government says the extra funds will be used to provide tutoring to disadvantaged children.
At the heart of these plans is “six million, 15-hour tutoring courses as well as an expansion of the 16-19 tuition fund, targeting key subjects such as maths and English.”
This scheme won’t carefully assess the needs of children or broaden their education after months of learning at home.
Instead it will focus on “catching up” with exam results and league tables.
It won’t be about developing children’s real potential but making sure companies have the drilled and narrowly skilled workforce they require.
At the centre of the national tutoring programme is Randstad.
It’s a multinational private firm operating in 39 countries and covering industries from cleaners to sports coaches.
Its record should trigger alarms. In 2019 Google subcontracted workers employed by Randstad in the US to scan homeless people’s faces in exchange for a $5 gift card.
In 2017, inspectors found that Spanish airline Iberia had required Randstad to carry out pregnancy tests on job candidates, along with other medical checks.
And the motivations for the Tories to introduce a longer school day is also not centred on the needs of children.
More time at school will mean that children get more time in the exam factory.
Of course some parents might welcome a longer school day.
At present parents, mainly women, are forced into compromises to work around when their children are in school.
For many there is a difficult process of stitching together breakfast clubs, after school activities, and care by grandparents and friends.
And then there are the school holidays. All of these contribute to why women are often forced into part-time work.
But a longer school day could also mean parents could be made to work more hours —benefitting the bosses.
What’s really needed is a revolution in the role of education.
A different kind of education would be able to fully consider the physical and mental health of children.
And it would confront the truth that many children come from families in poverty meaning education is sometimes a real struggle.
It would mean more resources for music, sport, drama—and play—not just maths and English.
For this there would have to be massive recruitment of school workers and the improvement of school infrastructure.
Both the Tories and Labour before them have worked to trying to make education about little more than exams.
Socialists must continue to fight back and say that an education that puts children first is possible.
Class struggle toppled apartheid