James Kirkup James Kirkup

Does Britain care more about pubs than schools?

Credit: Getty Images

Politics is about priorities: what do we consider to be important? I worry that Britain doesn’t attach enough importance to children and their education.

As the first lockdown eased in the summer of 2020, I was unhappy that pubs reopened before schools. I thought that said something about our priorities as a nation

An interview by Liz Truss in New York gives me no reason to change that gloomy view. During the interview, atop the Empire State Building, the PM was naturally keen to talk up the benefits of the energy price support package to be set out on Friday. That package, she was keen to say, will cover not just households but also businesses.

‘We will make sure businesses are protected from those very high prices that were being predicted and what I can say is that for businesses that are vulnerable, who don’t have the wherewithal to invest in their own energy supply, we will be providing support in the longer term,” she told ITV, adding: “And that does include businesses like pubs.”

A Prime Minister who can tell us how she’ll help pubs stay in business but doesn’t say anything about schools

That’s nice, of course. But there are organisations missing from that cheery vista. They are public sector organisations, including schools. Those schools are facing a winter that looks close to apocalyptic: some speak of their energy bills rising 500 per cent and more.

Those bills come at the end of a long spell of pressure on school budgets. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that the cumulative effect of that pressure will be that state school spending per pupil in 2024-5 will be 3% lower than in 2010.

Nor have schools been given anything like adequate resources to help children (especially poorer ones) catch up on the learning and development lost during those years of lockdown.

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