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Is There a Problem with the Education System in the Uk?

With universities like Oxford and Cambridge, is the United Kingdom really an amazing place to study?

The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, both located in the United Kingdom, are often ranked as two of the best universities in the world, year after year, suggesting that the United Kingdom has one of the best education systems in the world. However, this is strictly incorrect.

In 2018, the UK Government changed the grading system from lettered grades (A*-U) to numbered grades (9-1), leaving many pupils confused as to what grade they actually achieved. This also meant that many teachers were left feeling confused as to how students could achieve the grade they wanted. Here lies one of the biggest problems with the UK education system: change and reform happen too often.

As with most things, the education system is politically run, as it has been for years. Take the structure of education for example: in 1965 the Circular 10/65 (also known as the Crosland Circular) set out to replace the tripartite system of education with a comprehensive school system, under the Labour Government. Five years later, the Conservatives, repealed this with the Circular 10/70 which meant that the Local Education Authorities had control of what type of system to implement in their local area. When the Labour Party returned to power, they repealed this with the implementation of the Education Act 1976. The constant changing of how education was run left many feeling confused and uncertain about its future.

The solution to this would be an inter-party agreement on the future state of the UK education system. The tossing and turning of how education, exams, curriculum, etc is run can be misleading for not only pupils but teachers too. By establishing an agreement between all political parties as to how the education system should be run, means that confusion and unnecessary stress is avoided.

However, inter-party differences in how the education system should be run isn't always a bad thing. In the Liberal Democrats Party Manifesto 2017, they stated they would "introduce a curriculum entitlement" which would ultimately teach pupils "a curriculum for life," by educating them in first aid as well as mental health education. The Conservatives in their Manifesto stated they would implement T-Level's, similar to A-Levels, but in "technical qualifications" such as construction. UKIP wanted to implement a "Dual Vocational Training System" to allow pupils to receive "on-the-job training at a company."

All of these policies would benefit pupils, and would help push Britain towards prosperity. However, there lies another underlying problem: state school funding.

School funding has and will always be a problem, no matter which Government is in charge, no matter who is the Prime Minister, no matter who is the Secretary of State for Education. 

Between 2016 and 2017, the total expenditure on education stood at £86.3 billion, which was a 2.3% decrease from 2012-2013. Factually speaking, funding in education continues to decrease year after year, and the Conservative Party continues to push for more and more grammar schools to be built.

With less funding, year after year, classrooms become overcrowded as schools can't afford to build new classrooms or employ more staff. This also creates a problem within schools regarding access to resources. With less funding, and more pupils, textbooks are often having to be shared between three pupils, and teachers often having to put in their own money to buy essential items such as paper and pencils. (Source)

Not only does a lack of funding create a "black hole" in resources, but it often leaves teachers teaching subjects they aren't qualified to do—maths teachers teaching religious studies and Spanish teachers taking science classes. 

The solution is obvious: the Government needs to start adequately funding schools across the country. The Conservative Party, generally, believe that implementation of grammar schools allows for the Government to save money, and allow for students to achieve better results. However, this is just a short-term solution. The Government need to focus more on prioritising the problem of state school funding, to allow for the "working class students" to receive an adequate standard of education.

With a lack of qualified teachers, students are often left to teach themselves the curriculum. This creates a burden on their mental health, another area that needs to be adequately covered by schools. 

Mental health problems, especially amongst students, are continuously increasing, and its no wonder given that year after year exams are being made harder, causing an increase in workload and stress.

Due to a lack of funding, more often than not, PSHE lessons are being replaced with English, maths, or science lessons, as there is a greater focus on competition for exams than there is for the wellbeing of any 16 year old going through a tough time. This needs to change. 

Under the Labour Party Manifesto 2017, Jeremy Corbyn stated he wanted to "extend schools-based counselling... at a cost of £90 million per year." From my experiences at school, mental health was often forgotten about, or "swept under the rug." 

The solution isn't as simple as the others. I believe that an increase in funding to schools-based counselling is a great start, we need more counsellors in schools to help deal with the influx of child mental health problems. However, we also need more training for teachers on both mental health and disabilities. In a study, almost 70% of teaching staff felt that they hadn't had sufficient enough training to teach PSHE. By teaching pupils about both mental health and disabilities, we as a nation have the opportunity to become more educated on the matters that are continuously growing, and it allows pupils to feel more comfortable about discussing how they feel and why they feel that way.

In conclusion, the answer is yes, the UK education system does have a serious problem. However, all of these problems can be ironed out and improved upon with adequate training, fairer funding to state schools and by avoiding the constant change in the delivery of education. These are just a few of the problems that are holding back the UK education system from being one of the best in the world, but these are problems I feel that need to be addressed sooner rather than later. 

If the Government worked together, to create an educational plan that would help assist a smoother transition for pupils as well as help them to become better skilled workers, the United Kingdom could have a much better reputation, as well as offering a better equipped workforce in the future. 

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