According to the report of the UK Government, Department of Education (published on January 10, 2014), there were altogether 24372 public schools comprising of 16818 State-funded primary schools, 3268 State funded and 2420 other Secondary schools and 4476 independent schools. There are also 1039 special (state funded) and non-maintained schools. The same report says that there were 438000 teachers in state-funded schools in England on a full-time equivalent basis in 2012. The numbers at both ends have naturally increased at the time of writing this article. But the big question that is looming over the education system of England is whether, even after the best effort by the UK Government and the State schools, the public school system is successful in educating their children properly or not.
The performance of the public school system of UK, as envisaged by various experts and surveys in national as well as global front do not portray an encouraging picture. As warned by Chief Inspector Sir Michel Wilshaw in the annual Ofsted report (as reported by The Guardian, Dec 10, 2014) that the secondary schools of the country is being failed to touch their benchmark performance because of huge short supply of teachers in the public schools.
When the numbers of students in the secondary schools are increasing significantly over the years, a short supply of teachers mean that the number of students per teacher is also increasing gradually and that is depriving the teachers to deliver an effective teaching in the overcrowded class. This is simple arithmetic and the State has to fix it if it wants to restore the standard of the public education system.
Sir Michel Wilshaw also stated in his report that while the primary schools are still doing great, the students, who are being upgraded after getting a good education at the primary level, are being utterly disappointed while entering the secondary schools because of the dramatic fall in the standard of education clubbed with the fall of the behaviour standard of the students. Consequently, this is resulting in the poor performance of the British students in all fronts at the secondary level.
Though there are conflicting views as usual to the Ofsted report, the findings of Eleanor Harding and Tamara Cohen (as reported in Daily Mail, Jan 29, 2015) echoes almost the same concern of Sir Michel Wilshaw. According to their findings, the league tables published at the end of January 2015, reveals that the number of schools that has failed to touch the “floor target” set by the Government for GCSE results has been plummeted to 330 in comparison to 154 by the end of January. The alarming statistics is that in those 330 schools only less than forty percent of the students have got five C grades at GCSE and the worst performance that is being made are in English and Mathematics. However, by some education experts as well as by the National Association of Head Teachers, this seemingly dismal performance is due to the recent changes in the exam criteria by the British Government. As perceived by the General Secretary Russel Hobby, a lot of these changes in regulation and criteria of examination process has affected the schools, having a proportionately high percentage of disadvantaged students, adversely and disproportionately.
However, the most shocking report regarding the performance of the British education system comprising of a vast number of public schools has been revealed in the global league table as published by the education firm Pearson at the end of 2012. According to this report country’s education system has ranked 6th in the top ten countries of the developed world. The UK which has harboured and nurtured some of the greatest scientists and noble laureates who have enlightened the human history, this report shows a gloomy picture of the present state of the country’s education system, especially that of the public schools. This report seems to be more troubling when we look at the ranking of the UK in the Pisa maths score ranking table for the selected education system. The country ranked 26th and owed to this report the Education Secretary of England Michael Gove has said that this test performance since the year 1990 had been “at best stagnant, at worst declining”.
However the above statistics and the reports as well as the opinion of the experts from various fronts in education, suggests only one thing, that a drastic measure is necessary by the UK government to bring the standard of the public school system to its prestigious height, to a height which could again set the British education system at the top of the world or at least at the same ranking of the best educations systems in the world. The most important are probably, as various reports suggested, is to employ enough teachers and good quality of teachers. For that, the teacher’s training needs to be revised if the system so wants. Quality and responsible teachers with encouraging school environments are what is required to restore the confidence of tens of thousands of young British students on whom the future of the country depends on.
1) GOV.UK. Number of schools, teachers and students in England: Department of Education
2) The Guardian. Teacher shortages and rising pupil numbers put schools on the edge of crisis: Daniel Boffey. 29 August 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/aug/29/schools-trouble-rising-pupils-teacher-shortage-uk-crisis
3) The Guardian. Ofsted chiefly warns of growing failure in England’s secondary schools: Sally Weale and Richard Adams. 10 December 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/dec/10/ofsted-chief-growing-failure-england-secondary-schools
4) Double the number of secondaries failing after GCSE reforms: By Eleanor Harding and Tamara Cohen for the Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2931412/Britain-s-exclusive-boarding-schools-including-Eton-Harrow-plummet-bottom-GCSE-league-table.html
6) The UK education sixth in the global ranking. By Sean CoughlanBBC News education correspondent. 27 November 2012
7) Pisa tests: The UK stagnates as Shanghai tops league table. By Sean CoughlanBBC News education correspondent
3 December 2013. http://www.bbc.com/news/education-25187997.