Why the problems in Britain’s educational system are only getting worse

There is a quiet crisis in Britain’s education system.

Yolanthe Fawehinmi
Sep 1, 2017 · 7 min read

A functional society is a product of a good education system. If not, then what is?

Education as a social institution is affected by a range of social structures and forces that shape our policies, practices, and the outcomes of schooling.

In most societies, education is stereotypically perceived as one of the only pathways to personal development, success, and social mobility. As a cornerstone of democracy, it necessary to understand how this institution actually operates within society, and why it is only getting shoddier, perhaps? Let’s consider what other social functions education might have.

Education has for many decades been used for acquiring ‘central’ norms, values and the cultures of society through a “hidden curriculum”. For instance, the socialisation into gender and class roles, and the racial hierarchies that exist today. This also involves many of the systems “latent” functions; the by-products of going to school and receiving an education. Some of these are free child care and the establishment of peer relationships.

The British education system has become a mirage with too many social functions. For education to serve its many functions various kinds of reforms need to be established to make our schools and the process of education as operative as possible. Therefore, any problems found in the educational system can become very detrimental to society on a whole, if not nipped in the bud, swiftly.

Education governance or how to rebuild an education system

In 1997, Tony Blair vowed to reform “Education, Education, and Education” after Labour’s landslide success. This was followed by a promise to put classrooms at the top of his political agenda. As a result, between 1997–2007 we saw a 48% rise in funding per child, and an average spend of £1.2 billion on education every week. Unfortunately, successive governments have neglected this duty and underfunded British education.

Theresa May has been accused of messing with half of her electorate and pushing schools to a breaking point. She has become another example of the sheer chutzpah of the Conservatives who have a tendency to serve up policy gruel while maintaining their luxuries.

Children and parents protesting in May against cuts to their schools, in Bristol. Photograph: Alamy

The Tory obsession with grammar schools also indicates that they have middle-class pretensions, often referred to as an impediment to social cohesion and mobility, supported by less than a third of the public. Despite this, the Prime Minister will still pursue this policy regardless. Are there any education policies that teachers could get behind?

Inside performance-related pay: an educator’s worst nightmare

Peformance-related pay will never work for teachers. Ultimately, it will drive down standards. Photograph: Tes

Teachers are now subject to the performance-related pay (PRP), dependent upon their success in the classroom, which is indeed adding to their work load. It has been argued, by Education ministers that PRP will reward good teachers, and indirectly punish the bad. Yet, there is no evidence, from the education system that performance-based pay (PRP) improves our educational standards. Has this made the profession more attractive to graduates?

There has been an increase in parents buying privilege through private education, while outstanding schools with the same, and sometimes better standard of learning exist. This is where the British education system is failing. If some state schools are outperforming independent schools, the salaries of some hardworking teachers should also match.

“It was not just about the standard of education received, it was about the bubble and persona that comes with it. Attending Whitgift School allowed me to make connections I probably wouldn’t have made if I didn’t go to the school. Some people have attended a private school and hated it. I wanted to get into Rugby, and Whitgift is one of the best at playing it.”

Nathaniel Opedo, Professional Rugby Player

Local preparatory schools do offer 8:00am-6:00pm hours and holiday care, which is something rare to find in state schools. If the government were to put schemes in place to support parents to support their children, the time factor for children to be nurtured by their parents will rapidly increase.

The problems in Britain’s educational system are not solely political in origin, so why is it really failing? Regardless of who is in government, the nature of education will always be set in stone to fulfil or serve a given purpose, in a democratic society and nation. As an organised scheme or method according to a set of principles or procedures.

The statutory right of every child

Advances in technology have without a doubt helped to transform the learning environment in schools, through the introduction of smart boards and the widespread use of computers. Though the British education system has gone through vastly positive changes, we still need practical and pragmatic solutions to fulfil the right of every child in Britain; to be educated, fairly.

In an age where people expect far more from public services than the average, and parents can rightly demand more from their local schools, it is no longer conducive for some schools to simply muddle along.

Recently, the academic stability of some students was affected after the confusing AS and A level changes. Many 17–18 year old students have been left disadvantaged and disappointed with the grades they received on results day, which led educational bodies to encourage universities and colleges to review their admissions practice.

Although the new syllabus has been phased in across schools in England since September 2015, this year was the first. The change was brought in by the former Education Secretary Michael Gove who intended to make the exams more “fit for purpose” or harder.

“For some subjects, we repeated the same past paper for the whole entire year, because there was only one paper which incorporated the new specification. The government is just taking a trial. We are basically a trial run.”

Thekia Fawehinmi, A Level Student

The new A-levels are now linear in nature and feature less coursework, reversing a system that has been put in place since 2000. The system is failing to grasp the difference in learning styles; not all children are the same, some may be slow learners or some kinaesthetic, for instance.

On the other hand, perhaps the failure of some students in their AS or A levels is unlikely to be down to the new “difficulty” of the exams. Maybe it has everything thing to do with their primary and secondary education? Unfortunately, predicted grades sometimes fail to accurately display the true academic ability of a student.

Almost half of all students at certain stages of education in England are still not achieving expected standards of success, a report has found.

About 43% of children are not leaving primary school having reached adequate levels of reading, writing and mathematics, according to analysis from the Education Policy Institute and research body Education DataLab.

“The system is failing to educate quite a few children. In this country, you are put into sets with your age group. If a child in year 4 cannot read or write, they are still moved along every year. As they progress the gap between their peers will only get wider.”

Antonia Jenkins-Yusuf, Teacher at Jessop Primary School

To contest against the preferred image of society enough resources must be catered to every child.

Our biggest fear

On the face of it, we are building a generation who are not as self-motivated. Students are aware of their educational rights, and know that they will be carried through the system year after year, knowledgeable or not. Often spoon fed by desperate teachers, an array of students has cultivated a culture of selfishness, exacerbated by marketisation and choice.

“Being average.”

Shania Samuels, A Level Student

The Conservatives are probably correct to assert that the inheritance of poverty is largely the consequence of learned habits transmitted from one impoverished generation to the next. What if, despite the best intentions and efforts from teachers, they have little to no impact on the lives of their students?

“Everything I do now will contribute to my future.”

Tatum McCashie, A Level Student

The problems in the British education system are only getting worse because it is no longer just affecting those in the system, but society itself. Data supports the idea that the socioeconomic divide is the biggest issue in education. Schools should do more to challenge gender and race stereotypes to reflect a 21st century Britain.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store