by Lesley Grahame, Green Party Norwich South candidate.

 At its best, Education is a lifelong, joyful, process, that equips each person to live well and take part in society.  It develops our capacity and enables us to put it to good use, for our own and the common good.  Education is a public service that benefits society in the sense that everyone stands to gain from the success of everyone else.  The increasing penetration of market forces does not support this need, in fact it undermines it by decision-making processes that tend towards institutional, rather than public interests. Local communities are best served by schools operating under Local Authority, i.e. elected control.

There are some parallels in the marketisation of health and education, from my own experience. A parent told me her son was injured at school, and she wanted to know why nobody phoned to tell her at the time, why the incident  had been allowed to happen, and what was being done to prevent further occurrence.  Instead of answering her, the school asked her to withdraw her Facebook comments.  The parent rang the council,  who told her they had no jurisdiction because it was a free school.



In nursing and teaching we hear of staff worn out and demoralised, run into the ground and leaving when they can’t take it any longer, feeling guilty for leaving colleagues to cope. Yet they have been educated to go into a profession expecting hard work, even low pay for nurses, but wanting to make a difference, to contribute positively to the lives of others. They start with hope, energy, and goodwill, and have to be almost superhuman to retain any of those. Yet they do, and I take my hat off to them, and look forward to representing them.

 There are some parallels in the marketisation of health and education, from my own experience.

As a right not a privelege, education is under serious threat if some people can’t afford it, or have to compete for access to preferred schools. More competition produces more pressure, more working to tests, rather than needs, and more people being left behind. Battles should never be over admission criteria, but over how best to make every school desirable to attend.

Further education was briefly made more accessible with EMA, (Educational Maintenance Allowance for 16/17 year olds) and it is sensible to re-intoduce this, until the  Citizen Income becomes a reality.

education green pen

(© govopps)

The Green Party would abolish tuition fees. Higher Education (HE) has become a privelege that many can’t afford, and a very tough choice for those willing to accept the psychological, social  and financial burdens of crippling, and often unpayable debt.  HE doesn’t just benefit students, but allows them to contribute more to society; it is not fair to demand that they pay for the privilege of making that extra contribution.  If a qualification enables a student to earn well later, then they will pay for it through income tax.  This is not a graduate tax, which is merely delayed tuition fees.  Highly qualified, skilled and motivated people are not always highly paid.  Recent research into inequality shows beyond reasonable doubt that high pay does not reflect value to society, but progressive income tax allows those who have gained personally to give something back.

There’s another reason for keeping education a free, universal, broad-based preparation for life. UKIP candidate Suzanne Evans explained her party’s poor result in London as people being ‘more media savvy and well-educated than other parts of the country‘. Ignorance leaves us vulnerable to manipulation by junk advertising and junk politics.

I would argue that democracy requires free, universal, quality education for everyone.  Democratic choices are only as good as the information on which they are based. Knowledge gives people the power to make good choices.

Find the Green Party Education Policy here.

Lesley Grahame is currently a Green Party councillor for Thorpe Hamlet Ward on Norwich City Council. She was first elected in 2009, and re-elected in 2014. Lesley currently works as a Community Nurse and is a member of Unison and has for many years been involved in peace and social justice campaigns. Lesley is standing for the constituency of Norwich South.

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