The Department for Education has announced controversial plans to phase in £9,000 a year ‘tuition fees’ for children attending primary school.
Michael Gove, the education minister led the announcement by saying that the changes were crucial in his plans for creating ‘internationally-competitive primary schools’ with would ‘attract the world’s brightest and best four-year olds’. The minister also said that the plans were being driven by the realisation that the government could no longer afford to ‘bankroll’ primary education.
The fees, which are to be modelled on the successful University system, will be loaned to four-year olds at inflation-level rates and paid back over the individual’s working life, or paid upfront by those children who can afford it.
Mr Gove described how his measures would help overcome the ‘piggie-bank culture’ which led to most children hoarding their savings rather than spending them ‘getting the economy back on track’.
As part of the shakeup, children will be given more choice in deciding which primary school to attend, with better primary schools being allowed to expand to take on extra capacity, while underperforming ones will have their funding reduced.
“Children will be given more choice, at the most important stage in their educational life”, said Mr Gove, ultimately allowing them to make ‘the big decision’ on whether school was the right route for them at all. Mr Gove went on to describe how the DoE would work closely with coal mines and chimney sweeping firms to create ‘internship schemes’ for those children who decided that school wouldn’t be the right route for them.
The teacher’s union NUT, were strongly against the changes saying that most children ‘can’t decide what they want for lunch, let alone education.’
Meanwhile, ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair – who contentiously introduced University tuition fees in 2002 – backed the plans saying, “education fees, education fees, education fees.”
However the majority of parents were strongly against the decision, despite one parent, a ‘Mr Barclays’, remarking that he though the new funding would be a ‘bonus’ for the economy.
Four-year olds themselves seemed split on the decision, with one interviewed kid whining, “mummy, I want to go home…” – indicating that perhaps school wouldn’t be the right choice for them. Another student, Ben Tham, said, “this is another frightening example of the ruling elite’s neo-Dickensian agenda, which will roll back the educational equalities that have been fought for over generations.”
Mr Gove said that the earliest the fees would be brought in was 2016, but conceded he couldn’t be sure as he was still learning to count.