The nation demands higher standards from schools (better teachers, more new equipment, new buildings, choice) but the nation will not pay more taxes to meet the bill. No more cash means no change in the status quo.
Since the public will not pay more, they must receive less. Perhaps it would be better to concentrate all resources on providing free education from the age of 4 to the age of 14 (key stage 3), thus requiring additional further education to be funded privately.
Small classes for the first 10 years might raise standards appreciably if state education concentrated upon ages 4 to 14. A leaving certificate based upon KS3 results could be established with ease: call it GCSE. It would mean that the public would not have to fund the expensive end of secondary education out of taxation, and those who find the latter years of secondary schooling irksome would not be troubled by it.
Of course there would be social difficulties resulting from an effective lowering of the school-leaving age. Many youngsters with potential from disadvantaged backgrounds might lose out, but of course fewer teachers would be needed and hence salaries could be improved to attract better staff.
The primary sector can still recruit staff but few wish to teach in secondary education and so the future of secondary education is bleak anyway. Scholarships could be offered to enable bright children from poor backgrounds to continue their education.
Thus, there is a solution to the present difficulties, but one not without significant drawbacks. The question is whether the Government (of any party) is really willing to initiate such radical alternatives to resolve the dilemma.
S V WOODLIFFE Secondary maths teacher (state school) 44 Chester Way Boston Lincolnshire