Straight Talk with Susan Lee: Learning the hard (up) way

Straight Talk with Susan Lee: Learning the hard (up) way

By Susan Lee

Hands up all of us who remember that glorious rite of passage – the school trip?

The sense of adventure, whether you were off abroad to brush up your O-Level French or just out on a day trip to the local museum. The joy of being with your mates out of lessons. The riotous bus, the packed lunches eaten by 10am. The kid who always threw up.

Educational visits, they called them, but I reckon just as much knowledge was accrued messing about on the coach or in the theater queue as there was during the actual learning bits.


Then you grew up, had your own kids and rolled your eyes when that familiar letter came home with the tear-off slip. ‘How much?’ you’d think, horrified that an afternoon in an art gallery was costing you a tenner. But you’d do your best to let them go. It was part of what being at school was all about, after all.

Well, fear those letters no more because it looks as if they are a thing of the past. A funding crisis in our education system means school trips may well become obsolete along with swimming lessons and all those other nice experiences that were once par for the course for kids, then became luxuries and now are listed under ‘unaffordable’. If only this was the worst of it.

Our kids’ education is facing a funding crisis of jaw-dropping proportions. Schools are looking at a perfect storm of spiraling costs, huge energy bills and an unfunded pay increase. Many, particularly in the primary sector, are on the precipice of falling into massive debt.

Now news comes from The National Association of Head Teachers that thousands of schools are drawing up plans to make staff redundant. Teaching assistants – indeed teachers themselves – may face losing their jobs or a cut in hours. Yes, you read that right.

That’s a nightmare for them on a human level but a disaster for pupils because all this means bigger classes, poorer learning, and a drop in standards. Mental health support will be hit too, as will support for children with additional needs. Covid catch-up tuition? Well, what do you think?

What a catastrophe for our children and how terribly, terribly unfair. Education is the key that unlocks everything. It opens kids’ minds to possibilities and opportunities and jobs and careers. It helps mold and shape them into the adults they will become, the people who contribute to the society of the future.

Undermine that and you undermine everything. I’m not clever enough to understand how we got here; I don’t get why any government would underfund something as precious as our children’s futures. What I do know is that in these troubled financial times the one certainty is that an investment in knowledge will always pay us the best interest.

One last thing…

A new report this week reckons the average person will own 19 phones over the course of their lifetime.

To which I say – ha ha ha ha ha. I don’t know who these people have questioned, but it certainly wasn’t any youngsters of my acquaintance. To date, I reckon my kids have torn their way through what feels like a dozen devices each. Mislaid phones, stolen phones, phones – on one occasion a phone which went up in flames – we have been through (and had to replace) them all.

The trouble is that where once mobiles were a luxury, they are now almost an essential. We use them to bank and to shop. They are our diary, sat-nav, source of entertainment and news, the capturer of our memories.

I used to dread mislaying a small child when I was out and about. Now it’s my iPhone. Which leads me on to another finding which reckons we lose our phones 50 times in a lifetime… I average that in a day. Never mind state of the art cameras or apps. I just need my device to shout ‘I’m over here’ at regular intervals.

Susan Lee has been a journalist for more than 30 years. She is currently Group Wire Editor for Reach, writes a column for print titles across the group and is co-presenter of the award winning podcast The Menopod

You can follow Sue on twitter or email her at [email protected]

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