To create the education system we need our politics must move to a long-term frame of policy. Photo: Getty
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Why we need whole-person education

Long-term thinking in education policy is vital to the way we reform our political economy.

The idea of "predistribution" is instantly associated with wonkishness gone too far. It's an ugly and overly politicised name for what is a pretty sensible and progressive set of ideas that the left should be utilising. Along with early intervention and social mobility it represents a commitment to long-term politics made real in policies that empower people from an early age to take control of their lives and tackle the excesses of inequality before they even occur. After the departure of Michael Gove from the Department for Education, now is the perfect time to talk about how education can be reclaimed as a political and social force that can achieve just that again.

The father of predistribiution, Jacob Hacker, describes it as being about a "more equal distribution of economic power and rewards even before government collects taxes or pays out benefits". In terms of action that can be taken by the government before taxes and benefits, aka in the early years of life, education is a huge part of government's responsibilities and its policy opportunities.

Patrick Diamond, in an essay for the Policy Network, analyses the relationship that predistribution has with education, arguing that for a realistic enacting of predistribution ideals to occur there must be a change in education policy (investment in human and social capital alongside redistribution).

Under New Labour the UK’s education system enjoyed a large increase in spending, but it was not enough to tackle the inequalities created by a globalised economy and the changes of the twenty first century. The state of inequality in our school systems at the moment is testament to this fact. IPPR's Condition of Britain report said that "social class inequalities in education remain high" and reports published by Demos earlier this year highlight the fact that income inequality, particularly in an age of food banks, is starkly reflected in the educational attainment at school of children from different social backgrounds. The impact of inequality on education helps create what is known as the "Great Gatsby Curve", which denotes that a child's life chances are determined by their parents "material circumstances". With inequality feeding into education and education feeding into inequality, what progressive policies must do is break this cycle and rethink the way we do education as a country.

In their interim report of their education inquiry, Compass have presented a new ethos and political approach to education in the UK. Touching base with the profound effects of inequality in education the report's author, Professor Ken Spours, says that "education, and its relationship with the economy, is betraying a whole generation of the young". Hoping to reverse this trend the report talks about creating an education system that engages people, is contemporary, relevant and dynamic. It is best described in the terms that the report uses itself: working towards "the birth of a national education system from cradle to grave".

Education shouldn’t begin or end at the gates of schools, colleges or universities. Education is a society-wide effort, with society-wide benefits. To create the education system we need our politics must move to a long-term frame of policy. Gordon Brown, for all the flaws that everyone remembers, at least understood that this had to be done; with commitments to early intervention in tackling child poverty and increasing the education leaving age to 18, he understood the need for long-termism in policy. If we are to change our education system to the one we need, we will need a lot more of this. 

Dan Holden is deputy editor of Shifting Grounds

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Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times