It is very possible England could fail to meet the UN’s education Global Goals

Former schools minister Jim Knight, TES Global’s chief education adviser, is worried that cuts and misplaced ministerial priorities could mean that this country fails to meet international targets

Last week over 500 million pupils took part in the World’s Largest Lesson – to teach children about the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. At last count, in 2013, there were around 1.3 billion children in school. To reach such a huge proportion in one week is an extraordinary achievement, and there are some wonderful pictures from around the world of the lesson being delivered.

There are 17 goals. Each goal has a series of targets and by clicking through you can see where to make a contribution.

The Prime Minister is rightly proud of delivering on the commitment to spending at least 0.7 per cent of GDP on overseas development aid, now enshrined in law. But as the Comprehensive Spending Review announcement on 25 November looms on the horizon, he would do well to point out to George Osborne what he has signed up to in agreeing the education goal in New York this week.

The commitment to ringfence funding on a per-pupil basis provides some protection for education at key stages 1-4. But outside that commitment, the Department for Education will have to make cuts of up to 40 per cent – putting early years, post-16 education and teacher training funding all at risk.

How does that relate to the goals? Look at the targets in the quality-education goal that Nicky Morgan should worry about:

By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.

The Childcare Bill going through parliament should increase free childcare for 3- and 4-year-olds to another 600,000 families. So maybe this one is safe – if the Department for Educatiom focuses the axe most on post-16 education. And then there is:

By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers.

Ministers are in denial that we are in a teacher recruitment crisis. However the reality for every headteacher, academy chain and local authority I speak to is that getting maths, physics and English teachers is really hard. At TES Global, we are seeing particular problems across the Stem subjects, as well as English – especially in London, the East, South East and West Midlands regions.

The system is consistently under-recruiting into training; as the economy picks up, much bigger salaries in the City have returned; international schools are pulling tens of thousands every year to teach overseas: it is a perfect storm.

We are a long way from increasing the supply of qualified teachers. Indeed, many schools are having to respond to the recruitment problems by using academy freedoms to employ unqualified staff.

But Nicky Morgan’s job in helping deliver the goals is easy compared to Sajid Javid at Bis. His education department has to offer savings of 40 per cent, and speculation in Westminster is rife that further education and adult skills will come under particular pressure.

What hope has he got of delivering these two targets if FE gets hit, as expected and universities fees continue to rise?

By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.
By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.

Bis will be helped out by the apprenticeship levy but, unless the science directorate has discovered the secrets of alchemy or nurtured a forest of money trees, I can’t see how these targets will be met.

And finally, we saw the publication of the latest THE World University Rankings this week. UK universities are doing really well, but the signs are there that the Home Office policy of including international students in the immigration cap is having an effect. First-year enrollments by international students have been falling since 2012, so this target that we signed up to will not be welcomed by Theresa May:

By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries.

After all, increasing scholarships isn’t worth much if you can’t get a visa.

The world will only achieve the Global Goals for Sustainable Development if we each make a contribution.

I am focusing my active commitment on Goals 3, 4 and 9: Good Health and Wellbeing, Quality Education, and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. I am involved in revolutionising malaria diagnosis, we have an acute focus on education quality at TES Global, and through my work at the Tinder Foundation, we are having an impact on the digital divide here in the UK.

I hope everyone will pause and assess their individual contribution to these goals. Ministers will also need to play their part, both at home and abroad. I hope that after the Spending Review, they can continue to make progress.

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