My youngest son is enjoying the first month of taking Home Economics- Cookery GCSE to you and me. It's been tough as the permanent experienced teacher suffered a heart attack in the late summer and so the class has a run of supply teachers. However, while we shop for recipe ingredients each week there are those children in his school who fall into 2 categories: Those who did not choose the subject due to the costs involved buying ingredients etc and those who took the subject but are now finding the weekly costs too high to cope with.
My son took Drama GCSE last year. He thoroughly enjoyed it, but it requires many theatre trips to get a feel and love of drama, black clothes to perform in. Those who could not afford the extra trips seemed to be those who did not get the desired A-C results in the summer.
Pause to reflect for a moment. We have children in our schools who cannot afford to take a particular GCSE subject due to cost. Discrimination? Certainly. But a discrimination of the poor. Last week my son was making 2 recipes with ingredients costing £11 in Home Economics. There are 17 children in the class - all taking GCSE. A total of 9 did not bring in any ingredients to make the recipe and universally I was told this was down to cost. Not being able to afford to cook. Outside school one boy remarked "My mum has cut down food shopping to £20 per week for me and my sister. She says she can't afford for me to cook at school, unless the school provide the ingredients."
Unless the children cook the recipes and learn from them, these children have no hope of even being entered for the GCSE next summer. Schools ever wary of spiralling exam costs, will not enter children who have no realistic chance of even getting the very lowest grades. This is worrying and sinister.
Some children who are not as academic as others perhaps have chosen to take a Beauticians course at the local academy school that has partnered up with the High School. But the numbers who chose the course but then dropped out in the first week have been dramatic and the reason the teacher tells me is cost. For this course children need their own Beauticians box of tools etc that are personal to them at a cost of £50. Many found that completely unaffordable and so have dropped out.
In 2013 it is incredible that due to the economic crisis and "have's and have-not" policies of Gove, Cameron and co we have a state where children cannot afford to take certain GCSE subjects for fear of costs involved. To me it is incredulous, and a total affirmation that this Government are so completely out of touch with ordinary people that they have no idea that a Cookery GCSE is now a luxury subject option in high schools for many children. For families where energy bills, bedroom tax, and even Foodbank visits are a grim reality, the burden of providing ingredients for recipes, theatre visits pale into insignificance when faced with the daily strife of surviving.
The waste of unknown talent, learning opportunities and our children's wider broader learning experiences are a national scandal and scourge of the policies taken by this Coalition government. And while Cameron and Clegg's children look forward to numerous foreign holidays and enriched learning in schools with small classes and oodles of extra-curricular activities, our children in state high schools will lag further behind. Failed by a government who are behind the biggest social division, social cleansing of the past century. Betrayal of our children will be Cameron and Clegg's worse legacy.