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Comments

Richard

In addition to my above post, it could be argued that it is unfair that private schools don't get taxed while other businesses do (and assuming one believes that their charitable status is hard to justify). However, our reaction to this should not be "that's unfair, let's tax private schools" but "it's good that private schools don't get taxed, now let's try and extend this lack of taxation elsewhere".

Denis Cooper

That's because "local government’s role is in effect to act as agents for central government”, as Charles Clarke put it when he was Education Secretary:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,59-1328407,00.html

The Times October 26, 2004

Labour ‘attack’ on local democracy

From the Leader of West Sussex County Council

Sir, So now we know. While John Prescott issues consultation papers calling for local government to lead the local community and respond to the needs and priorities of local people (The future of local government: Developing a 10 year plan, July 2004), Charles Clarke lets the cat out of the bag. Referring in a speech in Newcastle this week to the public’s growing expectations for uniformly excellent standards (report, some editions, October 21), he said: “ . . . local government’s role is in effect to act as agents for central government”.

That is not local government, it is local administration. It will mean the removal of any remaining democratic accountability to local people for the delivery of education, social services, transport, planning, etc, all in the belief that only central government can be trusted to deliver services. That is the future under the next Labour Government.

Yours faithfully,
HENRY SMITH,
Leader,
West Sussex County Council,
County Hall,
Chichester, West Sussex PO19 1RQ.
October 21.

But of course it wasn't always like that in the past, and it doesn't have to be like that in the future.

Denis Cooper

Richard @ 04:08:

"As for fixing what goes on inside them, that should be up to the parents as well."

What if the parents can't or won't fix what goes on inside their children's school?

John Moss

What if the parents can't or won't fix what goes on inside their children's school?

They can't or won't right now because they are caught in the sociological/psychological trap that they have given somebody else responsibility to school their children, so it is no longer their problem.

This is evident across government and I suggest that we have to have faith and courage and break that structure up and allow, no require parents to take responsibility again.

As with most things in a market, it will not need every parent to take a keen interest, just enough to make a difference and everybody else will benefit. That they have the stick of the cheque around their child's neck will only help.

Mark Fulford

I don’t think that anybody is against removing government interference from schools (although ironically this site has voted to make 5 GCSEs compulsory).

However, just letting parents loose with the cash and keys to their local school is not the answer. How do you put parents in charge of admission rules without giving rise to academic NIMBYism. What do we do with the asbo lad that nobody wants?

The problem with this proposal is that it contains too many suggestions that don't have to depend upon each other.

Remove Whitehall and give parents greater power? Yes, absolutely.

Encourage building of new schools? No, an unnecessary waste of tax.

Give parents the power over admissions policy yet retain LEA controls too? No, unworkable.

Give parents vouchers? Possibly, but large caveats on use.

Mark Fulford

Sorry, make that 6 GCSEs compulsory!

Denis Cooper

John,

I'm confident that on average parents could organise and manage a school for the children in their neighbourhood without outside help and interference, because it's been done in the past and I'm sure it could be done again. But that's on average, and while the population is not yet sharply or rigidly segregated nor is it spread uniformly so that every area has an average level of initiative and organisational ability. In some areas parents would do it spontaneously and do an outstanding job, but in others there wouldn't be enough people willing and able to even get started on it. However that wouldn't stop some of them and their children leaving that area to commit crime, they'd have enough initiative to do that.

Richard

"How do you put parents in charge of admission rules without giving rise to academic NIMBYism."

What's wrong with freedom of association?

"What do we do with the asbo lad that nobody wants?"

Maybe he should have thought twice before getting an ASBO.

The fact is that no system is perfect and all suggestions will have faults. I just happen to think that this is the least faulty system that is currently viable.

Mike Christie

"What do we do with the asbo lad that nobody wants"

Under my proposal he might be able to go to a school run by The Prince's Trust, or a charity as yet unfounded that would specialise in running schools for problem children. Who knows, the British Legion might fancy running some schools with retired Regimental Sergeant Majors as hall monitors. With schools run by organisations other than the government, and free to deliver a targetted education to a specific group of pupils there are many possibilities

Another idea would be that one other duty the LEAs retain is to run proper exclusion units to cater for children who had been expelled and couldn't be placed elsewhere.

"Give parents the power over admissions policy yet retain LEA controls too? No, unworkable"

Not at all, when a school becomes independent, it would do so under a charter setting down in broad terms its admission criteria. These would be approved by the LEA. There would be some flexibility allowed within those criteria to allow for year-on-year variations in pupil numbers, but any major changes to the criteria would have to go back to the LEA for approval. Alternatively the proposals could be decided by a committee of the local council so accountable politicians were taking the decision as opposed to bureaucrats.

John Peters

"What if the parents can't or won't fix what goes on inside their children's school?"

That's always the argument for all state intervention. You either believe people should be allowed to retain responsibility for their own lives or you don't. Personally I do and I think when it is returned to them they respond positively. That is not to say government (both local and central) washes its hands of education entirely. There is a need for inspections, minimum standards, mediation and the provision of information. No one is suggesting that schools are made independent and then government withdraws entirely.

Mike Christie

As a total aside and blatant hi-jack of my own thread. We have two by-elections in Rossendale and Darwen on the 28th September. Anyone who fancies helping out anytime over the next few weeks drop me an e-mail!!

Denis Cooper

"You either believe people should be allowed to retain responsibility for their own lives .. " But it's not responsibility for their own lives, it's the lives of their children.

Not only do we as a society have a communal responsibility for their welfare as minors, some of them become a bloody nuisance to everybody else when their upbringing is left entirely to their parents. One undesirable effect of this proposal could be to increase the burden on parents who are already struggling to do a decent job of bringing up their children - not only do they have to ensure that the children go to school and stay there, which itself is not always easy, they're also expected to take a hand in running a school when they can barely run their own lives? It's not enough to just imagine the ideal case of how the most competent parents would respond, it's also necessary to think about the worst case of the least competent parents and the effects on their children - who aren't to blame for the defects of their parents or of the environment in which they are living. If you want a permanent hereditary underclass living in ghettoes but constantly spilling out to torment the rest of society, then in its most extreme form this proposal would greatly increase the chances that such an underclass would emerge.

Richard

"If you want a permanent hereditary underclass living in ghettoes but constantly spilling out to torment the rest of society, then in its most extreme form this proposal would greatly increase the chances that such an underclass would emerge."

That underclass already exists and it will take more than tinkering with the education system to get rid of it. This proposal is aimed at giving schools the independence necessary to improve standards. It might not benefit everyone but it's far superior to the current system.

Richard

"they're also expected to take a hand in running a school when they can barely run their own lives?"

Not every single parent will be expected to get involved and those that do get involved will probably take a mostly hands-off approach unless the school is truly dire. I

John Peters

"But it's not responsibility for their own lives, it's the lives of their children."

Very well, you either believe parents should have responsibility for their children or you don't. Personally, I do.

"One undesirable effect of this proposal could be to increase the burden on parents who are already struggling to do a decent job of bringing up their children"

I don't think it would. I think all parents would welcome a greater say over their children's education. If some are struggling with their children then that is a separate problem. Help should be available for parents who need it. This proposal is about the management of schools. I believe that schools would be better managed if freed from government control. I think the education system as a whole would benefit and standards would be raised everywhere. If parents need help in the raising of their children that should be available in the community. It is no reason to shackle schools.

"If you want a permanent hereditary underclass living in ghettoes but constantly spilling out to torment the rest of society, then in its most extreme form this proposal would greatly increase the chances that such an underclass would emerge."

On the contrary, I think it would benefit these areas the most. It would show up (the few) bad teachers and bad schools; it would highlight best practice more clearly; it would restore responsibility to the parents and community, and reduce dependency and the sense of entitlement; it would allow those who specialize in educating people from this background to take on a greater role. I think this policy would have less impact in the "leafy suburbs" than it would for those people being failed at the moment. I wouldn't support it if I didn't believe it held out greater hope for those who are currently disadvantaged.

Mike Christie

"they're also expected to take a hand in running a school when they can barely run their own lives"

Don't be silly! We're talking about schools under the control of trustees like a board of governors drawn, as now, from the local community, or by a charity or other suitable organisation. We are not talking about some sort of commune where every parent is expected to come in and paint the walls or do the books or something. Although that wouldn't be out of the question if that was how a community wanted to run its school.

Mike Christie

"they're also expected to take a hand in running a school when they can barely run their own lives"

Don't be silly! We're talking about schools under the control of trustees like a board of governors drawn, as now, from the local community, or by a charity or other suitable organisation. We are not talking about some sort of commune where every parent is expected to come in and paint the walls or do the books or something. Although that wouldn't be out of the question if that was how a community wanted to run its school.

Mark Wadsworth

Whatever happens in today's vote, I would like to offer my full support to Mike Christie who has been following the debate and replying to comments non-stop for 12 hours or so. Cast your votes and give the man a break!

I voted YES, by the way.

Opinicus

There are two practical problems with Vouchers, which need to be overcome. The most important is capital costs. Do you include an amount per pupil for capital into the voucher or not. My prefered answer is not. It is possible to do so and is fairer if you do but the risk is that schools will be too tempted to spend this on revenue items (esp if their budget doesn't balance) and worry about capital repairs in the future. One possible answer is to provide a second capital voucher for each pupil which a school must bank and account for separately and which cannot be vired into their revenue account. However,schools are in different states of decay. Some schools have been recently rebuilt and dont need capital whilst some, especially poorly run schools in bad areas, wil not have had any attention and will need at least a face lift if they are to be turned round. Thus to be really fair capital cannot be handed out equally. Secondly, for Vouchers to make a real difference, their logic is going to have to be carried through. Bad under performing schools have to close and new schools start up or good schools expand. The difficulty here is over ownership and capital. My solution is that the government retain ownership of the schools premises and be responsible for school maintainence. Schools should have a voucher covering revenue only ie teachers, janitors, books, games equipment and computers. The school would have a bare licence to operate out of a given premises. Schools, including their playing fields, would need government permission to be sold off. If a school failed the premises could be offered to anyone or any group to form a new school with as little disruption to service provision as possible.

The other main problem is a political one. Do you allow schools to charge more than the Voucher. Presumably currently private schools will have their fees subsidised by the Voucher making them more affordable. But do you let current state schools charge more than the voucher? What do you do for people who cannot pay more? Charities could pick up the excess but that is likely to be electorally unappealing. It is important to have a market in education - that means some schools costing more for a different/better product. It doesn't mean fees rising to current private levels firstly because the market wouldn't bear it and secondly because it would be uneconomic and frankly unnecessary for every school to have the Rolls Royce facilities of Eton and the other great public schools. I think that all schools including Eton should be able to set their fees at whatever level they thought the market would bear but that they had to make 10-20% of places available on a means tested basis for the Voucher fee. This need not influence admission policy but would apply to those once admitted.

I vote yes to Vouchers

Denis Cooper

John Peters @ 19:03 - "Very well, you either believe parents should have responsibility for their children or you don't. Personally, I do."

In practice it can't be that black and white. Of course I believe that in the first instance responsibility should be presumed to rest with the parents, and they should have much more power, to match that responsibility - including power over how their children are educated. But I also believe that what works well in most cases most of the time does not necessarily work well in all cases all of the time, and there has to be a back up system for when parents cannot or will not take responsibility or exercise parental power properly. One can argue about the boundary between "good enough" parenting and parenting which is so poor that for the sake of both the child and society at large there should be outside intervention, but you also implicitly recognise that this is sometimes necessary by saying: "Help should be available for parents who need it."

Mike Christie @ 10:00 - "We are not talking about some sort of commune"

Well, I think in effect some people here have been talking about something pretty close to that, although obviously they wouldn't use that word. Which would be fine in the best cases, but counter-productive in the worst.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to debate. Eventually I voted no, not because I'm some kind of communist control freak, but because of my doubts about how this system would work in the worst cases.

EML

I didn't get chance to vote on this, and i'm glad it has got through the vetting process.

A sincerely hope the bods at HQ are drawing up something along these lines.

By the way, the Public Services Policy Group is due to publish an interim report this coming Monday.

Denis Cooper

'Super-gentrifiers' ruin integration

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article1223135.ece

"The Government's policy of social mixing is doomed to failure because a new breed of wealthy middle-class professionals refuse to meet their neighbours, according to research." "... whereas traditional gentrification was carried out by people who had a strong sense of community identity and wanted to mix with their less well-off neighbours, the new "super-gentrifiers" did not tend to associate with people who were different to them."

Richard

Denis, this may be an unfortunate trend but I balk at the idea of the government forcing people to associate with those that they don't want to. It is illiberal and simply creates resentment.

John Peters

"In practice it can't be that black and white"

I would agree that in practice things are rarely clear cut, but there is a distinct, black and white issue here. There are two very different approaches. You either think that government needs to protect people from themselves or you think that people can and should be trusted to run their own lives and that government is there to help only when it is necessary. The burden of proof, if you will, falls either on people to prove they can cope or on govenment to prove that an intervention is absolutely necessary.
You wrote against the motion. You feel that because some people may not be able to cope then the whole system should be in government hands. I wrote that people can and should be trusted with the responsibility and would respond positively to it, and that government's role should be to help those who are unable to manage. There is a black and white difference between those two positions.


"One can argue about the boundary between "good enough" parenting and parenting which is so poor that for the sake of both the child and society at large there should be outside intervention, but you also implicitly recognise that this is sometimes necessary by saying"

Of course. I am not, and I don't think anyone is, advocating a complete withdrawal of government and a total free for all. The motion is/was to make secondary schools independent, not to have no education policy at all or to give up on inspections, test results, rigorous standards, assistance to struggling parents etc.. In fact I think all those things would be improved by making secondary schools independent.

cheap air yeezy

Today must borrow nothing of tomorrow.

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