Friday, December 26, 2003

Memo From The Educrats

Sometimes, you just gotta fisk. Like now for example: we fed Rover at the table and now he won't leave us alone.

Turns out the biggest issue facing our train wreck education system isn't rampant illiteracy, endemic bullying, ideological marking, non-existent teaching standards, corruption in the testing process, pervert teachers, drug abuse, bogus sickness claims or appalling personal hygiene.

An unprecedented clampdown on parents who take their children on holiday during term-time has been ordered by Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary.

He is being backed by head teachers' leaders, who are telling schools to review the policy of authorising breaks of up to two weeks, which are viewed by some parents as an entitlement.

Ha! As if you're entitled to do what's best for your kids. Everyone knows that they're government property, you just borrow them. Besides, they only have them for 42 weeks a year, so that missing almost 5% could make all the difference (although constant halts for 'in-service training' have no effect whatsoever, of course).

Funny how 'heads teacher leaders' aren't so finicky about local control when it's someone else ox being gored. Also ironic since, given the sickness rates among the teachoids, restricing them to two weeks a year would be a major achievement.

David Hart, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Most head teachers are strongly opposed to authorising term-time absences and in the current climate I think they will be allowed only in exceptional circumstances."

Most head teachers are opposed to term-time absence. How interesting. Lets apply that principle more generally:

Head teacher: Waiter, I'd like to order the Chicken Madras

Waiter: Sorry, I'm strongly opposed to letting you order that.

Head teacher: Oh, naturally then, as a paying customer, I'm obliged to obey instantly whatever you say

No, sorry, can't see it somehow.

Thousands of families take children off school every year to take advantage of cheaper off-peak holiday deals but in future they may face fines of up to £100 on their return.

Ivan Lewis, the junior education minister, will confirm next week that penalty notices being introduced under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act will apply to holidays not authorised by head teachers.

There are so many things wrong with this, it ain't true. There's the liberal's trademark unsubstantiated smear, the suggestion that the families are just trying to save cash. If these morons can't imagine any other reasons, then the current state of the educational system become all too explicable. Add in the sheer lack of logic: the families are trying to save cash so they'll be charged £100. Given the price of even relatively modest holidays, going out-of-season should save more than that. So it ain't a deterrent. Nope, it's that thing again. A stealth tax. You can imagine the decision loop when someone tries to apply for a leave of absence: 'Well Mrs Citizen, I always consider carefully requests by proles, but I think I'll refuse and scalp you for £100'. Yeah, that'll work [and a vote of thanks to alleged human rights activists for taking a vow of silence over the fact that government employees will be able to seize assets without so much as the ghost of the shadow of an independent tribunal]. Finally, considering that a complete absence of physical and moral courage (and indeed all other types) is one of the most visible of the teachoids characteristics, the very parents who are most liable to take their kids out for frivolous reasons are those least likely to be fined. But, in the unlikely event that one of these no-marks tries to fine Jack McPsycho, the fragments from their newly-shattered nose may just fly into their brain and activate the dormant Clue Cortex.

Local authorities will be writing to parents in January warning them to bear in mind when booking holidays that permission will be given only in exceptional circumstances.

Alan Cogswell, the head of the school welfare service in Bury, Greater Manchester, said two groups of parents were to blame: "Those without a lot of money who say they can only afford off-peak prices and the more affluent parents who take their children off school so they can afford two holidays a year or take advantage of cheaper prices to upgrade their destinations, from Tenerife to the Caribbean for example."

So the problem is restricted to poor people and rich people, other than that no one really. Is this guy Goldilocks in disguise ? And he's quite happy that the measures he proposes will, by his own admission, result in large numbers of families having no holiday at all ? Equally, he's OK with the idea that other families should be trapped in 'battery hen' resorts in Spain, instead of going somewhere more interesting ? I mean, call this a radical idea, but even two weeks in the aforementioned Iberian hell hole has got to be some kind of learning experience - and that goes double for the more poncy holiday experiences, such as biking across France or whatever. One things for sure: the teachoids aren't going to lead by example, and give up their 10 weeks per year.

Head teachers are being advised to authorise up to 10 days only in exceptional circumstances, such as parents who have no choice over holiday times employers allow them because the companies close down for fixed periods.

And there's nothing the educrats like better than the chance to play God with the ordinaries (aka people with real jobs). Waiter, some sauce for this goose. Let's have teachoids forced to appear before a citizen's panel before they can be signed off for long-term sickness or take early retirment.

A large proportion of term-time holiday absences are at the beginning of the school year when pupils should be mixing with their peers and finding their feet, say head teachers

Yes, indeed. The kids need to find their feet after the traumatic switch from year three to year four: getting to grips with the new language, the different strength of gravity and having an extra arm. Or maybe this is a subtle admission that nothing of any use is learned during these first weeks anyway, I mean, given the state teachoids are in during the rest of the year, you can imagine how much use they'll be after a long lay-off.

Teachers say pupils missing a week or two during term disrupt the education of the rest of the class because they have to catch up before the whole group can move on.

Well, there goes mixed ability teaching. Plus, the policy of integrating special needs and asylum seeker pupils into mainstream schools. No doubt, they'll be issuing papers demanding a return to the 11+. Somehow, I think not.

There's no question of teachers carefully polling pupils on what they understand before moving on. Anyone who's been through British state schooling knows this (so that'll be about 90% of the adult population). The point is absurd, but that is the point. Remember this comment from above:

Most head teachers are strongly opposed to authorising term-time absences and in the current climate I think they will be allowed only in exceptional circumstances."

Note the qualifier: 'the current climate' - now, if something's wrong, it's wrong, and that's that. This addendum is by way of an admission that, far from being a matter of crucial importance, this whole battle is driven by short-term, tactical considerations.

What it's all about is this: the zeitgeist at the moment is very much in favour of greater accountability in schools. For one moment in history it looks like the nation's David Harts are going to actually have to answer for their results, or lack thereof. By trying to start a moral panic about parents taking their kids on holiday, the teachoids manage to do three things: get their excuses in first, create a distraction and try and maintain their monopoly on learning.

That last point is the important one. Imagine the most boring place in the world, namely Belgium. Yet, Brussels is one of the hubs of the EU which is - hate it or loathe it - sort of important. Likewise, a few miles outside Brussels is the site of Waterloo. In other words, in the dullest place on Earth you can visit the site where the French attempted to conquer Europe and a famous battlefield all in the same afternoon. Add in the fact that it is a foreign country and they don'speaka da Inglish, and it's fair to say even a day in Brussels can be more productive than a week back home listening to soap-dodging members of the salaried unemployed drone on about the PC BS d'jour. Heads would rather you didn't think that way, didn't question the value of some dirty, drug-sodden, going nowhere wastes of flesh droning at your kids for seven hours a day. This latest outrage is by way of the heads telling you to sit down, pay up and shut up, you stupid voters, you.

Back in the day, they had a catchphrase on 'Blankety Blank': the clue is in the question. So it is here. These people truly believe they can issue demands as to when and how, we, the paying customers, will make ourselves available to them. Isn't that the perfect barometer of just how Big Education has degenerated from a public service to a cesspool full of producer interests ? Enough already, if the kids aren't learning anything, it's the forty weeks they do spend in school, not the two weeks abroad that's to blame, and if David Hart or the rest of the deadbeats feel strongly about it, the door's that way.

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