Sunday, March 06, 2005

One Market You Can Rig

Personally, I've understood the huge downer some folks have on supermarkets, but still - if we do ever need to hobble Asda and the like, I have the perfect method: let the Department for Education run them. For proof of how far outside the normal confines of human intercourse the educrats have gone, consider the saga of the latest batch of lipstick on the pig:

Ms Kelly told the Secondary Heads Association's annual conference it was schools' duty to be "ever more responsive" to communities. …

During her speech, in Brighton, Ms Kelly, reiterated her calls for schools to give parents more feedback on their children's progress and annual governors' meetings with parents. …

The speech comes a day after the government said it wanted more "tailored" learning programmes for children of all levels, including some "one-to-one" tuition.
This sounds like the educational equivalent of mom, God and apple pie, right ?

Ahuh…not quite:

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has been accused of "patronising" head teachers by asking them to work with parents and government to raise standards.
"Raising standards" ? Them's fighting words round here. Doubtless, the chance to let loose their inner chimpanzee helped the delegates blow off steam between debates over lack of discipline in schools.

Really, it's hard to tell which is worse - the asinine views of these people or the fact they think that they can treat the elected representatives of the people as some kind of unwanted house guests. Then again, Nu Labour hardly deserve respect. Look at their idea of a bold reform: small group tuition. Gosh, Ruth, do you think you're going a bit too far ? It's kind of devil may care, isn't it ?

You're tempted to wish the government would show some steel in dealing with these people, but we're only talking about children rather than something really important like foxes. Besides, Nu Lab might be run by scumbag lawyers (redundancy!) but there's no question who makes up the bulk of the Party.

That's the frustration of it all. The Conservatives are looking for two things above all else: a way to differentiate themselves from Nu Lab and a way to prove they really care about public services. Well, here's a public service that's a national scandal, yet Labour dare not touch it. So where's the Conservative Party ? But no, such reforms as are proposed are strictly blathersgate.

What are they worried about anyway ? Damaging their powerbase amongst the teachers ? Please! In the 2001 election the Conservatives lost half their support amongst teachers when he got run over on the way to the polling station. On the other hand, there is this. Let's allow for deadbeat dads and factor out aunts, uncles, grandparents and the like - we're still talking about 100 000 voters per year being told 'well, we know you had big hopes for Michael, but we've got union members to protect - oh yeah, keep paying the taxes'.

Hell, let's not be too cold blooded about this. We're talking 70 000 kids per year finding themselves shunted into the sidings before they've hardly started. Just to put that in context, we're talking the same number as Bomber Command suffered casualties in the whole of the Second World War, except instead of paying the price of beating Hitler, we're paying the price of offering jobs for life to deadbeats. Can we be sure that the next Einstein or the next Bill Gates isn't amongst them ? Hardly.

It occurs to me that if Asda, Tesco and the rest had an arrangement similar to that covering school admissions, the Competition Commission would be at Defcon One. But the self-same people who genuinely believe that the City, book publishing, mobile phones and washing powder markets are all secretly run by cartels, are nevertheless A-OK with the idea of fixing the market for schools so that even Hell St Comp can stay in business. Is education more or less important than the supply of beans ?

Right now, we have a government that's afraid to take on the teachers, except in the most indirect way, and a teaching profession that approaches every situation with two raised fingers. Hence, the obsession with paperwork, reflecting the fact that nothing less than being cornered like a rat and watched like a hawk will drive the educrats to obey the orders of the democratically-elected government. So screw them. Let the market have them. If Joe Motivated at St Margaret's wants to take 120% of capacity, let him (and pay him accordingly) while as for the radical dudes, well, let's see how much radical posturing these people indulge in with their jobs on the line.

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