The Education White Paper.

by Harry on February 2, 2006

It’s starting to look as if the government is going to compromise on the Education White Paper (explained here), though it’s not clear what form the compromise will take. The debate’s been exciting, if a bit frustrating. As one friend said to me, what has come out pretty clearly is that a lot of people are remarkably satisfied with the state schools their children attend, or else it would be impossible to get so many people so excited about what is, in fact, not a very threatening white paper. That’s good. The critics are right, as I’ll explain later, to focus on admissions, not because the government is proposing any kind of retrograde step (it isn’t, as far as I can see, and I have, unlike lots of people who write about this, actually taken the trouble to read the white paper), but because the position the government has always had and continues to have is wrong and its about time that it gets changed.

But I’m surprised the government hasn’t put the case for the more controversial aspects of the white paper more forcefully, or at least gotten its friends to do so. Although I tend to side with the critics I’ve more sympathy with the government than most, and see this (as I, perhaps wrongly, didn’t see the debate about the 2001 White Paper) as a reasonable disagreement. The core of the case, as we’ll see, rests on the pervasive finding of school effectiveness research that successful schools have high quality managers. So the government is determined to improve the quality of management of schools, and this priority crowds out concerns with fairness etc when they conflict. This is neither venal nor stupid, even if you disagree with the priorities (as I think I do…)

Most of the white paper is sensible and not very controversial. The three central problems are with the reduced role of local authorities, Trust schools, and admissions.

Let’s start with local authorities. The Tories simply had it in for them. Labour has had to live with the Tories’ success. Their role has already been diminished a great deal, with powers being moved down to the school level and up to central government. But changes like this have consequences, and unless we are going to restore a lot of power to local authorities, it might well make sense to continue the erosion of their powers. Whereas ambitious and capable managers might once have moved from schools into LEAs, now they can have a career running a school. Removing discretionary power from school managers now would demoralize them, and change the effective career structure. Instead the government proposes to change it in the other direction; instead of forcing a head who has run a school successfully for ten years to leave it, or go into an LEA, or (worse) into a supplier of educational services, let her run an additional two, three, or a consortium of schools.

I should add that I’m not convinced that LEAs were ever as great as their defenders say. A good LEA had to have a good CEO, who was either lucky enough to have politicians consistently behind him or her, or who was politically capable enough to neutralize rogue politicians bent on doing harm. That CEO had to gather together good advisers capable of commanding the respect of teachers in the schools, and to keep up teachers’ and administrators’ morale, without alienating parents. Now, I could name you one or two (but I won’t, naturally); but even with the best in mind, is it really so much better that they run an LEA than if they had been able to run a consortium of schools in communication with the DfES, and without much interference from local politicians? Furthermore, I find myself wondering how many excellent heads there were in the golden age who stuck at a good school for 25 years because they preferred being in a school to being in county hall, when they could have been running 5 or 10 good schools for the last 15 years of that.

What about Trust schools? I confess that I don’t quite understand there is suddenly a fuss over these now. New Labour have been doing one or another version of this for years. (In fact the whole fuss about this white paper surprises me—or rather makes me think the Labour party is filled with wimps, because it is only a very mild extension of the 2002 Act, and everything in it was already in some form there in the 2001 White Paper, which was received much more politely, by nearly everyone). Here, though, is a case for Trust schools.

1) They will make it easier to retain and attract high quality managers into the school system (and through rule-changes the government is starting to make it much easier for managers to transition from the private sector into schools)

2) They will, again, make it easier to keep successful managers in schools (by allowing them, for example, to manage groups of schools) rather than having them move out of schools and into, for example, the DfES or LEAs

3) It is much easier to set the ethos and admissions policies of new schools than to change those of old schools. If we care about having equitable admissions rules, we should say that, abandon the idea that the housing market should have anything to do with that, and try to get schools with equitable policies—the DfES can set those policies in the new schools, through negotiation, etc, much more effectively than LEAs (most of which are wedded to a highly inequaitable “neighbourhood school” model.

4. The Trust School is a concept which makes it easier to incorporate previously private schools into the system. The idea is to get schools with a sense of social mission into the system on a case by case basis, without them having to give up too much (which they just won’t do). The provisions in the white paper allowing incorporation will most obviously be applied to existing religious schools, but with work the DfES will be able to draw in secular day private schools too.

Can’t all this already be done under existing legislation? I think it can (but am happy to be shown I’m wrong), so the Trust school idea is either a provocation to the left or an assurance for those parts of the private sector the government would like, eventually, to incorporate.

Finally, then, admissions. There was a lot of disappointment when the White Paper was published, because pre-publication whispers had suggested the government would mandate banding or lotteries, or something. Again the government has a case—I just disagree with it. The case must be that discretion over admissions is an important part of the armory of the good manager, and they are cautious about depriving good managers of valuable tools. I just don’t agree with this (but I can see the point): I think good managers have enough other tools that it’s ok for fairness to trump that consideration, which is why I’ve long argued for admissions to be based on choice, with oversubscribed schools choosing by lottery, with funding being tied to need. The critics agree with the second part of this, but not the first; they seem to be demanding that the existing school admissions code be made mandatory. But the existing code, even if mandatory, allows a great deal of unfairness and socio-economic segregation, more, I think, than lotteries would; and very little would change because there is not a great deal of deviation from the code, nor would there be even if Trust schools were established (as Mike Baker explains, scroll down past all the peadophile stuff). So the critics are right to focus on admissions, but should be demanding something more radical.

{ 23 comments }

1

Daniel 02.03.06 at 2:33 am

How do “Trust” schools differ from “Grant Maintained” schools? As far as I remember it, grant maintained status did not cause the sky to fall in, but nor was it so fantastic that anyone bothered to defend it when the seasons turned. I’m also not at all sure about this bit:

Instead the government proposes to change it in the other direction; instead of forcing a head who has run a school successfully for ten years to leave it, or go into an LEA, or (worse) into a supplier of educational services, let her run an additional two, three, or a consortium of schools.

Looks like a recipe for disaster to me. For one thing, one of the things we do know about management is that it’s a big leap from single-site manager to area manager (this is actually the engine of the Peter Principle), so this might be a recipe for reducing the number of good heads and increasing the number of mediocre managers. There’s a whole massive literature on business unit size and it looks to me as if it’s existing in a completely different universe from this white paper in terms of those social network diagrams that Eszter does.

Second, these consortia are going to require a small but definitely material amount of head office overhead and won’t benefit from economies of scale. For this reason, I think that the WP is on the point of inventing an “educational support services” industry, which will end up swallowing the schools, so the good heads will go into the ESS industry just as you feared.

Related to the first point, of course, is the fact that it’s wishful thinking to suppose that the people who decide to form consortia will be, to coin a phrase “the good heads rather than the Woodheads”. Education seems to me to be terribly overweight on administrators with an abusrdly inflated opinion of their own ability, and the Yeats effect (the best lack all ambition[1], the worst are full of a horrible intensity) might be a significant performance drag.

I suspect that the paleoLab backbenchers are correct to pick up on their radar that this is an attempt to bring a) the profit motive and b) managerialism into education. Given that as you imply in the first paragraph, this is basically a radical and far-reaching answer to a question nobody asked (the nonexistent crisis in state education), I find myself as usual on the anti-change party.

2

nik 02.03.06 at 4:56 am

I think your desire for admissions to be based on choice is inconsistent with your desire to bring more religious schools within the state system. (They can and will base admissions on the grounds of religion, preventing many people from being able to choose these schools).

3

Bob B 02.03.06 at 6:02 am

Alas, diligent followers of news reports about education and government in Britain will find little to reassure them that all is notably well with either. On the basis of these many reports from non-partisan or multi-party sources there are few if any solid grounds for regarding “no change” as a rational and credible option if a leading concern is to maintain expectations about the important contribution schooling makes to increasing productivity in work – which is what principally generates improvements in average living standards in the final analysis.

“Almost a million pupils in England are receiving an unsatisfactory education, according to the National Audit Office. The report on underperforming schools by the public spending watchdog recommends faster intervention when there are signs of weakness. . . There are wide regional variations in the number of failing schools, which are three times as common in outer London as in the north-east.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4599150.stm

“NEARLY a million schoolchildren across England are being let down by poorly performing schools, despite measures costing £1bn last year to turn them around. . . The NAO said there were 1,557 poorly performing schools last year, about four per cent of primary schools and 23 per cent of secondaries.”
http://www.yorkshiretoday.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=55&ArticleID=1308790

“Truancy rates in England’s secondary schools rose by over 10% last year, according to government figures. Despite £900m spent on anti-truancy initiatives, the annual figures show the highest truancy rates since 1994.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4265536.stm

“The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ranks England’s drop-out rates as among the worst among industrialised countries. Regionally, the statistics show Yorkshire and the Humber had the highest rate of 17-year-olds not in full-time education or work-based training at 35%. “
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4481300.stm

“Up to 16 million adults – nearly half the workforce – are holding down jobs despite having the reading and writing skills expected of children leaving primary school, a new report reveals today. . .
“MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee claim that a major government scheme costing billions of pounds has done little to improve the quality of adult literacy and numeracy teaching.
“The Department for Education is on course to have spent almost £6bn on its Skills for Life scheme by 2010, but its first few years have produced little evidence of improvement in provision in colleges or on-the-job training by employers. . . “
http://education.guardian.co.uk/further/story/0,,1693572,00.html

“A £2bn scheme to improve basic skills among adults has been called a ‘depressing failure’ by education inspectors. The Skills for Life programme aims to boost literacy and numeracy skills. But the Adult Learning Inspectorate said the initiative was not working, despite the ‘extraordinary’ amount of money the government had spent on it.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4506410.stm

Recent public debate on the schools white paper has obsessively focused on the selection issue and whether good and popular state schools should be permitted to expand regardless of the consequences for the pupil intake of neighbouring schools. The sad fact is that virtually none of the public debate addresses the issues raised by the above news items and it isn’t at all clear whether and how the proposed reforms will do so.

4

John Quiggin 02.03.06 at 6:29 am

I don’t know much about the details here, but my radar is obviously on the paleoLab frequency. My managerialism detectors go off so violently with anything coming out of New Labour that it’s hard to extract any other signal.

5

James Wimberley 02.03.06 at 6:41 am

Niggle: on a multinational site like CT, please say early on in the post which government you are writing about. Could be Australia, Ireland, Scotland…

6

guthrie 02.03.06 at 7:58 am

AHhh, education.
Where to begin?
(I am Scottish, in Scotland, so some of this does not apply. And a disclaimer- my mother has recently retired form teaching primary school)

Firstly, managerialism- this is all very well when it comes to running the paper stocks, making sure the place is cleaned every night, and so on, but I was disturbed by how much the original post did not mention teachers. In my humble opinion, they are where you want to start. A good teacher will give a good education, whether in a sink school or a private school. A bad teacher, no matter what managerial structure is backing them up, will make a mess of it every time.

I think a good case can be made for schools having managers to run day to day support stuff, but I think the headteacher should be primarily concerned with the teaching of and learning by, their pupils. I think it is abundantly clear that someone who is a good teacher is not necessarily a good manager, and vice versa. Several tales from teachers I know/ have known confirm this, with many situations occuring where someone who is a crap teacher but a good manager ends up as a headteacher, and proceeds to tell the good experienced teachers how to do their jobs, thereby messing up the whole school. And of course if you do have someone who is a good teacher and a bad manager in charge, its fairly obvious what will happen. Moreover, in all my jobs I have ever had (not teaching, I am a science graduate), the major internal problem has simply been management incompetence and distance from the coal face, added to a fanatical desire for penny pinching. In a school, this has obvious results, from cheap textbooks to getting rid of the music teacher because it costs money to get one in 3 days a week, even though said music periods can be utilised by busy teachers to mark classwork when said class it with the music teacher.

Bob b, what do you think schools are there for? Is increased productivity in work a result of goods chooling, or is it just as much, if not more, to do with application and having people do things they are interested in? It seems to me that schools, whilst they should be inculcating the 3 R’s, basic geography, etc etc, are also there to help children grow up and do things. FOr example, I suggested to some friends that children should be exposed to and permitted, indeed encouraged, to do as many different things as possible, activities such as music, PE, chess, etc etc. One of my friends said that was roughly what the headmaster at his public (I call them private, but I assume many readers are English) school said. Now, it is rather hard to do this when people are hammering at you to improve literacy rates, or teach children citizenship, not to mention the cost of specialist (ie know what they’re doing) teachers. Yet I think it is all related, insofar as children with good self esteem and so on do better and will be less hassle. And you certainly dont get people to learn by locking them into classrooms all day and never letting them out to do activities.

Or in other words I say the testing regime has gotten too much for schools.

Then theres the social situations that affect schooling, but thats another post in itself.

7

soru 02.03.06 at 9:23 am

Is increased productivity in work a result of goods chooling, or is it just as much, if not more, to do with application and having people do things they are interested in?

The ability of future members of the workforce to pick from a wider variety of careers is surely precisely the economic benifit to be sought from better schooling.

‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’. The higher the percentage of people you have coming closer to living their lives to the standard implied by the first clause, the more the second becomes just a small matter of administration.

Sometime providing that range of choice is a matter of meeting minimal pre-requisites, sometimes of being exposed to a wider variety of possibilities. Either way, meeting that goal is what ‘good schooling’ means.

There’s a similar point to be made with respect to the confusion of ‘management’ and ‘good management’ – management that pisses off the staff, and unnecessarily penny-pinches, is not _good_ management.

soru

8

guthrie 02.03.06 at 9:26 am

I’m trying to suggest that simply looking at schooling through the lense of “economic gains” is kind of missing the point, unless you like to say that economics is everything, instead of just an important part of stuff.

As for management, of course we all want good management. But as with good/ bad teachers, it isnt always immediately obvious which is which.

9

Rob 02.03.06 at 9:36 am

I’m confused about the claims about LEAs, and the managerial benefits of trust schools. If one of the problems with LEAs was that they suffered from a lack of good managers – surely the implication of “I’m not convinced that LEAs were ever as great as their defenders say. A good LEA had to have a good CEO” – then where are all the good managers to manage the far greater number of individual schools going to come from? Alright, I can see there are perhaps incentives to remain at a lower managerial level which will be eliminated by the changes, but that seems unlikely to create a pool of enough managers of quality to manage more or less every individual school. There also seems to be an issue of accountability in shifts of authority away from LEAs. Individual schools, or even small groups of schools, are large enough to create externalities in other schools, but will not be accountable for those externalities. LEAs used to aim to provide that accountability.

10

Dave T. 02.03.06 at 9:44 am

In the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies, “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”

Let’s take a jaundiced view of the case, OK? On the one had, we have a set of officials who hage lied about the benefits of these programs in that past, whose interests are clearly served by making a case for “damage”, and who are now asking us to take their claims on faith. On the other hand, we have other unnamed individuals whose interests are not served by their claims, and who aren’t being served by their disclosures.

I’m willing to be open-minded zbout the possibility of damage—but given the number of lies we’ve gotten about that so far, I’m demanding real evidence. Negroponte has plenty of time to find a “damaged asset” and demonstrate the damage.

11

harry b 02.03.06 at 3:01 pm

I agree with the people who think that a good school manager is a headteacher; this is one of the problems with schools on this side of the atlantic, in which principals frequently have no relationship with teaching.

Daniel — thanks, that’s all very useful (as usual). There are several hidden premises in the hidden argument; including that the changed system will be at least as well suited to identifying good managers as the old system. The answer to rob’s question has to be that somehow the new framework will allocated good managers better to management tasks (though I’d add that the government is also investing reducing the barriers to entry for managers with previous experience in other industries, with the idea that this will increase the supply of ptoentially good managers).

I didn’t mean to imply that the old LEAs were worse than whatever we are evolving toward, just that they were not as great as some of the critics sometime seem to assume. The worse you think they are likely to become (say, because you think the quality of local government civil servants is in decline because the Tories managed to undermine the public service ethos which sent people with high abilities and a social consience into that kind of work) the more you will be inclined to support the claim. I have no direct evidence on this, but there’s a whole generation of public servants whose professional formation was influenced by Beveridge and Buttskellism retiring right now, and their successors were formed professionally under Thatcher. Anyway, I was trying to articulate the case as best I could to promote the discussion I think is worth having.

James — I thought about whether to identify the country in question, and decided not to, on the grounds that Brits would immediately recognise it, and others might not be harmed by being drawn in. If CT can’t be Reithian, who can?

12

guthrie 02.03.06 at 3:43 pm

Some further thoughts about local authority control and gvt control and local autonomy.

If you break down local authority control, indeed remove it as much as possible, and set up schools each with their own management team, responsible directly to the government by means of targets and inspections, you have the basis for a more itnerventionist approach by said gvt whenever things done go quite right.

You also theoretically have more potential for things like Intelligent design to get into the classroom, unless you specifically mandate against them in a very restrictive and prescriptive set of national teaching guidelines. Which then kind of destroys local autonomy a bit, doesnt it?
Plus, with each school on its own, that will remove the larger bargaining power of the schools to buy textbooks and teaching materials generally, since obviously the local authority could buy in bulk and reduce the costs. Or the newly liberated headteachers will splash out on unnecessary materials and waste money.

13

Bob B 02.03.06 at 3:46 pm

May I say that I believe that the debate here – and much of the public debate as well – is in an acute state of denial about the documented failings of our schooling in England/Britain?

Some 20 to 30 thousand pupils are emerging from schools at 16 without any qualifications at all. A succession of surveys has reported that c. 20% of school leavers aged 16 have literacy and numeracy problems. The National Audit Office recently reported that almost a quarter of secondary schools in England are performing poorly. We are almost at the bottom of the OECD league table in the percentage of 17 year-olds engaged in full-time education or training.

Taken all together, that does not add up to a well-functioning school system – and nor does it convincing suggest that leaving existing administrative structure fundamentally unchanged is going to remedy the failings.

14

MikeS 02.03.06 at 6:19 pm

What bob b said! More to the point, the white paper is merely tinkering with a badly damaged machine. There is rampant selection dictated by wealth and geography. I was guilty of choosing where to live so that my children could go to a ‘good’ school. I was fortunate to have the choice. Choice should not come into the picture, and this is where new (predominantly priveleged oxbridge and inns of court) Labour has betrayed its constituency. All stste schools must be ‘good’. Government must take responsibility for ineptitude, not devolve its responsibilities in the bogus name of choice. As more eloquent commenters than I have pointed out, at least the eleven plus was colourblind.

15

Bob B 02.04.06 at 10:12 am

“All state schools must be ‘good’. “

Exactly but getting there all at about the same time is challenging when almost a quarter of secondary schools have been officially deemed “poorly performing”.

Meanwhile, parents who can will try to optimise situations for their children – no surprise there. Even (Labour) MPs try to ensure their children go to the better schools – citations available.

My impression is that there’s much subtext in the public debate. Beneath the resounding cliches of government rhetoric there are undeclared intentions motivating the creation of schools based on implicit modelling of the downstream outcomes of competition between schools. Under the proposed reforms, trust schools will come to have more autonomy over admissions, exclusions, selection of governors, and curriculum within the parameters of the national curriculum.

The public debate IMO is failing to acknowledge some important realities of present strategic controls and influence that local education authorities (LEAs) have over schools in their jurisdictions. It is naive to suppose that the controls and influence of LEAs are necessarily benign and independent of partisan objectives. For that matter, it is naive to suppose that the democratic model works in practice in local administration. In many places, local election are typically decided on turnouts of 30% (+/- 5%) and political control over local councils never changes even when there is persuasive or conclusive evidence of corruption. That’s democracy.

Just to get a realistic flavour of actual events on the ground, in one place I know of it is being claimed that one of the new (and relatively independent) Blairite city academies is using school exclusions to achieve academic selection. This presently turns on the case of a 15 year-old who is being excluded after being caught smoking for the third time, all according to due process explicitly prescribed in the published rules of the academy. By this means, the school will selectively exclude less able (or terminally stupid) pupils. The logic is impeccable.

16

guthrie 02.04.06 at 3:40 pm

Undeclared intentions? Are you suggesting they would like to privatise schools?

As for subtext, there is plenty. Nearly everyone has been through school, and many people have their own children going to school, and so their own interests and such.

17

Bob B 02.04.06 at 5:27 pm

“Are you suggesting they would like to privatise schools?”

In a particular sense, yes. Try this account of Blair’s motivation for creating “trust schools” by Mike Baker, the BBC’s widely respected education correspondent:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4679314.stm

As Mike Baker assesses the situation: “For the prime minister, the schools White Paper is all about overcoming complacency and tackling under-performance in a large minority of schools. He wants a mechanism to ensure good schools, and outside bodies, can forcibly take over the running of poor schools. This mechanism is trust status.”

At the very least, entrail reading suggests that Blair has recognised the extent of failings in the present schooling system. Existing administrative structures for schooling cannot remain unreformed given the documented evidence of failings.

Some local councils have manifestly failed in their responsibilities, in some cases through sheer incompetence, in others because the councils have long since appreciated that over time poor schooling is apt to enhance support for Labour in local elections. Prescott, the deputy prime minister, has a bit of a problem: he is the secretary of state with responsibility for local government. He represents a constituency in Hull, which has been rated by the Audit Commission as among the worst performing councils in the country and Hull usually comes at or near the bottom of the league table for education authorities in England.

It is to the credit of Blair that he was and is prepared to address the issue. Recall that Blunkett as education minister started to pay additional funding directly to schools instead of through the regular route via local councils, in their capacity as local education authorities, for redistribution to schools – a case of poacher turned gamekeeper if ever there was. Why did Blunkett and then Charles Clarke, as education minister, do that? Because they knew that otherwise some councils would divert the additional funds intended for schools to other purposes thereby thwarting the government’s intentions.

18

harry b 02.04.06 at 5:40 pm

Bob b “Because they knew that otherwise some councils would divert the additional funds intended for schools to other purposes thereby thwarting the government’s intentions”

Do you have evidence that this has happened on any scale? I’ve not heard anyone suggesting it (and I know people who keep an eagle eye out for that sort of thing). A great deal of spending is statutorily fixed, and teachers unions play a certain watchdog role.

bob b: “in others because the councils have long since appreciated that over time poor schooling is apt to enhance support for Labour in local elections”.

I have no particular disinclination to believe this, but again, evidence would be welcome.

19

Bob B 02.04.06 at 9:13 pm

Harry, sat at home as I am, I don’t have access to local authority accounts to show where spending on schools has risen by less than the amount of additional government grants. Nor do I have an online sub to the Times Education Supplement archives where the issue was likely investigated. But I do recall that Blunkett as education secretary 1997-2001 made a point of announcing in the Commons that additional government grants would be paid directly to schools instead of through local education authorities, the normal route.

“The education secretary is proposing that money for schools in England should be allocated directly to them instead of to local education authorities. The move would go a long way towards ending the annual row over whether or not councils pass on to schools the money ministers intend them to have. . . “
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/education/2000/unions_2000/773064.stm

As that meant the DfES – the ministry – having to deal directly with literally thousands of schools – and incur the extra administrative costs of doing so – presumably, there were substantive rational grounds for the minister’s proposal. I am certainly aware of long standing allegations by schools in some education areas that their respective education authorities divert additional funds intended for schools. However, the “usual suspects” among councils aren’t necessarily culpable – some very “leftist” London boroughs are big spenders on schooling, not necessarily to evident beneficial effect in respect of school exam results but then those councils often face very challenging circumstances.

It tends to be overlooked that, according to census returns, over forty per cent of ethnic minorities in Britain live in London. And also that London taxpayers are estimated to make a net contribution to the national exchquer in the range of £11 billion to £19 billion a year – citations available. Britain’s annual net annual contribution to the EU is mere chickenfeed compared with the net annual contribution London taxpayers make to the rest of the UK.

It is inherently difficult to prove that some local education authorities have intentionally maintained low schooling standards to boost support for Labour although I do have instances in mind and based not just on personal perceptions.

Local councils are placed to exercise control and influence over schooling in their jurisdictions in many ways – in spending decisions, through appointing headteachers and governors and whether the councils seek to lean against the perennial cultural influences reported in Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), which are recognisably still prevalent in places – eg look to the links cited above on stay-on rates in education at 17 in which Britain is nearly bottom of the OECD league table for all Blair’s rhetoric about education and Gordon Brown stumping around about the “knowledge-based economy”.

By contrast, I have sometimes talked with committed Labour voters on council estates who approved of 11+ selection because they knew that was the one route by which their kith and kin could escape the otherwise pervasive influence of the neighbourhood culture. Why do you suppose that some Labour controlled councils preserved local grammar schools for as long as they could?

The fact is that in a few places the second person singular (“tha” interchangeably for thou, thee, thy, thine) survives in local dialects when that syntax has long since become extinct elsewhere. Richard Hoggart: The Uses of Literacy (1957) predicted that as national media, especially television, gained in ascendancy regional variations in dialects and cultures would become homogenised. In fact, regional dialects and cultures have proved remarkably resilient over the nearly fifty years since.

20

David 02.05.06 at 8:39 am

Can anyone answer this question:

State secondary schools receive roughly £3000 per pupil per annum.

The average total costs rises to £5800 per annum when all central and local authority support services are included.

Will independeent state schools be able to have access to the total £5800?

Is this issue being discussed anywhere?

21

Bob B 02.05.06 at 9:35 am

Post script

Harry, perhaps I need to explain something about developments in Britain nowadays. All that habitual academic stuff about “evidence-based policy” is now considered definitely old fashioned among those of the Blairite ascendancy. A new star in the firmament is one, Louise Casey, an elevated civil servant appointed to serve as Blair’s Respect co-ordinator (or Czar for the initiated) in the Cabinet Office and charged with the task of enforcing the government’s agenda on anti-social behaviour. Hence:

“Blair sided with Casey against Clarke when she criticised ‘evidence-based’ policy built on statistics, recently telling the home secretary at a private meeting that he needed ‘a sense of conviction’ about the antisocial behaviour agenda.”
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1763916,00.html

Try her after-dinner speech last year for more enlightenment:
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/whitehall/story/0,9061,1522714,00.html

22

guthrie 02.05.06 at 2:51 pm

I know evidence based policy went out the window long before the Iraq war, indeed, evidence about the NHS has been studiously ignored for years.

But as for trust schools, as a mechanism for taking over failing schools and importing “good management” into them, I’m sure you will excuse my doubts when I ask how it will be possible to spread one good set of managers and teachers etc over 2 schools, where they were running one well beforehand. You see, this is getting back to managerialism. before we know whats happened, they’ll be introducing ISO 9001 into schools, which would be quite entertaining, and also lead to a large increase in paperwork.

I know The Scotsman had an article recently on how councils were keeping some of the gvt cash to themselves rather than distributing it to schools, but as I have already mentioned above, I have extreme distrust of any reforms which will strengthen the gvt position by cutting out local authorities. The best solution to my mind would be more along the lines of making local authorities more accountable to people, rather than taking them out the loop altogether. Weakening local authorities would have a further effect of reducing local planning and ability to deal with changes in population and so on. It all makes me think that Blair does want to privatise things. Of course, this would immediately lead to an increase in schooling costs, but Blair et al would rather not talk about that.

As for the contrinutions London taxpayers make to the UK, I have no doubt at all about it. But it is the capital, and for obvious economic reasons is the hub of the country. So they should stop moaning about subsidising the rest of us. Otherwise we’ll charge them every time they leave London. ;)

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Bob B 02.05.06 at 5:06 pm

Gutherie – I read it roughly like this:

Blair (correctly IMO) believes that the quality of schooling matters. For all the hype about more getting more GCSEs, a recent series of independent reports (many linked above here) have called into question just how much has been achieved after nearly nine years of Blair governance. Something has to be seen to be done to remedy the failings and someone other than Blair’s government has to be blamed.

Local councils are selected as fall guys – rightly so in some cases. Several further education / sixth form colleges have been or are the subject of major fraud investigations. Neighbourhood cultures may also be at fault – the Orwell syndrome is real enough in places. Hence: liberate schools from local council control so good/popular schools can expand and/or take over the management of poorly performing schools – which reportedly include almost a quarter of all secondary schools and affect c. a million children. Create management mechanisms so business or universities or faith and other communities can take over school management or help to start new schools.

No one knows for sure how all this is going to work out but then there aren’t any alternative coherent proposals out there for reforming the system to ensure good schools except the prescription: appoint good headteachers – and no one knows of a magic recipe for ensuring that. Big salaries for headteachers may help.

We’ve known for decades that local government is patchy and fundamentally unsound to the extent that so much of its funding comes from central government through grants instead of by local taxes. But the only sharp ideas around for reform are regional assemblies (more remote local government, more paid politicians and more to spend on local administration) or to substitute local income tax for local property taxes. The worry about the last is that the Treasury – for sound reasons – just doesn’t trust some councils not to be daft. There is a well-tried political recipe: gradually hike local taxes until the pips start squeaking but blame it all on central government and demand additional funding to deal with the fall out – some local electorates will buy this and go on voting the same party back in. Some will even persistently and wittingly vote back demonstrably corrupt or incompetent councils! The fact is that most folks see local government as boring so they don’t turn out to vote. There is usually no prospect of being elected to a council except as party sponsored candidates.

PS London includes some of the poorest districts in the country as well as some of the most affluent.

“The UK’s top five areas for growth in high-earning residents are all outside the South East, a survey has found.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3871857.stm

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