Tag Archives: Government

Overqualified and out of work – the story of the education policy victims

To be newly graduated.

Today’s message to the class of 2010 has hit a raw nerve. We are taught to do the best for ourselves: schools, colleges and sixth forms condition many of us into the ideal of university as being a foundation for getting the most out of a career.

Just weeks before I symbolically throw my mortarboard into the air for good luck, I fear that it will be more than luck that some of the 420,000  graduating students will need. With an average of 69 people applying for each graduate job and in the face of accumulating interest payments and mass youth unemployment, higher education policy must be addressed.

The last government’s gung-ho approach to getting half of young people into higher education is constantly criticised for devaluing education. More worryingly, the recession-lead cut on jobs, followed by the new coalition government cutting of public sector workers and Future Jobs Fund will result in thousands more people signing up for Jobseekers’ Allowance this summer.

Creating jobs, not cutting them should be a top priority for any government committed to tackling the current problems faced in our society. The Tory ‘big society’ policy cannot work autonomously from the job market; furthermore, the big society should function as more than a social capital boost for those who can afford to run a public service, along with doing paid and other domestic work. Opening doors and giving opportunities to those who cannot find work could lead to a more positive impact, such as crime prevention and redressing the growing ‘dependency culture’. In turn, the third sector needs to be protected from austerity cuts to remain effective.

The next months and years will prove to be interesting for any new graduate (and those of the years before). In some respects, I must agree with the coalition reduction in the numbers of university places. It will reduce the number of unemployed graduates in years to come – leaving 10,000 people without a bachelors degree is a small price to pay compared to the individual debts that we suffer from now, with thanks to top-up fees and the new Labour higher education mess.

Could the inequality gap open further?

Child benefit – the universal allowance paid to all parents of children under 19 is under threat.

Labour’s Frank Field, who took the post of ‘poverty tsar‘ in the coalition government last week has already spoken of reforming the benefit system for new parents. Both the left and right of the political spectrum have disagreed with the plans laid out by Mr Field. Whilst us on the left would rather a benefit to create an equally good upbringing of all children; the right has shown concern to the taxation of the benefit, which would hit the most well off the hardest.

Some reactionary headlines this week have included:

Frank Field says pay new mothers £25,000 to stay at home to bond with their babies

Tory adviser’s plan to axe child benefit for over 13s sparks outrage

Mr Field’s comments come as the government is looking to relentlessly cut public spending. He has suggested that the benefit may be taxed, and equate to the age of a child. As well as saving money, it is a strategic plan to get parents back into the workplace.

According to calculations, £3 billion a year could be saved if over 13′s no longer received the money.

Axe wielding over money that many parents rely on to bring their children up with should be condemned by the left. It is an easy target and is justified by its ability to get parents back to work. In reality, it could be responsible for creating an even bigger gap between rich and poor – especially in these hard economic times.

Yvette Cooper MP told the Evening Standard that:

Cutting child benefit, child tax credit and breakfast clubs is a deeply unfair way to cut the deficit. It would hit children and working mums hardest – making it more difficult for many mothers to work.

Cuts are coming, written by Nick Lamb

Whose fault?

When  Dave and Dan hit the stage, somewhere in the Midlands on Monday, they began buttering us up for the budget in two weeks, telling us to expect “unavoidably tough”, “difficult”, “unsustainable” cuts. These are cuts that affect “the whole way of life”, but its ok: we’re all in this together. Oh look, I took a five per cent pay cut already.

This is no surprise, is it? We all knew Dave & friends were going to do this — attack public services. Alas, the majority of people think it is indeed necessary to protect to the economy. I accept myself that there is waste in public services money can always be spent more efficiently. But, I do not accept the notion that the deficit should be entirely solved by public sectors cuts. I do not accept that the public sector is too big. This is not being said enough… not by Labour anyway.

It seems that Labour has forgotten our own history of the event, or we have let our history fall by the wayside. We have let the Conservatives monopolies on their version of events – that it is our fault – we, the Labour government overspent on public services. We have let it be forgotten that this was a because of the banks, a failure of international financial capital.

This was not a failure due to a bloated state sector. Why should we be all in this together? We have been forced to accept, over the last 30 years, to accept the culture of unregulated debt and easy money. It should be the financial institutions, banks, Treasury, Bank of England and the careerist politicians who seek to fulfil their own needs, to line their own pockets. They should be the ones in it together, paying the taxes on their easy money.

This system is flawed. It is based on gambling, high risks, big money. Do you expect, when it happens again, for Dave, Beaker and Wee Willy Winkie (Gideon) to save us from economic and social disaster? We all know that answer. The next time it happens the damage will be much greater, much deeper, plus we will be at a greater disadvantage with no state, no protection.
We must admit that there is no real credible alternative system to the current; that would require deep thinking which can be for another day. The system can be changed; to think otherwise shows exceptional short-sightedness, no creativity and complete lack of will. Let us not forget history. The current system came out of Thatcher’s ideological crusade, disguised as pragmatism and it is likely to happen again.

Written by Nick Lamb, also known as @bloooped, edited by Claire French

All change please

Before Gordon had gone to see the Queen, removal vans had already arrived in Downing Street.

In this whirlwind week for politics, we have new prime minister. With the coalition between the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats being attacked and criticised already, I thought that this photo would really sum up how I feel about the past week.

Out with the old; in with the older.

A step in the right direction

The ID card scheme that dogged the latter years of Labour’s civil liberties record has been scrapped.

Considered to be waste by both the Conservative’s and Liberal Democrats, the scheme has been aborted.

Human Rights organisation, Liberty, has commended the action, but warns that it is not enough to restore human rights confidence.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said:

“We welcome the way that the new coalition has bound itself together with civil liberties. It is Liberty’s job to hold it to its word. We celebrate the end of ID cards.

Now the common values of the Human Rights Act must be proudly defended and the worst scandals of the War on Terror – punishment without trial and torture – must be investigated and halted.”

Liberty’s analysis of events is available here (pdf)

Tim Hancock, Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director commented:

We need an Inquiry to finally draw a line under UK complicity in rendition, torture and secret detention overseas, and hold those responsible to account. The new Home Secretary Teresa May should scrap Control Orders and replace them with measures that respect people’s basic right to a fair trial.

Both governing parties have committed to an integrated strategy to combat violence against women in the UK, which is very encouraging. But with spending cuts sure to come soon, they must ensure that all women fleeing violence are not denied the services they need, including those who are currently denied access to public funds.

Testing children in the name of competition

One of the first articles I wrote on Plurality was about scrapping SAT tests for year six children.

Today is has been revealed in the media that some children in England will not be sitting these school competition-based exams.

Half of the 17,000 primary schools across the country are boycotting the tests, with backing from the National Union of Teachers.

Current Education Secretary, Ed Balls has informed schools:

that it was teachers’ statutory duty and professional responsibility to carry out the tests had backfired and spurred more teachers to join the boycott.

Under the Conservative government (which is likely to be installed any time now), SATs would not be scrapped. They are a performance related test: mapping the outcome of schools rather than individual pupils.

Having memories of taking the tests myself, I would be relieved if the tests were scrapped all together. They impede on future exams and reduce the amount of choice at GCSE level. Perhaps more importantly, they cause a great amount of stress for children.

Of course, I am all for tracking individual progress through school. But it would be a great shame to carry on using stressful testing techniques as indicators of how a school is performing.

Men, and the struggle of “women’s work”

We constantly hear about men not pulling their weight when it comes to children. The traditional belief that children are a women’s matter is being reproduced still, especially in the mass media: examples such as Desperate Housewives, soaps and even news reporting of the “underclass” and single parents.

Two weeks ago, David Lammy MP used Twitter to link the video below to the twittersphere. As I watched the video, I felt more and more confused by the 20 years of thinking that most men didn’t care about women taking the front seat in child rearing.

Again, my thoughts were shaken up by the BBC, who were talking to a male nursery assistant and a male nursery owner. The owner (who was male too) said that he has had people comment that he “must be” being gay or a paedophile for working with children.

According to a report written by the Scottish Executive:

There are various reasons for the lack of men in the sector. Some men may feel that childcare is ‘women’s work’. The perceived poor status of the profession probably also plays a part. Furthermore, many parents are ambivalent about men working in childcare environments; and the sensitivities around this may also deter men from a career in childcare. A further issue is that many men may not know that job opportunities in childcare exist. A ‘Men and Childcare Scotland Group’ has been established by One Parent Families Scotland and Children in Scotland to promote good practice in the recruitment and support of men working in childcare. They have recently found that less than one per cent of current trainees in childcare are men5. This statistic points to the real need to increase awareness amongst men of careers in childcare.

Prejudice and flawed systems, designed around ‘mother and baby’ have lead to a gender segregation in family rearing and in the childcare industry. In Scotland, one percent of trainees in childcare are male. There is also a shortage of male teachers. With an estimated one in four children growing up one parent (which in most cases is their mother, presumably), children need a balanced upbringing. That includes men!

What the kids watch

On Wednesday evening, a friend and I went to a debate in the Houses of Parliament (hosted by Compass) about the effects of product placement on children’s television. The debate happened because of a consultation paper filed by the Culture secretary, Ben Bradshaw MP (which he sums up here). The debate was about how to regulate product placement in children’s television. But as somebody pointed out, a lot more television that children watch is actually aimed at adults. Programmes such as Eastenders, X Factor and so on are viewed by many children, but is it having a consequence? Bradley leaping to his death on Eastenders last week was harrowing, and not aimed at a young audience.

And today, the news media were reporting on comments from psychologist, Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who suggests that restrictions are needed on sexualised music videos and lads mags.

How old is old enough to read lads mags?

So, what do we think? Is the media having an effect on children? Well yes, that is quite obvious. After recent experiences with young children, I have been quite shocked at how such young children want to be older. I remember wearing my mum’s shoes and wearing lipstick when I was young, but today’s children are way beyond that.

These pressures and images are coming from everywhere. It is not just peer pressure and aspiration that children face today. Now children have been brainwashed into think they “need” everything. And some parents are just not saying no.

Recently I have heard accusations thrown at MTV for causing social problems such as gang and gun violence. But thinking about it, in relation to the topic of children and materialism, I really think I have hit the nail on the head. MTV was the first television channel to purely exist for music videos. Now it has a range of channels and is available all over the world. MTV itself has moved away from music television and towards reality television. Some of the shows on the network are aimed at young teenagers, and are full of the materialistic, trustafarian images that worry me. Not only are the messages all about personal possessions and doing whatever you like, but there is an overwhelming amount of product placement and branding involved.

But it is not only product placement that I feel has a role to play in the problem.

Shows like The Hills and 90210 are designed for a young audience. They cover issues like work, drugs, alcohol and relationships. Recently, Heidi Montag, star of The Hills admitted to having 10 plastic surgery operations in one day. She is a role model for children, I image as young as 10 or 11.

Furthermore, in her attempt at having a music career, Montag had songs with lyrics such as:

I’ll be your blonde tonight, if that’s what you like,

Stilettos and fishnets, if that’s what you like,

I’ll be your hot mess, school girl in curls

Whatever your type, baby if that’s what you like,

I’ll do it

(link to song, if you want a laugh)

Thankfully, Heidi Montag has not sold many records. But others like her, and men like 50 Cent, Akon, and Usher talk about having sex with women, and portray women in a pretty negative light.

This material isn’t aimed at children at all, usually. But with children having access to the internet, mobiles, and Sky remotes, how can they be stopped from coming across material that is largely available 24 hours a day?

Playing with a Barbie doll or putting makeup on one of those drag heads leaves the sexualisation on the doll. Giving young girls the ability to be like a woman – by singing what they sing, by dancing in the same way as they do empowers children to be more like adults. It is not only girls facing these battles. Young boys are given a hyper masculine role too. Role-play now consists of playing a soldier or a hero in a computer game; men like those I named above having a perceivable power over women when THEY say THEY want to have sex with a woman. I see the media as reinforcing gender stereotypes. Sue Palmer, who has written Toxic Childhood and Detoxing Childhood, argues that this culture of “bought love” has resulted in an increase of mental health problems among the young. The report by Dr Linda Papadopoulos blames sexualization of girls on the media and suggests that it has caused boys to have negative attitudes towards women.

And finally, here is one of my favourite/most hated programmes, showing young people the latest things they should have to be like a rapper, Cribs. These people are so rich that I should like to think that it makes children aspire to get the material objects that these people have worked to get. But really, I guess some children will try to persuade their parents to get them the latest Porsche 911, or whatever Akon and his chums have these days!

media inaccuracies towards persecuted persons

(this image was taken at a detention camp in lesbos, greece).

the news media have recently jumped back on the bnp/daily mail/daily express bandwagon discourse : IMMIGRATION. and now it has infiltrated the likes of question time.

granted, this is an important topic for many people in britain, and it would be wrong to suggest that this was not a well founded fear . well… if we were to believe everything were told by the right wing media.

immigration is one of those issues that gets under my skin. the lack of truth or fact in the media surrounding this phenomenon really is shameful. i see it as creating more problems than asylum seekers are portrayed to be causing.

the word “immigrant” has become an encompassing, catch-all phrase, crucially including; refugees, asylum seekers, and economic migrants. the way in which the mainstream media use this word is wrong. generally, it should be used to describe economic migrants.

the phrase “illegal immigrant” is used to describe irregular migrants:- failed asylum seekers or economic migrants (e.g. those whose visas have expired) who are not legally in a country. it is a very arbitrary and negative phrase, with connotations of people trying to *bombard britain and steal taxpayers money*.

in reality, some of these people, whether legal or not legal, are fleeing persecution. thousands of afghanistani and iraqi citizens fled their country through fear of death from the recent wars – for which britain and europe played a large part. some citizens tried to gain entry into europe. many of them found themselves in detention centres (as in the image at the top). there are no statistics about the numbers of the amount of people who drown in transit across the mediterranean and aegean seas.

it is solely unfair for the media, and some irresponsible politicians, to group people asylum seekers and refugees, who are fearful of death or persecution, with economic migrants – who enter developed countries to work and make money.

below is a video from UNHCR, somewhere closer to home. france had the second largest number of asylum claims (26,270) in 2006 (eurostat). the video shows men in calais, who had their shelter closed down – meaning they have to sleep on the streets or in make shift camps. they had their tents taken away by police. a church donated them two shower blocks, which were vandalised and broken. the men were not told about the UNHCR or the asylum process. this video was uploaded about two weeks ago.

every country signed up to the 1951 geneva convention on refugees owes a duty of care to potential asylum seekers and refugees. both france and greece are signed to the convention, and the 1967 convention. it is not just france and greece that violate the basic rights of asylum seekers.

through recent european legislation in regard to potential asylum seekers, such as the border control police, FRONTEX, and finger printing/biometrics, the eu has managed to create “fortress europe” – making it more difficult for people to enter the european countries, and harder to claim asylum once they are in.

in the uk, men, women and children are contained in detention centres across europe. according to the socialist worker, women in yarl’s wood detention centre are on hunger strike. in 2006, harmondsworth detention centre near heathrow went up in flames, with detainees kept locked in cells for up to 13 hours.

according to a report by liberty (pdf):

Richard* was locked into a cell with eight other detainees for 9 hours:

“There were electrical wires hanging down from the ceiling to about chest level. This was terrifying because we did not know which ones were live with electricity and which ones were not…We were screaming and shouting to get out.

We needed to use the toilet but could not leave the cell. There were officers drinking coffee downstairs but we could not get their attention. They treated us like animals and did not care about us. We were forced to urinate in the corner of the room onto the floor and to defecate inside the closet.”

with the news media and parliaments across europe looking to blame social and economics woes on vulnerable and abused people, we must step back and take a look at the outlook of this. the british national party won two parliamentary seats in the european parliament in 2009. their scaremongering, along with the help of namely the daily mail and daily express is turning britain into an intolerant and scared nation state. new labour are calling for reforms of asylum and immigration law. the conservatives, bnp and ukip are calling new labours immigration and asylum laws “failures”. we have not failed. migration is at its lowest in 15 years according to UNHCR. what we need is a new vision of border control and accepting and helping vulnerable people.

locking human beings in unsanitary, cramped prisons is not solving problems. britain used to be known for its charity and good will. holding migrants, asylum seekers and refugees to account for economic and social problems is making some people intolerant and borderline racist.