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!