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Ideology before pupils in Britain’s schools

Tony Blair’s support for City Academies – schools with some private sector funding and management – was a move in the right direction, albeit a small one. Now it seems that the Brown government is trying to water that down. Mick Fealty has a perceptive blog posting talking about the war of ideas being fought between Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, and Lord Adonis, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools and Learners.

“So what?” I hear you say. Well it turns out that Mr Balls is not just unworried about Britain’s tax burden, he is also blinded to the problem of centralised, top-down state control of education. Apparently, one of Mr Ball’s colleagues says that the man is “entirely ideological. He has a strong belief in the role of local authorities in the delivery of services. He is a big state man.”

Lord Adonis on the other hand is a believer in school freedom and wants sponsors to keep having their say on how City Academies run. I fear, however, that the government may well make another balls-up here. While Baroness Thatcher’s reforms have largely stuck, the glue behind Mr Blair’s few good ones is so weak.

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11 comments to Ideology before pupils in Britain’s schools

  • Ian B

    Oh yes, schools paid for by the taxpayer and run by religious nuts. That was a great idea of Mr. Blair’s wasn’t it?

    Bear in mind that Blair is not interested in freedom of any kind. He didn’t “free” these schools, he handed them to his god-bothering pals.

    When asked in the Commons by a worried Lib Dem what he thought of state schools teaching Creationism, Blair replied he was very proud or words to that effect.

    This is the very heart of progressivism; the state and business in bed together, acting as one. There’s fuck all “private” about these schools. They are not a step in the libertarian direction.

  • He’s really called “Lord Adonis”´???

  • Nick M

    I second Ian B.

    It’s not the creationism that worries me but the cosiness between certain businesses and Gov. Business only has to put a little cash in to gain control of the school. Educationally this makes very little difference because they all follow the national curriculum but my understanding is that the sponsors gain ownership of the land the school is built upon.

    It just stinks of cronyism (and there are knighthoods aplenty for these state-approved philanthropists). Just like PFI or firms like Capita becoming effectively arms of government it blurs the distinction between state and private in a typically convoluted NeuArbeit manner.

    Alex, if you think these schools gain anything “free enterprise business-like” in their running from the relationship then you are sadly mistaken.

    I know of what I speak. Unfortunately I can’t say why I do on an open blog.

  • I second Alan. Lord Adonis? Sometimes I think the great days of the British are over, but with names like that I am not so sure.

  • If people give a couple of million to help a school and to other good causes, is it really outrageous to recognise this with a knighthood? Clearly giving them a peerage, which would let them make laws, would be an issue. But there doesn’t strike me as anything particularly wrong in making people a K in appreciation of them being good philanthropists.

  • Paul Marks

    I have met the head of “Capita” he came to visit a government road office in Bedford that I was guarding – when it was legal for me to guard things (before licensing).

    He appeared to be a shifty eyed crook (the sort of person I should be removing from the site) – however that could be dismissed as a subjective impression.

    I have also seen the application forms that Capita produced for the government.

    For example, one was supposed to give examples (and provide documentary proof regarding) such things as one’s experience of “transforming a large organization” and “managing and leading a large number of people” (or words to this effect).

    I suppose the correct reply would have been as follows…

    “If I am a current or former Emperor of the Earth, why would I want this poxy E.O. job?”

    For the application forms were for Executive Officer (almost the lowest run of the ladder) positions in the Civil Service.

    Such is the nature of “public private parternships” of “government working with private companies” in general.

    Government officials get to call themselves “managers” or “chief executives” or whatever (and get paid lots of money) and they get to interact with some of the most corrupt and useless companies in existance.

    For that is the sort of company that best interacts with government.

  • Nick M

    Fair enough Alex.

    I have no problem with people being given honours for services to charity or indeed for setting up their own educational institutions. This is different because this is an incestous cosying up to the government. The only award they should receive is the OBN.

    These are not in any way independent schools. They are seperate(ish) from LEAs but that’s just because they’re directly under the DfE (or whatever it calls itself now). The DfE calls all the shots and pays the running costs.

    PS. Having seen Lord Adonis on the telly I can say the moniker is wasted on him.

  • Andy

    For that is the sort of company that best interacts with government.

    And if it isn’t that sort to start with it soon will be.

  • Paul Marks

    “Mrs Thatcher reforms have stuck”.

    Well some of them have – for example the labour market reforms have not been totally reversed. And although they were not as good as simply repealing the pro union laws (such as the Acts of 1875 and 1906) they were certainly better than leaving things as they were in 1979.

    But the bad things have also stuck. For example, Mrs Thatchers was told that the Single European Act of 1986 would mean that British goods and services would gain free access to customers in other E.E.C. (as it was then) nations (this promise had also been made way back in 1973, but politicians seldom learn by past broken promises).

    What the Single European Act in fact led to was a vast influx of regulations (in a great many different aspects of life) that has made Britain in many (although not all) ways a MORE regulated country than it was even in 1979.

    “But this was the fault of the British Civil Service” – accept that the E.E.C. – E.U. orders gave the admistrators the power to do these things. With Parliament having no right of veto.

    Give an administrative structure more power and expect the administrators not to use the power? That is silly indeed.

    Government spending:

    Government spending as percentage of G.D.P. was indeed lower in 1990 (when Mrs Thatcher was deposed by a coup organized by a pro all-power-to-“Europe” faction of the Conservative party – a faction that could not even get the votes of a majority of Conservative M.P.s but proved to be very effective at the use of the party rule book) than it has been in 1979.

    However, since that time government spending has gone up to at least 45% of G.D.P. (even under Mr Brown’s numbers) – HIGHER than it was when Mrs Thatcher came into office.

    As for Local Government:

    It may well be true that local autonomy has been in decline ever since the Act of 1875 (passed by Dizzys “Conservative” government), but it has become a total farce now.

    Not only is most revenue made up of grants from central government – but virtually all spending is mandated and controlled by central government.

    There is a vast pile of regulations and oversight to make local government spend money on various things – and to make sure a certain amount of money is spent and in certain ways.

    I have attended local government finance budget meetings and finance briefings (I am a local councillor) and the idea that local elected politicians could do things like cut council tax is an illusion.

    So, yes, when Mr Balls claims he is in favour of local government control of X, Y, Z, what he really means is that he is in favour of central government control of X, Y, Z.

    For central government controlls local government.

    To give just one example:

    The sort of thing that Wandsworth Council did in the 1980s (when Mrs T. was Prime Minister) would not be possible today.

    One can not contract out services to the lowest bidder – the “best VALUE” regime prevents that.

    The people who denounced Mrs Thatcher for “undermining local democracy” have been the very people who have destroyed local democracy.

  • guy herbert

    Quite, Paul,

    And the worst Thatcher reform of all was the institution of a national curriculum, and putting the DfES (as it then was) in to regulate how teachers and schools did their jobs.

  • Paul Marks

    I agree that the national curriculum was and is a bad thing Guy.

    Although Mrs Thatcher just wanted a Bavaria style basic curriculum for government schools (one sheet of paper I believe) – that was never going to be the way of things in Britain (given the admistrative structure and cultural climate of this country). It was still no business of central government how schools went about their affairs.

    Ronald Reagan really did reduce the proportion of State and local finance that came from the Federal government (and the regulations from the Feds also), but that was not how things went in Britain in the 1980’s.

    However, the worst thing that Mrs Thatcher did was to agree to the Single European Act – Mrs Thather was lied to, but the lady should have seen that what was said was false.

    I understood what the Single European Act meant – and I was only an undergraduate at the time (1986).

    The next worse thing that Mrs Thatcher did was give in to demands to join to E.R.M.

    There was no excuse for this – Mrs T. knew the harm rigging exchange rates would do.

    Mrs Thatcher gave in as an act of appeasement of the evil scum like Howe.

    Fear that the scum would turn on the “Iron Lady” if she did not give way – and then they turned on her anyway.

    “Once you pay Danegelt you never get rid of the Dane”.

    Mrs Thatcher should have asked the cabinet (as individuals) which supported the E.R.M. – and then dismissed any who did.

    Howe, Lawson, Major – all of them.

    Had the fight been at a time of her choosing (as opposed to a time that her foes choose) she would have won.

    Even though, by getting rid of the Federation of Conservative Students (another act of appeasement) Mrs T. and Norman Tebbit had already shown weakness – and set a precedent.

    If rules could be manipulated to get rid of the F.C.S. – why not manipulate rules to get rid of the leader of the party?