Sunday, 17 March 2019

Tories` arrogance evident in education policies

Education secretaries of state, as your editorial states, are indeed "transient beings who move on before the extent of their incompetence is fully revealed", and Hinds`s refusal is not only an example of typical Tory cowardice, but also an acknowledgment that his tenure will be short-lived (Editorial, 08/03/19). Having no idea or willingness of how to tackle the teacher recruitment crisis, and no moral compass to admit the effects of underfunding, Hinds will rightly be never taking up more than one sentence in any Education History text-book.
   What is particularly galling about Tory education policies since 2010 has been the idea that imposing "a rigidly structured curriculum, certain kinds of learning and precisely defined bodies of knowledge " is the key to "shaping young minds". Strangely, those "young minds" do not belong to children whose parents are rich enough to pay for schools in the independent sector, where the inspection system is nothing like as rigorous as the one Ofsted imposes on the state sector. In private schools there is more freedom to teach what is thought suitable, and crucially permission to move away from GCSE and A-levels to examinations which have far more A*/A grades per entry, and are allowed to include coursework as part of the assessment process. Their alternative to A-levels, like the option preferred to GCSE, is run by Cambridge Assessment, and the exams set and marked mostly by teachers in the private sector, and with less regulations than everyone else`s traditional route to university.
       Labour`s manifesto will probably include introducing VAT on school fees and tightening up the rules for charitable status eligibility, but they could add independent schools to Ofsted`s remit, and insist all rules applying to state schools have to be followed in the private sector as well. A-levels and BTecs should be the only qualifications acceptable for UK university entrance!

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Solution to obscene levels of pay

The fact that over 3,500 UK-based bankers earn over a million euros, at a time when callous austerity policies are still causing hardship, and the numbers of homeless and food bank users increase daily, is appalling (More than 3500 UK bankers paid 1m euros a year, says EU report, 12/03/19). With their average pay over two million euros, "skewed by huge payouts at the top", it is clear nothing has been done since the crash of 2008-9, either to remedy the obscene payments or create a "socially useful banking industry", largely because the Tory governments have obviously been quite happy with the situation.
      Relying on the highly-paid`s sense of fairness, or even on their embarrassment, doesn`t have any effect, so an obvious solution is to raise taxation. Labour has promised to increase top income tax levels for those earning over £123,000 to 50%, but this will only encourage bankers and their ilk to demand more. As a temporary measure, to prevent inequality increasing further, perhaps taxes are in need of further incremental increases, reaching 95% when income goes over £1m, and 100% over £2m? The right-wing`s invention, the Laffer Curve, no longer has economists` support, whilst the ideas that high taxes both decrease aspiration, and encourage the rich to emigrate, are Tory party propaganda.
 If a fair society is ever to be achieved in the UK, drastic measures have to be taken, and where better to start than with tax?

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Independent Group`s Conservative policies

The Star`s editorial rightly contrasts McDonnell`s bold pledges with the rebel MPs` claims that "politics is broken" (Morning Star,11/03/19). The Independent Group say they will offer voters a new option at the centre ground of British politics, but it would be helpful for voters to know exactly what the policies of these 11 MPs were, rather than being repeatedly told how "disillusioned" we all apparently are with "broken political parties. If those policies were three elevenths Conservative and eight elevenths moderate Labour, one would assume this would that mean they supported privatisation, austerity and obscene payment for CEOs, whilst keeping taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations ridiculously low, education and health underfunded, and maintaining the present minimum wage which is way below an actual living wage. Do they care that pupils educated privately can avoid the newly-reformed and more rigorous GCSE and A-level examinations on their road to university, or is it their privilege as the offspring of wealthy parents, as so many like-minded Mandelson supporters clearly think?
  The eleven MPs are clearly against any state control of railways and utilities, a tax regime which might actually begin to address the problem of inequality, and increased regulation of the financial and rental sectors. I can`t imagine they object to the UK government selling arms to the Saudis, even though their obvious effect is to create a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, or that they would support an immigration policy which welcomed asylum seekers.
    In fact, the policies of the Independent Group are likely to prove to be eleven elevenths moderate Conservative, with some hopes of winning some Tory seats perhaps, but no hope of having any significant impact electorally. They do not hold a centrist position politically as they claim, but offer a right-wing option, which the country neither wants nor needs

Beatles Brexit

Ask me why there should be a Beatles Brexit. I`ve got a feeling Theresa May`s mantra is "I don`t want to spoil the party", because she`s a woman whose rule is not a second time. Corbyn, meanwhile, thinks things are getting better with Chuka joining with Anna; all that`s needed is for the party to come together. 

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Letter on Labour`s education priority policies

The report on the Commons debate on education funding highlighted a point that could be very useful for the Labour party in the next election (Morning Star, 04/03/19). Mary Bousted of the NEU hit the nail on the head when she said that no-one involved in school education and no parents were either "impressed or fooled by the mantra of Theresa May`s front-bench that there is no crisis" in state education. Of course, there is, everyone knows it, but, despite the noble efforts of Angela Rayner, Labour is not capitalising on it, sufficiently. A change in priorities is required! The media are clearly not interested in lifelong learning, but a few speeches from Corbyn and McDonnell on how Labour would
deal with schools` problems might actually get some publicity.
     This has to be electorally sensible; a large proportion of voters have either recently left schools themselves, and seen first-hand how austerity cuts affected their prospects, or are intending or actual parents. A Labour government`s education department would be very busy, with not only the effects of Tory cuts having to be dealt with, but those of Gove`s mishandling of school assessment as well. Then there is the problem of social mobility and the way private schools are playing the exam system by their pupils taking IGCSE and Pre-U exams instead of the newly-reformed and more rigorous GCSE and A-levels.
 So much to do, and so much depending on how the electorate see Labour`s education policies. Ending the crises in state schools has to be number ! priority!

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Rule by basketcase!

Just recently we`ve had Tory ideas to end the teacher recruitment crisis with job-sharing, to solve the impending ferry crisis with contracts with a firm with no ferries, and now we have Gavin Williamson! In case anyone is still not convinced the country is being run by ministers vying to, as a Labour wit put it, "rewrite the textbook for incompetence", Williamson wants to deploy "hard power against those who flaunt international law" (Williamson`s tough talk is a mad delusion, 12/02/19). In order to achieve this, he apparently intends to convert second-hand passenger ferries into warships. Whilst many will think this preferable to his last idea of mounting machine-guns on tractors, many more will worry that he hasn`t already bought the ferries from Seaborne Freight!

Monday, 4 March 2019

TIG eating at Nando`s

As Zoe Williams says, "eating out has always been vexed territory for politicians", but the problem with the Independent Group choosing Nando`s is not so much them showing how down-with-the-people they really are, but that they expect voters to be somehow impressed (A cheeky Nando`s and a sausage roll: how politicians use food to prove their normal, 27/02/19). Do they really expect us to believe that this is the sort of thing they get up to whenever time allows. The fact that these ex-Labour MPs, elected to support the 2017 manifesto, want their unity with Tory MPs who supported the callous austerity policies to be widely reported is bad enough, but then to take voters for mugs really does beggar belief.
     If  the result of their joint negotiating so far is to continue with their own version of the Tory "all-in-it-together" nonsense, they really will deserve all the electoral embarrassment that is undoubtedly heading their way!