Monday, 5 November 2007

Ed's Education Balls Up

Ed Balls, the Children's Schools and Families Secretary, wants to force kids to stay in school until they are 18, and fine them if they don't, according to the Daily Mail.

Teenagers who refuse to find jobs, get training or go to school will get a warning from the local education authority, and if they still aren't persuaded they'll be hit with a fixed penalty.

Yes, fine, good. Might go some way to getting all those scruffy hoodies off the streets. Except that it won't. Kids leaving school this year have spent almost all their educational life under a Labour government. Standards have fallen dramatically in that time and their prospects for meaningful employment have gone the same way. Can you blame them for being disillusioned?

Besides, some folks just aren't cut out for academic pursuits; forcing them to undergo yet more tedious teaching, in subjects that don't interest them, is not going to further the objective of educating them; it's just going to foster resentment. The government has already made it virtually impossible for teachers to maintain discipline in the classroom - do they really think keeping unwilling kids there for another two years is going to help the kids, the education system or the country? After all, and teenager who actually wants to continue their education is already at liberty to do so, albeit in pursuit of pathetically diminished qualifications.

It's also quite possible for those seeking vocational training to sign up for one of the myriad courses available. This has led to unprecedented numbers of newly-trained hairdressers, beauticians and floor cleansing operatives flooding into the employment markets, only to seek instant retraining in a similarly challenging field when they discover that thousands of other folks have had much the same idea.

There is no need for Ed Balls to dream up new laws to force kids to do this. The opportunities are already there for those that have the noggin to take them. Instead of fining kids (who's going to pay the fine if they're not working, eh?) he should be cutting their benefits and banging up those who turn to crime as an alternative income. Let basic economics take over - grants and benefits for those who are willing to learn, nothing at all for those who aren't.

Apart from anything else, it's not fair. Those kids that get a job will be paying taxes, some of which will be used (wasted) on educating many of their fellows who won't get their finger out - the workers will end up funding the lazy. No change there, then. Plus, there will be some kids who are independently wealthy and are not claiming any benefits. Why should they be forced to continue with education, or training, or get a job if they don't want or need to?

Just because the vast majority of Ministers and Labour party officials of all descriptions know nothing beyond the dreamy spires of academia, it doesn't give them the right to impose unwelcome study on everyone else. This is just another example of the government's one-size-doesn't-quite-fit-anyone policy making, and should be treated as the foolish Ed Balls-up that it is.

Billy Seggars.

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