Tuesday, 31 January 2012

On Soft Courses

Education policy is perhaps the only area of Coalition policy that I don't have a real problem with. I went to secondary school during the Labour years (1998-2003) and noticed as it became more target-driven and, actually, irritating and pointless. I don't know the figures for my school in relation to vocational courses but we were a bit rough and I'm willing to bet people were pushed towards anything that would help the school look better. Consequently, I think that Michael Gove's plan to stop most vocational courses being equated to GCSEs is more than fair. This scheme has bred a culture of 'easy' courses, often making vocational studies look silly along the way. It demeans the truly worthwhile vocational courses that I remember from way back - care of children, care of the elderly and your trades such as electrician, plasterer and plumber. Those are worthy courses which will actually help a pupil in their chosen career. Many of the new ones are little more than pieces of paper.

A quote in this Telegraph article today from Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers irritated me. She says, “It should not be up to the Government to decide which exams are of more merit than others. This is something which should be assessed by major stakeholders such as the teaching profession and awarding bodies." What, you mean it should be assessed by the people who stand to gain from making the teaching and examining professions look better than they actually are? Asking teachers to make a verdict on vocational qualifications is like asking a member of a criminal gang to comment on the activities of the whole. The government may actually be the most objective 'stakeholder' in this situation: they want students to come out with qualifications which will help them get a job. It could be said that the teaching profession and awarding bodies simply want the best for their own members. And who cares about the children?

We cannot carry on congratulating people for failure. Students should be pushed to their limits and, for that matter, teachers and awarding bodies should be too. It's fine and dandy wanting an 'easy' life but then you end up in the situation we're in now - we have a country that's practically useless and we're slipping down international league tables faster than you could imagine. Our education system is the most logical place to start fixing this. You can't help children once they're through it. 

Monday, 9 January 2012

Spartacus Report

I know there's a lot going around about this today but it deserves to be shouted from the rooftops - and there's always the hope that one more person may be informed about the illogical and foolhardy changes to DLA by reading this post.

A new report, Responsible Reform: A Report on the Proposed Changes to Disability Living Allowance, has highlighted many of the failings that the government made during their consultation procedure about the change from DLA to Personal Independence Payments (PIP). Analysing the SAME responses that the government did (obtained via a Freedom of Information request), the report plainly shows how this information was misrepresented by the government in their haste to approve the flawed changes. The report can be accessed here (and the executive summary is digestible and very revealing) while the press release can be found here

I'd just like to make a few points. Without social media this campaign would've been impossible. Whether by design or error, the government has targeted their most detrimental reforms at the most vulnerable group in society and those least able to mobilise themselves into action. Without the dedication of Sue Marsh and other online campaigners, the battle would've been lost long ago. As it stands, we still have a chance to make the country listen.

But, first, the scrounger rhetoric HAS TO stop. Yes, I agree there is a sense of entitlement in some parts of society, the I want culture whereby people believe that because somebody else has something they deserve it too. However, we are not attacking that culture with the changes from DLA to PIP. Do you know what we're doing? We are attacking the I need sector instead. We are attacking the people who rely on DLA to survive. We are replacing a benefit that helps with one that tries desperately to get out of helping. The changes have been badly considered and misrepresented by the government AND the Labour Opposition.

Finally, you might think this has nothing to do with you because it doesn't affect you now. Well, it might one day. The chances are high that it'll affect you or someone you know at some point. No one chooses to be disabled and by making life more difficult for those people we are condemning them to a life of worry, misery and pain. Is this acceptable?

Please email your MP and tweet #spartacusreport as much as you can today. It needs to be done and the report needs to be seen.