Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Economist says...

We happened to pick up a copy of The Economist this week. It was fate. Nothing to do with 'Leviathan stirs again', the briefing on the growth of the state. The article talks about cutting back in the public sector.

"...pruning will be more difficult than it has ever been before. Getting the public sector to do 'more with less' is harder after two decade of public sector reforms. Across the OECD more than 40% of public goods are provided by the private sector (thanks to privatisation and contracting out) and 75% of public officials are on some sort of pay-for-performance scheme."

This is where we see the rise of LAs administered by private companies who then have none of the checks and controls of public bodies to control their headlong rush towards their performance-related pay.

Three quarters of public officials are on some sort of pay-for-performance scheme. What can you imagine passes for 'performance' in the local authorities? Is it perhaps sending home educating children back to (or to) school? Is this what will count as their pay-enhancing performance? Are we due to see an avalanche of School Attendance Orders being handed out as the happy little public servants count the extra money in their bank accounts?

Surely this would be deemed an illegal practice? Surely they care for the child in all this? But I suspect that the child's best interest probably won't feature in the performance that will be recompensed by an increase in salary. It is not an award to be rewarded.

"The public sector is subjected to all sorts of perverse incentives."

Like a man recommending the National Curriculum for home educators, and - coincidentally - being the head of Becta: "Becta is the government agency leading the national drive to ensure the effective and innovative use of technology throughout learning."

And here from Becta:
"Exploiting technologies to support parental engagement, including online reporting"

"The evidence is clear that parents can have a greater impact upon their child's education than schools do. In the 21st century schools are transforming to take advantage of the benefits that technology offers in communicating between home and school to both inform and involve parents in their children's learning and life at school."

Home educators KNOW, Mr. Head of Becta who just happened to conduct a review of home education, that PARENTS CAN HAVE A GREATER IMPACT UPON THEIR CHILD'S EDUCATION THAN SCHOOLS DO. That's because we parents who have a duty to provide education for their children take it goldurn seriously, and we home educators do it up close and personal. We're on the spot, we can step in where and when the children need help and the youngsters aren't just left floundering in a hot, noisy, busy classroom where a host of other kids are demanding attention too.

I would call seeking to extend the school 'education' into homes a perverse incentive for a school-advocate to recommend so many startling and demanding changes for home educators, wouldn't you?

Picking up the theme of perverse incentives, we have the comment from The Economist that "These perverse incentives mean that governments spend lots of money without producing any improvements in public services. Britain's government doubled spending on education between fiscal 1999 and fiscal 2007, but the spending splurge coincided with a dramatic decline in Britain's position in the OECD's ranking of educational performance."

Ah, I see it all now. THAT'S why they want home educating children. To elevate their position in the OECD's ranking of educational performance!

Two more sentences from the article sprang off the page at me:
1) Government departments are good at expanding their empires, and
2) Government workers are also good at protecting their own interests.

None of it is really news to home educators as we've suffered through the last year, watching disbelievingly the process of dismantling the freedom in education we have enjoyed in the UK. We've lost hours of sleep and we've chewed our nails up to our armpits while skipping lunch in order to follow debates in Parliament or fine-tooth comb Hansard.

Meanwhile from the Schumpeter part of The Economist: "Civil services are congenitally inward-looking organisations, led by people who are plucked from elite universities and shielded from the rest of the world in governmental palaces."

We'll make sure that they aren't shielded from our growling stomachs and our blood-shot eyes any more. Civil servants, look out of your palace windows, we're coming to give you an education.