Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Another Idea That Is All Balls

Ronald Regan famously said “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help’”.

The aptly named Children’s Secretary, Ed Balls, has set out his plans - reported in the Daily Express:

The Children’s Secretary set out £400million plans to put 20,000 problem families under 24-hour CCTV super-vision in their own homes.

They will be monitored to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals.

Private security guards will also be sent round to carry out home checks, while parents will be given help to combat drug and alcohol addiction.

Did it not cross his mind - probably not as he tends to exhibit a distinct lack of a brain - that this may sound a tad....Orwellian? He obviously does not believe that the State should never, under any circumstances, control the small details of our lives?

Sin bin projects operate in half of council areas already but Mr Balls wants every local authority to fund them.

He said: “This is pretty tough and non-negotiable support for families to get to the root of the problem. There should be Family Intervention Projects in every local authority area because every area has families that need support.”

“Families that need support” - Its for your own good, let us take over is the Ballsy ethos.

But what is the Conservative response?

But Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: “This is all much too little, much too late.

What a typical Opposition response! No outrage about mass surveillance of citizens, no hint of concern?

Mr Balls also said responsible parents who make sure their children behave in school will get new rights to complain about those who allow their children to disrupt lessons.

It was my good fortune to have a attended a boarding school - City of London school and whilst there a couple of pupils were expelled for bad behaviour.

By acting swiftly, unhindered by appeals boards and bureaucratic interference from quangos and the like, the parents of those children were shamed, especially having spent heard earned money on their kid’s education. The school responded to parents wishes – and, no doubt, incentivised by the prospect of losing out on present and future school fees.

The point is it worked fine, and smoothly. No ‘rights’ were provided by government. The parents were the customers, and free to withdraw their custom. The school was in balance on the other side of the equation, free to withdraw its supply of education to particular pupils as it saw fit to serve the greater interests of its business. A school is in a competitive free market and incentivised to keep standards high, and parents are free to take their custom elsewhere if dissatisfied. Parents are incentivised because they are spending hard earned money on their child’s education – and it is not cheap – and don’t want to see it wasted.

The problem with state controlled education is firstly, that parents are given something for nothing – there is no financial pain. Secondly, certain parents and children lack aspiration, and are trapped in a poverty of spirit and attitude that is reinforced by their immediate community and social groups. Thirdly, schools are hamstrung by process and regulation, making the headteacher impotent to admonish bad behaviour. Fourthly, and chiefly, the state education system is a monopoly, and parents have no freedom to take their custom elsewhere to a better school.

So how about the following reforms to inject the key ingredients which benefit the private sector?…

1) School vouchers – make every school independent and wholly in charge if its own destiny – budgets, admissions policy, etc. Give every parent a voucher equivalent to the cost of their child's education, which they are free to spend at whichever school they choose. To help those kids who fall through the cracks a higher voucher value could be assigned, encouraging schools to admit those who would otherwise not pass their admissions criteria – this would have the extra benefit of channelling extra resources to help them.

2) Link child benefit payments to school attendance. Why should society support you and your children if you/they do not work to help yourselves/themselves. If their children skip school then dock money from the benefit – see if the financial pain creates an incentive to ensure their child attends classes. If they get expelled, dock more, or suspend payment.

Convinced that either/or of the above reforms would do more to drive improvements in education and parental discipline than ‘rights’ and massive state intrusion into the private lives of its citizens, one only hope the next government does not water down reforms for fear of public reaction and instead takes the opportunity to explain and sell the ideas and implement them fully. Hold a referendum if need be, to cement the reforms.

H/T: Independence Home

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