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Tuesday 7 December 2010
Education Education Education
I am absolutely convinced that those who benefit from education should be the ones who pay for it. Who could disagree with that? So who is it who benefits? We all benefit as a nation from having a thoughtful, well educated population who can improve our economy by the sweat of their brow and the strength of their creative imaginations and the necessary skills to create new technology. Engineers, sociologists, brain scientists, mathematicians, plumbers, architects, we need them all.
Of course the individual benefits from having some earning power as a result, but that means he pays much more tax throughout his life, and also remember that high wages equal high spending power which equals more growth of the economy, an increased capacity to produce and better balance of payments. Win-win all round for the natiuon as a whole.
After a local mini-protest in which about 200 15 to 18 year olds left their classes and marched in an orderly manner to the Town Hall, demonstrated noisily but without violence on their part although the police were out in great force and used quite a bit of persuasive force to corral the kids , there was a letter in the Colchester Daily Gazette. It came from a local citizen who insisted that the "culprits" who "Blocked the Street" and "stopped people from doing their shopping" should be named and shamed. Well I can tell him now that these people would be only too proud to put their names to what they did, and as for being shamed, ashamed of what? Ashamed of having their friends who are on a 'poverty plus a pound' budget having their educational maintenance grants the only thing that allows them to be at the school at all cut? Ashamed of having to rack up a huge debt at commercial interest that they will be paying off until they are 55? i can assure you that these young people - the very people who had no hand whatsoever in causing any kind of financial problems - have absolutely nothing of which to be ashamed.
The whole point about demonstrations (which do work, as the poll tax riots proved) is that the inconvenience caused to others like "stopping us doing shopping" should result in the people who are inconvenienced thinking about what the root cause of what it was that made these people (who would otherwise much prefer to be getting on with their lives) protest in the first place. They should then put pressure on to the people who cause the problem, i.e the government in this instance, rather than complaining at the protestors, who are sometimes quite desperate.
There are people who say that they should not go to University if they could not afford it , instead 'get a job like I had to' - as though there are not already eighteen people chasing every job, however menial.
The qualification that they may or may not get from University is just one of the outcomes. Almost more important is the three years spent there becoming rounded, more thoughtful people, able to analyse problems and likely outcomes, and see things from all angles, learn their limits and be exposed to poeple with extraordinary imaginations. Not least they learn to be self-reliant, wash their own clothes (with a bit of luck) and feed themselves, plus the discipline to get up in the morning
It is argued that students will not have to pay anything back until they earn £15,000 a year. However if we do the maths, that means that not only will they pay income tax in the usual way but an additional sum on top of that. A 30K salary means that you repay £112 a month extra on top of the £450 plus income tax making a total of £720 a month including all the deductions. Intelligent educated ex students tend to marry each other, so this will hit married couples very hard with two lots of loan within a single household. Just try to get a mortgage when your credit rating shows a £60,000 debt! And if only one of them is working, that means that having children is probably having to be put on hold. And if one of their debts is defaulted on the bailiffs will be round!
If you accept that cuts to the spending side need to be made all round, (which I believe is a flawed concept as it doesnt take into account the income side of the equation) then I suppose you have to believe that education cannot have any special treatment. I find it hard to believe that the Tory led coalition does not want an educated population. Some countries, Morrocco for example does take this approach and makes it more than difficult for any of their own people who have a qualification to get a job, but certainly not here. So why are they considering this savage attack? If we had a huge demand for manual labour I could understand it, but we don't. That woman prime minister whose name I find it difficult to say without feeling sick closed all our factories and mines insisting we could live forever on the fruits of financial services ( and look where that concept led us!) So what on earth is the government proposing to do with all those surplus uneducated bodies? What will become of the crime rate? Will our streets fill even more with wall-eyed bored witless people with nowhere to go? Perhaps they will bring back national service, that sounds like a good Tory principle to me. They will probably dress it up as a public service force, clearing snow, that kind of thing... Oh hang on a minute, thats what they are already doing making non -voluntary work mandatory for those in receipt of benefits...
Background: About the EMA
The Educational maintenance Allowance is going as part of the savage cuts made to the young people. The very people who have absolutely no blame for the financial problems, but who will bear the harshest brunt of the cuts.
Whats the EMA? If a child is between 16 and 18 and there is a real problem in them carrying on at school, and the household income is less than £21,800-odd pounds a year then the child is entitles to a payment of 10, 20 or £30 a week, payable directly provided the child turns up every day and works as hard as they should. The idea is to encourage children to go to school, and thus improve their life prospects. It works: 65% of participants on the highest EMA rate of £30 could not continue to study without the allowance. The maintenance allowance removes some of the barriers to participation in education, particularly in covering costs towards transport. In London that is just under 100,000 teenagers, and in some areas of Birmingham, Leicester and the North West, as many as four-fifths of students receive the EMA.