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Monday, February 23, 2015

When will we learn not to trust politicians on education?

The ban on parents taking their kids out of school for holidays during term time is a classic Tory divide and rule tactic. It is wrong, unfair, and a risible example of the sort of collective punishment we seem to lap up in the UK for reasons that defeat me.

As we, the 'plebs', argue about the rights and wrongs of the issue (and quickly start throwing accusations about poor parenting at each other), the Tory toffs remain immune to their own divisive dog-whistle politicking.

Taking kids on holiday abroad - or indeed in the UK - is a costly business at any time of year. But outside of term time prices leap up thanks to our wonderful 'free' market system that allows companies to profiteer whenever the inelasticity of demand increases.

These rocketing costs hammer the least well off but have zero effect on the rich. If you earn a six-figure salary and have a heathy sum in the bank, a few hundred quid extra means nothing to you. You can afford to go on holiday whatever the bill, wherever the destination. But if, like most people, you're on a regular wage, the difference can determine whether you actually take a holiday or not.

Supporters of the ban point out that going abroad is not a human right and education is more important. But since when did travel not represent education? Are we really saying a week in a foreign country has no educational benefits to a young mind? Really? Is it better to learn about, say, Spain from a book - or to go there?

And since when did our state system get so good that missing a week or two made a massive difference anyway? Be honest: would a fortnight out really be impossible to catch up on for an averagely bright kid? I really doubt it.  

But here's the other key point. This ban is a blunt instrument that hits all parents when in reality the problem of repeated pupil absences is down to a minority of problem families. Most responsible parents want their kids to go to school and don't want them to miss classes unnecessarily.

However it's true that in life there are, sometimes, competing needs, pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages (you get the drift). A short vacation that expands a child's horizons might only be affordable in term time and financially unreachable during the official school holidays. In such a scenario, is it really in the kid's interests to force them to remain at school doing their times tables instead?

The bottom line is this: if the politicians want to ban parents taking their kids out of school during term times, fine. But make it fair. Regulate to ensure holiday companies can't hike their prices to exploit the situation. Or, better still, invest sufficient money into state schools so they have the same resources and garner similar results as the exclusive private sector educational establishments that most of the Cabinet attended. 

They won't do that though because the last thing they want is for the oiks like us to have what they have: power, money, and real freedom. And the cash to pay for such an investment isn't available in the Treasury in any case - it's in the bank accounts of the multi-national corporations that refuse to pay taxes on the vast profits they make in Britain.

If people were really concerned about the education of their kids they would demand real change and an end to the obscenity of rich politicians sending their kids to private schools (thereby entrenching nepotistic power structures) while the rest of us have to move house to get our kids into schools that Ofsted optimistically deems not to be complete shite.

In the end it comes down to who you think knows what's best for your children. Our deceitful, hypocritical, well-off politicians - or you. You don't need to have gone to school to work that one out - it's a no-brainer.

1 comment:

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