Not Saussure

March 23, 2007

Unwillingly to school

Filed under: civil liberties, Education, Politics — notsaussure @ 12:22 am

I can only assume — and pray — that this is more of a gimmick in Alan Johnson’s Deputy Leadership campaign than a serious proposal; the fact it’s a Green Paper, or consultation document, rather than a firm set of proposals. And, whatever happens in the next few months, we can be pretty certain that Mr Johnson won’t be in post to implement his wheeze. But, honestly:

The government wants to introduce “education Asbos” and fixed penalty fines for teenagers who refuse to stay in education or training until the age of 18, the education secretary, Alan Johnson, announced today.

Under Mr Johnson’s proposals,

local authorities would share £476m to be spent on offering guidance and support to young people and creating a register of all 16 to 18-year-olds containing details of their training or education.If a young person “drops out” of the system and refuses to “re-engage” they could lose any financial support they are entitled to.

A teenager who persistently refuses to follow an education or training path would be issued with an attendance order, similar to an antisocial behaviour order, or Asbo, compelling them to attend a specific training or education programme.

If an order is broken, the teenager would face a criminal prosecution that could end in a £50 fine or community sentence.

And, presumably, if he continues to refuse to comply with the attendance order or the terms of his community sentence, or both, there’ll be little option but to send him to a Young Offenders Institution and see what the offender learning and skills people can do with him.

Mr Johnson said the enforcement measures would be directed at a hardcore of offenders who were persistently unwilling to engage in either education or training.He said: ” We need to ensure that we have the right carrots and sticks in place. We plan to ensure that no youngster would be in the criminal arena of the law unless they are really hardcore [offenders] and have gone through a very fulsome process including individual counselling.”

Hardcore of offenders? Christ Almighty, we’re talking about teenagers who, for whatever reason, are unwilling to engage in formal education and training, not the sodding Hell’s Angels! And don’t ask me what he means ‘a very fulsome process including individual counselling;’ I don’t know, other than it sounds creepy, and I’m not sure I want to know.

I’m all in favour of education, and I really don’t think it’s best done in an environment full of unwilling 17-year-olds who are there because it’s marginally preferable to being fined or imprisoned. Far better, if Mr Johnson were also seriously in favour of education, to make it easier for people to return to education, full- or part-time, when they thought it was a good idea so to do, rather than force them to engage in a pointless exercise — doubtless studying for some meaningless certificate of attendance, in the case of the people who’re there under threat of criminal sanctions — at enormous public expense and to the disruption of the education of people who do want to study.

This is typical New Labour. Start with a decent-sounding idea; it’s better for young people to be educated rather than not. Then try to make sure that everyone acts on this idea, whether they want to or not, and enforce it with a panoply of criminal sanctions (to the civil standard of proof, I’ll be bound) and register of the activities of every single 16 to 18-year old in the country. And then, to put the cherry on the cake, also announce you’re

proposing to abolish the current education maintenance allowance (EMA), a payment worth between £10 to £30 a week for 16 to18-year-olds from low income families who agree to stay in education. This is currently claimed by around 400,000 young people.The green paper promises new financial incentives to induce the 200,000 young people it estimates are not in education or work-based training, but the details have yet to be decided.

Why does that last bit not surprise me?

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  1. Why does almost every new proposal from the Government have two features in particular:

    1) collection of yet more information from the public (in this case, opening a register); and

    2) ‘the details have yet to be decided’. So what is it, announce first, and then think through the implications later? Or even worse, don’t bother to consider the implications at all. They will all become clear when the policy takes effect, for better or worse.

    The compulsory education thing was announced by Gordon Brown in the Budget as a ‘right to education’. Now we hear that there are sanctions for failing to exercise this right.

    I agree with your point that education is not at its most effective when inflicted upon ‘unwilling 17-year-olds who are there because it’s marginally preferable to being fined or imprisoned’. I think at the heart of this Government’s thinking is that their ‘good intentions’ are enough. The Government sees that there is a problem with educational standards, and wants to do something about it. That is a good thing, but that is not all that matters. Sadly, for the Government, its thinking stops there.

    Comment by Bel — March 23, 2007 @ 12:30 pm

  2. […] Tassano of Mediocracy and the eponymous Surreptitious Evil to protest against Alan Johnson’s plan to force teenagers to stay in education or training until the age of 18, with the aid of sanctions like […]

    Pingback by Conscription by another name « Not Saussure — April 3, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

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