Prolonging The Agony Of School


New designs for the staff room

Raise the school leaving age to 18? Teachers think it's a shocking idea. Geraldine Everett, chairman of the Professional Association of Teachers, says:

“Here is a Government that has toyed with the idea of lowering the voting age to 16 in order to promote a greater sense of citizenship among our young people. Yet it proposes to extend compulsory education or training to 18, to compel the already disaffected to, in their perception, prolong the agony.

To make them conscripts is likely to reinforce failure, leading to even greater disaffection. Enforcement could lead to mass truancy, further disruption to other learners and staff, maybe even needless criminalisation if enforcement measures are imposed.”

Of course, the commissars will not listen to the teachers. Piff! What do they know?

Instead they will impose yet another top-down half-baked Plan to tick yet another box- moving Britain up the league table of "educational participation".

But as we all surely know, truancy is already a major problem, particularly in the tough inner city schools where raising the leaving age will cause the worst damage. One pupil in five already plays truant. And there is no top-down government Plan that can fix it: Labour's much vaunted anti-truancy programme has already cost us £1.5bn but has been a total flop, with truancy hitting record levels (eg see this blog).

And what will it all cost? Ah well, the commissars don't really want to discuss that. The white paper Raising Expectations: staying in education and training post-16 bangs on at huge length about the supposed- though unquantified- benefits, but virtually nothing about the costs (cf the cost-free Newsom Report which ushered in comprehensivisation- see this blog). Last week, Schools Minister Jim Knight (yes, him again) would only say:

"We plan to raise the participation age to 17 from September 2013 and 18 from September 2015. This will not involve additional costs over current plans in 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10. We estimate that it will incur additional capital costs of £28.2 million in 2010-11 and £19.7 million in 2011-12, and additional training costs of £0.2 million in 2010-11 and £0.5 million in 2011-12."

So that's about £50m.

But of course there's much more. The Local Government Association tracked down some further figures (taken from the department's Regulatory Impact Assessment). They run through them, adding their own commentary:

    • £593m pa once ‘steady state’ is reached- to include ongoing staff and running costs; but as is so often the case, the RIA "does not explain how this is calculated"

    • £50m pa for "tracking, attempting to engage and enforcing the duty (including bringing any prosecutions)"; that doesn't sound nearly enough given that local authorities will need to hire Gomulka Associates to "enforce duties" on the North Peckham Estate, say

    • £6.7m pa for Attendance Orders for young people failing to participate as part of a civil process; an amazingly precise figure, but again, "there is no explanation as to how this is calculated"

    • £3.38m pa legal costs- many kids won't want to be enforced, so there'll be lots of criminal court action: legal aid costs between £0.25m and £0.7m, court costs up to £2.5m, plus £0.18m aid for disgruntled hoodies sueing local authorities; all amazingly precise figures that can't be worth the paper they're written on

    • £90m pa on additional educational maintenance awards

    • £121m for additional staff training- presumably that's training in fending off knife attacks armed only with a stick of chalk

  • £81m on additional buildings, possibly including strongpoint panic rooms for teachers

Tot it all up and you get to set-up costs of £202m and ongoing costs of £743.08m.

And if you believe that, you'll believe anything.

You can sign a petition against raising the leaving age here.

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