The Human CostPosted: August 30, 2012
2500 international students at London Metropolitan University
10,000 English GCSE candidates
30 pupils at Bradford Free School
What do all these have in common? The answer is that they represent the human cost of current government policies which seem to be driven by ideology rather than by the needs of real life children and staff.
They are familiar cases but let’s briefly take each in turn and look at the impact of some hopelessly ill thought out decisions.
London Met is accused by the Border Agency of not adequately vetting and monitoring non EU students to make sure that they meet immigration rules. The detail of how serious the breaches of the rules were have yet to fully emerge. What is clear though is that the future of very many students has been put at risk and they’re threatened with deportation. It’s being said that many of them will be found places elsewhere – so presumably they will meet the criteria to study in the UK even if London Met can’t prove it.
The question to be asked is if the students have done nothing wrong and are going to be allowed to study elsewhere, why are they being put through this wringer? If punishment is needed, why is it not enough to stop the University taking future students. Why punish the students?
In the case of GCSE English, there is a clear and massive injustice. If pupils had submitted their work in January they’d have got one grade. By waiting till June, the same work gained many pupils a lower grade. Doing something about grade inflation may or may not be a worthy objective. But to do it in such a manifestly unfair way is unforgiveable. Again it’s a decision taken without any understanding of or concern for the impact on individuals.
Finally Bradford Free School. 30 pupils, a week away from starting secondary school have the plug pulled. They have to scramble around to find a new school, buy a new uniform and adjust to a whole new set of expectations. And they’re not alone – three London Free Schools have delayed opening throwing more families’ plans into confusion. You don’t have to be a fan of free schools to think that children deserve better treatment than this. And of course just to rub it in, schools like the Beccles Free School are being allowed to open even though they have failed to recruit pupils just as badly.
The common thread is arbitrary decision making which is taking no account of the impact on real people. The desire of the government to appear tough on immigration, to curb grade inflation and to get as many free schools in place as possible has led to chaos in all these areas.
The chaos impacts most obviously on young people but we should not forget the wider implications – the reputational damage to English universities, a huge earner for the economy, the impact on staff who will lose jobs both in the university and in free schools and the impact on schools and their staff where floor targets have been missed through no fault of the school.
It would seem that this is a government which is consistently failing to foresee the effect of its decisions and which doesn’t care about the collateral damage it’s doing along the way. The only good thing is that people are starting to notice and the easy ride they’ve had on education so far is beginning to come to an end.