I don’t know whether George Osborne is consumed with guilt or whether he is as reckless now as he was in power, but there are a couple of remarkably incisive articles in two recent London ‘Evening Standard’s.
Both concern schooling. One points out that the rise in school exclusions is linked to the rise and rise of ‘county lines’ drug gangs’ success, for when pupils are excluded they usually (if not promptly – because of the local authority’s ‘lack of finance’) attend Pupil Referral Unit special schools. This puts all the vulnerable and susceptible pupils in one convenient, easy place for available recruitment by gang dealers. The education system is effectively delivering drug dealing for dummies.
Of course English schools wanting to do well in exam results and Ofsted inspections have every incentive to get rid of pupils who are failing. They are, in effect, failing the school. Whereas one might equally – and perhaps more reasonably, in view of their principal obligation to their pupils, consider whether or not the school might be actually failing the pupil. Financial considerations and the fact that English local authorities have vanishingly small resources to control local education – mostly outsourced to ‘academies’ – are going to mean that the school is likely to have some encouragement to expel rather than nurture – as the ‘Evening Standard’s statistics in the same article prove to be the case.
Still, maybe Osborne’s financial forensics allowed him to approve the article, for:
A Freedom of Information request sent by the Standard to the Department for Education reveals that the average cost per PRU pupil is £18,000 a year.
This rises to £24,000 in London, equivalent to the fees of a top private school in the capital. Yet value for money is abysmal. Just 1.6 per cent of PRU pupils achieved a strong pass of grade five or above in GCSE English and Maths and only four per cent achieved a basic pass of grade four.
By contrast, as a further article in the Standard shows, Glasgow, which I hope Osborne realises, is not in England, and has, (unlike Scotland, which has complete control) little or no control over school exclusions, has had some considerable success.
Glasgow has been gradually introducing pupil ‘enhanced nurture units’ at the same schools which the pupil attends. Here pupils, who often have parenting that most of us – either parents or pupils – would regard as nightmarish, are given a bit more love. It turns out that killing with kindness is pretty successful.
Drumchapel high School is somewhat confusingly, run by a Ms Sturgeon who says:
“The biggest problem we face with these kids is low self-esteem,” said Ms Sturgeon. “In this nurture room, we have children parented by crack cocaine addicts. In Helen’s case, her mother died when she was very young.
“If she feels she can’t do something, she just walks out, but she has never walked out of the nurture unit. Building her confidence won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.”
So effectively the Osborne edited, ‘Evening Standard’ is telling the rest of the UK to adopt the Scottish system.
I do wonder if he sees the irony? Or even if he knows who is providing the money?
Better still, might he actually realise that austerity was not – ever – any sort of proper way to run a government?