Thursday 23 January 2014

Conceding ground

It was always going to be simply a matter of time before someone would put their head above the parapet and advocate charging fees for attending state schools.  This week, the headmaster of Wellington College has duly obliged.
Politicians have pooh-poohed the idea at this stage – but I seem to remember that all parties opposed tuition fees for university students at some stage or another, and now all of them support such fees.  It might just be a matter of time until this latest proposal becomes accepted policy as well.
The only thing I found surprising in the proposal is that it is more general in its scope than I expected.  I had thought that the first suggestion along these lines would be for 16 to 18 education, not for the whole of secondary education.  Insofar as there is a logical point at which to draw a line between “free” and “chargeable” education, it is surely the point at which education ceases to be compulsory.
Those who have supported the introduction of tuition fees – and that’s elected politicians from all four parties in Wales – will, on any logical basis, struggle to justify why one form of post-16 education should be treated differently (i.e. charged for) from any other.
Some of the other comments reported I found particularly depressing.
Doctor Seldon said that state schooling was "the last great bastion holding out against the principle of payment".  Sadly he’s right, of course.  Conventional politicians have conceded the principle of charging in so many different areas that it becomes hard for those caught in that mind-set to justify continued ‘exceptions’.  Indeed, the very idea that schools are an ‘exception’ underlines the mind-set.
The concept that services should be paid for by those who use them – even if on a means tested basis – has been allowed to gain the upper hand by politicians who are too timid to argue otherwise for fear of losing the centre ground.  But what they seem not to realise is that their timidity is helping to shift the centre ground.  There are few left who are even prepared to suggest that those who “cannot afford” to pay for services should simply pay more taxes.  But why not?

No comments: