Friday, May 05, 2006

Tarot reading and stand-up comedy

Today's House Points from Liberal Democrat News.

Higher benchmarks

While assorted ministers were clinging on to their careers last week, the work of the Commons went on. Thursday saw questions on education.

Vince Cable complained about the government's attitude to adult education. More and more resources are going to vocational training for 16 to 18-year-olds, even though employers are often happy to pay for it themselves.

At the same time, funding for broader non-vocational courses is being cut. These have traditionally been enjoyed by older people, but figures show a 25 per cent fall in the number signing up for courses since last year.

Replying, the junior minister Phil Hope scoffed at courses in tarot reading and stand-up comedy. If he loses his seat he could get a job writing editorials for the Daily Mail.

And there is an even more telling question. Why, after putting young people through more than 10 years of compulsory schooling, does the government have to divert more funds to make them employable?

Sarah Teather tried a different tack. A survey had shown 37 per cent of headteachers had no intention of taking part in the extended schools scheme. Was this because the government is not providing enough money?

Maybe it was. But it would be nice to think there are still a few heads who believe they are employed to educate children, not to act as glorified childminders.

It would also be nice to think the Liberal Democrats have something distinctive to say. Labour has a mania for corralling children into institutions - homework clubs, breakfast clubs, extra summer classes... anything will do. Do we merely stand for the same policies, with slightly more cash behind them?

Finally, back to Phil Hope. Strange things happen to people when they become education ministers. He was asked about Britain's bid to host the world skills championships. How would they boost young people's vocational skills here?

If these championships are anything like the London Olympics they will absorb all the funding and set skills back by a generation. But Hope was eloquent about last year's event in Finland: "It was genuinely inspiring as we saw young people "benchmarking themselves against the rest of the world."

Benchmarking themselves? When you find yourself talking like that, you have been an education minster too long. Time to ring the Mail.

1 comment:

Radders said...

Having been Hope's LibDem challenger in Corby at the GE, I can confirm he speaks in statistics, and has swallowed the nuLab phrase book. So you can look fwd to further references to marking of benchs, helicoptering up and plucking low hanging fruit.