Today I heard of a new initiative by the government entitled Building Britain’s Future. Earlier in the week it was reported that the government was proposing to change the way in which the National strategies in literacy and numeracy would work. Today it was also revealed that the NHS is going to be revamped with respect to cancer treatment, and a closer association with the private sector. It is clear that this is a venture to try and improve the image of Gordon Brown, but at what cost?
What is interesting is that an education White Paper of this type was prepared but rejected by the education minister, Mr balls, only to be resurrected now. I have said recently, and often that change is very expensive in materials, valuable history and labour, and I am firmly convince that continuing to have central government responsible for all services, except the most menial, is only a stumbling block to good management and a serious case of duplication. Just as a mental exercise I thought I would try and see just what the process of changing the primary school strategies might involve. I don’t propose to do things in great detail and will be using round figures and approximations to arrive at some sort of total picture.
Suppose, for this exercise, we take the population of England as 50 million, a lifespan of 75 years, and that the number of children and adults in each year is the same. Therefore the children affected will be those from four years old until 11, a matter of seven years, the number of children in each year will be 600, 000, so the number of children affected by this will be 4 million, and at 40 children to each class, the number of classes affected will therefore be 100,000, or 14,000 schools. Initially they will have to be cross-party meetings to get general approval for the process with all that that will cost in politicians, civil servants and overheads. When the new proposals are thrashed out they will be to be sent to all the education and library boards of the councils in the land who are responsible for their implementation. They in turn will have to contact a proportion of the teaching staffs in their areas, find out their take on the matter, prepare a report and send this back to Parliament. The problem here is that the labour taken to do this in the shires will be outside school teaching hours by teachers, and by councillors who are mostly voluntary. In effect this will not cost the government very much. However, it is the next stage that can be frightening expensive. All these reports will have to be categorised by age, and analysed by civil servants; further reports made, Parliamentary committees having to read and comment on the analysis, and the final report prepared. This would then be presented to Parliament to be voted upon and if successful the work would really begin. On the basis of the analysis a new protocol would have to be made and approved, presumably sent to a select number of county councils for comment, and then ultimately the final draft will be printed, probably taking 20 or 30 pages, in view of the number of educational subjects that it would have to be addressed, and these would be sent to every school, all 14,000 of them. The schools themselves would have to hold a teacher and parent meetings to inform the parents of the new proposals. What is patiently clear, even if my assessment is inaccurate, is an awful lot of people will be forced to give their free time to complete the change.
On the evidence of previous Better Britain type initiatives, it will probably come to nothing, except a lot of people would have given a lot of their spare time to the project with no recompense and no result. Just multiply this by the number of different departments of government that are going to be totally assessed for Change, even if it never happens, at great expense to the country and clearly to individuals. You would never have anything of this sort, if all these functions, such as water, sewage, roads, health, and many more, were the functions of local councils, with merely an overseeing role by the government. That system gives the opportunity to try changes in trial areas before making a sweeping change, and possibly stepping off the edge of a precipice. The government is very careful of medicines being given trials, but it seems that that’s where commonsense stops.