Education

Labour’s misguided education plan would fail Britain’s poorest students

Corbyn's National Education Service is a bankrupt policy that would be ruinous for students and the economy

BY Ben Kelly | thescepticisle   /  12 May 2017

In a globalised world, it is essential that Britain is competitive, business friendly and inviting for investors and businesses. As we leave the EU it will become increasingly important for us to encourage wealth creators and attract innovative and dynamic businesses to start up and thrive; this is what will spur growth, create jobs and make us all better off.

It’s safe to say that Jeremy Corbyn’s chilling threat of a “reckoning” is exactly what we don’t need; he thinks it will mean giving back wealth to “the people”, actually it will mean wealth rapidly leaving the country.

This has been compounded with the announcement that Labour will raise corporation tax by an eye watering 19% so that it stands at 26% by 2021. The Director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson, said that this would amount to one of the single biggest tax rises for about 30 years. This is despite the fact that in 2016 the revenue raised from corporation tax increased by £6.7 billion, thanks to the reduction in the rate. The logical conclusion of this is obviously not to implement a vast increase – but logic doesn’t factor into socialist economics. In the last parliament, George Osborne put an “open for business” sign on display for the world to see; by the time the far left is done, they’ll have to put up a “condemned” sign.

Ramping up corporation tax to ruin our competitiveness as we leave the EU is a stupendously bad idea, especially as it is intended to fund an even worse idea; Labour’s “National Education Service”. Socialised healthcare is cherished in Britain but it’s in perpetual crisis; socialised education would be even worse, and represents a significant step backwards.

In yet another huge spending pledge, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said this week:

“Not only will schools have the money they need to ensure every child reaches their full potential but adult education will be free at the point of use so people can go back into education.”

The pledges are adding up. Free childcare, free school meals for all, free further education, and now we can add another seven billion to the taxpayer bill with free university education for all as well. The Labour party is ignoring the evidence obtained from Scotland, which shows that abolishing tuition fees (a great policy for the socialist virtue signaller) is not only expensive but actually does the opposite of what it’s meant to do. I wouldn’t put it past the Corbynites; evidence is immaterial because dogma is impenetrable.

The poorest are twice as likely to go to university in England then in Scotland, where the SNP has abolished tuition fees. Why? Because in England a third of the fees are used to improve access to higher education for those who need it the most. The logical conclusion to draw from this is to allow flexibility in what universities are allowed to charge, outsourcing redistribution and allowing them to charge the wealthy in order to help the poor. Under Labour, England would follow Scotland in denying the poorest students the help they need because of a misguided ideological commitment.

Not only that, but we’d inevitably see a wholesale devaluation of degrees as we higher and higher numbers of school leavers go to university when other options could very well serve them far better. In a job market awash with graduates, many with degrees of questionable merit from second rate institutions, the “graduate premium” simply wouldn’t exist for most people. Look out for students who had their degrees paid for by the taxpayer finding that they get no return on this investment – thus the degrees turns out to be expensive but ultimately worthless.

University is not the best option for everyone, and it shouldn’t be the default option when many people would be far better off pursuing vocational education or training on the job. The necessity of paying for education leads to more considered and informed decision making as young people properly evaluate the cost related to the potential benefit.

This is better for the individual and society; we need a population with diverse skills, education and training. What we don’t need is the government wasting vast amounts of our money that doesn’t benefit the individual or the economy and simply devalues the merits of higher education.

The National Education Service is a deeply regressive plan for the far left to take over the education system and instigate a huge power grab by the state. What we need in education is plurality, freedom of choice and steady liberalisation from state interference to encourage innovation, competition and a focus on quality and cost effectiveness. These principles are all an antipathy to the Corbynite Labour party.

A centralised education system will lead to a state monopoly as other education providers are shut out. Rather than being responding to the wants and need of education consumers, uniformity will be imposed. We would see a plethora of children attending poor and failing schools with no alternative as the rigidity of the system pays off in mediocrity.

As the Leftist establishment closes ranks on education, could it be trusted to keep itself in check? The first instinct of the ideologue is self-preservation and justification of their dogma even in the face of opposing evidence and bad results. How long before the objective measures of performance are manipulated like Soviet economic statistics, or even abolished?

The academy system, essentially a Blairite reform, is a success story. Free schools are offering choice and competition and injecting diversity into the system, not to mention creating much needed school places. Corbyn wants to reverse all of this progress because of ideology and spite; it’s nothing to do with what works.

The National Education Service typifies the regressive nature of the Corbynite Labour Party; an instinct for centralisation and increasing the power of the state in order to destroy diversity of provision and user choice and outlaw market dynamics and the competition principle. It’s a profligate and bankrupt policy that would be ruinous for the education system and the economy.

Ben Kelly is an Executive Director of Conservatives for Liberty.