I have just returned home from my first ever school governors meeting, and the meeting in a school with a good proportion of ethnic minorities and multiple faiths has got me thinking about multiculturalism and British Society.
One of the school staff recounted a story of how when they offered to shake hands with a Muslim parent it was said to them, ‘I do not shake hands with strange person’. While light was made of this at the meeting I was deeply shocked at how they had been treated. I felt that this was rude. This parent was putting themselves at the same status as the Queen, and I even think it is231,,2010-1-2 19:00:00,Polly puts the pressure on – we’ll all lose our seats”
They say we are learning from cradle to grave. Some people have greater opportunities to learn than others. The State should create more equitable distribution of learning resources through introducing individual learning funds for children and all UK citizens.
For me as a co-operator, I recognise the importance of the market in enabled adults to make choices for them and their children based on their individual attitudes and values. There are sometimes barriers to the market that some people in difficult circumstances face. People with low incomes, people with disabilities, people with low skills.
The government should set up for children and adults who are contributing or who want to contribute to the British economy, ‘National Learning Assurance Accounts’. When a child reaches school age the government would put money in at regular intervals. Children with disadvantaged backgrounds such as low income or disability would have more put in. Schools and other State-sanctioned education providers could then draw on this to provide the child’s compulsory education. It could replace child benefit and child tax credit and parents could draw on it to provide for the maintenance of their child.
As the child gets older money could be put in if they choose to go to sixth-form, college, etc, which they could draw on for tuition fees and maintenance. The same for university, though the funds may be drawn from the Student Loans Company if appropriate. In all cases students from low income backgrounds and who have disabilities would get extra funds to support them, as they do now.
When they are in the workplace and are faced with redundancy money could be put in so they could re-skill. If they’ve been unemployed for a specific period money could be put in to pay for the training they need. If they’re working they could put some of their pre-tax income as a replacement for CITB if they’re in the construction industry or as an education equivalent of National Insurance.
The important part of these NLAAs would be choice. For parents to choose how their children are educated, and for adults to choose what they want to gain knowledge and skills for.