At last our schools will be “set free” by George Osborne. They’ll be “free from local bureaucracy”, no longer run by councils but governed instead by academies, such as the one set up by carpet millionaire Lord Harris. It seems incredible that up until now, no one has taken the obvious step of handing over our entire education system to carpet millionaires.
To start with, carpet millionaires are so much more accountable than local councils. At least we get to vote for carpet millionaires in the annual carpet millionaire elections, in which Lord Harris stands against John Lewis and Ted who goes door-to-door selling rolled up mats he swiped from a warehouse in Luton.
Up until now, the law has stated that parents should be “consulted” about a school becoming an academy. Now that consultation has been done away with, ridding us of another layer of bureaucracy, because there’s nothing more annoying when someone wants to make a massive change to your child’s life than some bureaucrat who wastes time asking for your opinion. You don’t see child traffickers faffing around like that; that’s why they get things done.
Once a school becomes an academy, it’s free to run as it pleases, setting rates of pay, employing non-qualified teachers or – as some academies have proposed – inviting businesses such as Apple to set up a store inside the school. This makes a school truly free, because instead of being stifled by a local council, your child’s life will be controlled by a kindly, multinational, predatory global corporation.
And there’s never a hint of bureaucracy with Apple, who sometimes wait as long as four days before bringing out a new model with new sockets that render everything you bought last week obsolete and useless. That’s because they care.
George Osborne 2016 budget at a glance
George Osborne 2016 budget at a glance
1/8 Debt forecasts up, growth forecasts down
The OBR’s new forecasts have downgraded growth in all of the next five years to 2020. The watchdog says the economy will only grow by 2 per cent in 2016, as opposed to the anticipated 2.4 per cent. Borrowing and productivity growth are also down – with forecast borrowing in 2018-198 £16 billion higher
2/8 New tax on sugary drinks
The Chancellor announced a new tax on sugary soft drinks, which is projected to raise £520 million. At least some of the money will be spent on doubling funding for school sport, the Chancellor says. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the levy
3/8 Tax cut for higher earners paying the 40p rate
The Chancellor has raised the threshold for paying the higher rate of income tax to £45,000. The higher rate is paid by roughly the richest 15 per cent, currently people earning over £42,386
4/8 Increase in tax-free income tax threshold
The tax-free allowance increase to £11,500 in April 2017 – up from £10,600 now. The Chancellor previously raised the allowance from £6,475 in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The Conservative manifesto pledges to put the allowance up to £12,500 by the end of the Parliament
5/8 New devolution for counties and powers for London and Manchester
The West of England, the East of England and Greater Lincolnshire will all get elected mayor-led combined authorities with new powers. The Chancellor says they are backed by £1 billion new funding. Greater Manchester will get new powers of criminal justice while London will keep its business rates – giving whoever is elected Mayor a lot more spending power
6/8 Fuel duty frozen for sixth year running
The Chancellor had planned to end the fuel duty freeze he had put in place for the whole previous parliament. In the event, he has announced a freeze for another year
7/8 All schools to become academies
As reported yesterday the Chancellor unveiled legislation to turn all schools into academies. He said all schools would either be academies or on their way to being academies by 2020, and that funding had been set aside to fund the change
8/8 Lifetime ISA
The Chancellor announced a new savings account to encourage under-40s to save for retirement – for every £4 saved, the Government will top this up by £1 up to the value of £4,000 a year. Tax-free ISAs will also be increased from £15,000 to £20,000
Another way the academy system can fight bureaucracy is by paying consultants. For example, the Griffin Schools Trust paid £800,000 to an education consulting company, because it’s important to take advice on how to eliminate expensive bureaucracy. And to make absolutely certain the Griffin Schools Trust was receiving the best possible advice, £700,000 of the money was paid to a company owned by the same people that ran the Griffin Schools Trust. The money was apparently initially to repay work done by those people to set up the school and later in lieu of their salaries, but all the same, it’s best to take advice off someone you trust – and who do you trust better than yourself? You don’t get innovative measures like that taken in schools run by a stodgy old local authority.
Academies, it is claimed, produce higher exam results, but schools that have been compelled to become academies have a worse record than schools that have remained as part of the local authority. More than 1,000 teachers working at the Harris chain of schools left within three years, resulting in some students being left for entire lessons without teachers, even in their GCSE years. This shows how far the Government is committed to its brave, hippie vision of setting kids free from bureaucracy.
Soon Osborne will announce the next stage, yelling: “Don’t let maths teachers control your thoughts by telling you what numbers to write down, man, set yourself free of their bureaucracy with our teacherless academies, where you can think of whatever number turns you on.”
Then the Government can get on with reducing bureaucracy everywhere. They can shut down cardiac units in hospitals, setting victims of heart attacks free of the health authority, so instead of being forced to be stretchered around by a paramedic they’ll receive a £30 voucher to spend however they like, on a non-qualified doctor or a priest, or if they prefer on a giant bucket of chicken nuggets if they manage to pull through by themselves. At last they’ll have the choice.
The last dribbles of social housing can be sold to developers, setting tenants free from local bureaucracy, giving them the choice of which park to sleep in, rather than be constrained by the red tape of owning a key.
The Chancellor has become such a free spirit that, when asked why he’s missed all the economic targets he set himself, he answered: “The important thing is we set out to achieve those targets.” That’s a beautiful, non-elitist, inclusive attitude – it doesn’t matter if any of us achieve our targets, as long as we set out to achieve them.
Maybe this loving vibe will be adopted at the Olympics and, instead of only the “winner” getting a gold medal, everyone who set out to do well gets one, including Mr Tidbury from Worthing who set himself a target of winning the 200m butterfly but never learned to swim, as he popped in the bookies on the way to the pool instead.
When Osborne was asked again about the missing his targets, he said: “I’m the first Chancellor to be independently assessed.” You can’t tie Osborne down with the bureaucracy of an answer that vaguely pertains to the question. He’s set himself free and answers whatever question he likes. When he was asked again, I thought he’d say “Alpha Centauri” or “Sir Stanley Matthews.”
Instead he settled for: “I’m the first Chancellor to look at what we spend on welfare.” What a revelation, that supposedly when Denis Healey was Chancellor he used to say, “I haven’t got time to bother with what we spend on welfare, I’m the Chancellor.”
But this is a Chancellor who’s opened his mind, so every aspect of our lives – even schools – is no longer run with the old bureaucratic sense of co-operation (such as the NHS, which nobody likes), but with the free market business model, such as the banks. In recent years they have proved to be so much more reliable, efficient and free.