The government today outlines plans for major public service reforms to lift the aspirations of Britain's least ambitious 2.4 million children, predominantly white working-class boys in northern cities.Or as Labour like to call them, ‘future voters’…
A deep-seated problem of low aspiration in specific communities has been found in a Cabinet Office report to be published tomorrow. These communities, the research shows, tend to have "more insular social networks, low population mobility and a history of economic decline".The jobs that don’t exist, have been filled by immigrants working for minimum wage, or have all been moved overseas…?
The report says the government has lacked a systematic "cultural or behavioural" approach to raising horizons in these communities to encourage children to do better at school and strive for more interesting jobs.
In a Guardian interview, Liam Byrne, Cabinet Office minister, argues that the findings underline the need for a new wave of locally based reforms, including the use of school buildings to offer "cradle- to-grave" education, health, retraining and parenting skills.And building a nice little public-sector empire as a side benefit?
He says these schools, possibly incorporating health centres, backed by billions of pounds of new investment, could become the focus for bringing inward-looking, disengaged communities into contact with the wider world.Ahhh, there it is: ‘billions of pounds of new investment’. I knew it wouldn’t be far away…
He said: "In the medieval days we built communities around the manor house and then in the 19th century we built communities about the factory and in the 21st century we need to build communities around schools.I guess Liam Byrne failed his History ‘O’ level. We didn’t ‘build them’ there, they grew up there because that was the logical place for them to grow – there was no grand plan, no thought or direction behind it. It wasn’t needed. But this is Labour, and they can’t conceive of anything happening without someone in charge of it!
And two of those things are not like the other – the manor house and the factory both provided work; the school does not (unless you work for the State).
"This could well have big consequences for the way we take forward public service reform. There is a big opportunity. Over the years to come we're spending £35bn on Building Schools for the Future and we are spending hundreds of millions on renewing the fabric of the health service so in many low-income communities we are revolutionising public institutions. We have to think afresh about how those institutions become the 'power supply' for aspiration in the communities they serve."Maybe that is the plan, after all; everyone works for the State in some capacity.
The research shows there are nearly 2.4 million young children in deprived neighbourhoods who have low aspirations to stay on in full-time education after the age of 16. They tend to be in communities with high social housing, living in large cities in the north. By contrast, children of poor families that have a sense of community and religious belief have higher than average aspiration and GCSE results.And the obvious fact staring him in the face there goes whooshing right over his head…
The research also suggests: "Girls consistently have higher educational aspirations than boys. Parents also have higher aspirations for their daughters than their sons, reversing the trends of previous generations. White young people have lower educational aspirations than most other ethnic groups. Similarly, the educational attainment of white boys is failing to improve at the rates of most other ethnic groups."Good job, feminists!
The report suggests locally tailored efforts are needed to shift attitudes, change behaviour and improve outcomes. "This would mobilise the community around the goal of doing the best for their young people. It would provide a new model for constructive local partnership working," the study says. Ministers have identified the ages of 11 to 14 as the critical moment when children's aspirations are set, and "idealism turns to realism".I thought that happened when a liberal got mugged….
With Cabinet Office papers on social mobility and public service reform due next year, Byrne calls for an end to the current divisions in public services so "we have not just an education service for the kids, but on that same site we need family learning services because a lot of parents may not be in work and may need re-equipping with new skills to get back into work. There may be a need for a different kind of health service that is co-located in schools with a bigger emphasis on children and adult mental health services.You know what else has an on-site health service to treat a captive population? A zoo.
"I don't think that kind of change is possible if public servants carry on working in their current little boxes."
That’s what Labour are planning to turn schools into – little zoos, run by and for the zookeepers. Judging by the discipline problems, they’re halfway there already.
Byrne said: "The next stage of public service reform in 2009 is going to set out three big ideas: how we reform the power of frontline leaders to put services together in a different way to change the communities around them.I wonder just what sort of ‘conversation’ they think they are going to get? One they feel they can safely ignore, no doubt, should it provide results they don’t like.
Alongside that we have got to bring the digital revolution to government and public services so consultation about public services is changed to a conversation. Finally we have got to create a completely different role for the centre. The era of a delivery unit controlling things with hundreds of targets is over."
He also advocates a new cadre of public sector workers known as lead professionals required to generate community power. "We might see about three lead professionals in one area so across the country you're talking several thousand," Byrne said.Super Civil Servant! Does the position come with a cape and tights? Because for sure, it’ll come with a six-figure salary and pension benefits to die for….
I look at these proposals, and I can’t see a single thing to benefit anyone other than Labour’s growing client-state.