Book Review: Ignorant Yobs? – the education and training of ‘low attainers’

Robin Richardson

Copyright NSiKander 28s photostream

What is to be done, asks Sally Tomlinson, about low attainers? The question refers to about a fifth of the children and young people in countries such as the UK, Germany and the United Sates and refers not only to education and training systems but also to social, political and economic policies. It is also, clearly, a moral question.

Polite and apparently objective alternatives to the term ‘low attainers’ include or have included less able, backward, retarded, slow learners, below average, special needs. Terms which are rather less polite and neutral appear daily in the media and in middle-class conversations – yobs, chavs, feckless, lazy, plebs, underclass, dull, thick, shirkers, scroungers. Either way the language is pejorative, and the attitudes are at best paternalistic and patronising and at worst fearful, demonising and punitive.

What to do about low attainers has been a question for western governments at least since the start of compulsory education some 150 years ago. When unskilled or semi-skilled work in agriculture or manufacturing was readily available, the answers were not too difficult to find. Now that such jobs have declined or disappeared in western countries, and that enterprises operate in global not national contexts, the answers are much more elusive. Sally Tomlinson explores the difficulties and dilemmas with regard to five countries in particular – Finland, Germany, Malta, United Kingdom and United States. Her analysis and conclusions are relevant for a wide range of countries, not for these five only. Read more of this post

Hands up then, is anyone going to do God?

Richard Robinson 

Christian Socialist Movement

Copyright Lincolnian Brian

After campaigning in Corby I am happy to report it is going well for Labour. Plenty of volunteers, lots of leaflet folding, good spirits, canvassing and of course rain.  I left with the impression that it is going to be gain for #onenation Labour.

On my journey home from Corby I mused about the next General Election on 7 May 2015 as Tory MP Chris Skidmore helpfully pointed out we are now on election count down with less than 940 days to go until then.  Yes, we can win Corby, but how do we really win the nation? My thoughts were interrupted by a Wayside Pulpit Message outside a rather bedraggled Methodist church I passed.  I stopped the car to read its simple message “he who smiles last longer”. This set me thinking.

Our Pulpit message is clear; One Nation Labour, which as Matthew d’Ancona recently alluded to means social cohesion, the shared obligations that bind us, and our collective mission.  In terms of our collective mission towards One nation a country for all, with everyone playing their part, the recent Labour Party conference gave certain policy nudges in this direction for example towards a cap on the fees charged by pension funds.  Add to this as Andrew Sparrow has written “the 2012 gathering in Manchester leaves us better informed about the party, its leader, its policies and its electability”.  Read more of this post

Radical cooperatism can deliver fairer capitalism

Mike Morgan-Giles

Image © Uli Harder

2012 has been officially named by the United Nations as the International Year of Cooperatives. They are widely recognised as being a force for good – with the impact of cooperatives extending from housing to community shops to football clubs.

Yet it appears this is an opportunity that the Government plans to let slip. By the end of this Parliament, their only commitment to a cooperative agenda will likely have been the conversion of public services from being state run to being cooperative led.

While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is an indication that the Coalition views cooperatives and mutuals as mechanisms to disengage the state from the provision of public services, rather than because they genuinely believe in the development of a cooperative economy and society.

On the other hand, Labour has held a historic connection to the cooperative movement, with the Co-operative Party having been a sister organisation since 1927. In fact, there are 29 Co-operative Party MPs, with further representation in the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and in local government.

The MPs range from senior figures like Ed Balls and Stephen Twigg, to fast up and comers such as Stella Creasy and Luciana Berger. This is a Parliamentary coalition that should be utilised to promote a new consensus on the companies where people work, the shops and services that people use and the places where people live.

Earlier this year, the Government said that they intend to introduce a Cooperatives Bill in the upcoming Queens Speech on 9th May. This is to be cautiously welcomed, but undoubtedly the devil is in the detail.

Creating a genuinely cooperative society requires more than just a bill – it requires direction, policies and an end target. There are around 13 million cooperative members within the UK, all of varying degree, but the ambition should be to involve almost every person across the country in one way or another.

The left therefore need to start laying out what is required in law to make this a reality. A good start would undoubtedly be simplifying the rules around starting a cooperative or mutual and providing advice to do so. But there is a need to go a great deal further.

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