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Year 2005 No. 133, November 28, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Serving the Needs of the Monopolies Is the Cause of the Crisis in Further Education, Not its Solution

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

Serving the Needs of the Monopolies Is the Cause of the Crisis in Further Education, Not its Solution

Proposal to Deny Operations to Obese Patients:
Health Care Is A Human Right!

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Serving the Needs of the Monopolies Is the Cause of the Crisis in Further Education, Not its Solution

Speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Colleges in Birmingham on November 16, Secretary of State for Education and Skills Ruth Kelly set out the Labour government’s reform agenda for further education (FE) in England and Wales. Members of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) picketed her speech at the conference. The union had called a one-day strike on the day to highlight the funding crisis facing FE, the consequent failure of some 65% of colleges to honour the 2003-2005 pay agreement and to demand a significant increase in lecturer’s pay in 2005-2006 to reduce the pay gap with schoolteachers. Ruth Kelly set out a programme in line with the government’s doctrine of so-called “investment with reform” which will further deepen the crisis in the sector.

            She welcomed the report of Sir Andrew Foster, Deputy Chairman of the Royal Bank of Canada, into further education in England and Wales which had been published the previous day. This report identified as the key criteria for progress of the sector "a relentless focus on the needs of learners and business", as if these were one and the same thing. It further identified as the way forward "an appetite to catch up with competitive international economies; a consequential core focus on skills and employability and increasing the pool of employable people and sharing with other providers the role of enhancing business productivity".

            In other words, the entire educational infrastructure of the FE sector is to be turned into an adjunct of the monopolies in their struggle to "raise business productivity" and "catch up with competitive international economies". Where are the needs of the learners in this set of arrangements? In these new arrangements, the report makes it clear that "under-performance by courses and a persistent minority of colleges cannot be tolerated".

            In this section of the report which has received the most media attention, Andrew Foster made his recipe for these "failing colleges" clear – "a staged approach to intervention including contestability".  Fleshing out what exactly this would mean he continued, "Those colleges or departments that do not pass a re-inspection should be made subject of a contestability review which could lead to: another college or provider taking over responsibility for … specific provision; another college or provider taking over responsibility for the management of the college for at least five years or the closure of the college with its assets and provision … re-allocated." The long-term programme Foster has in mind is also made clear: "In the short term, this focus should rightly be on failing colleges. However, attention should increasingly be on moving satisfactory provision to good and then from good to excellent."

            It is clear that in terms of hounding the workforce in further education, who are already suffering from serious work-related stress as a result of huge workloads and the lack of resources to do their jobs properly, the Foster report is a serious threat.

            Given that Foster’s report is based on the Labour government’s neo-liberal ideology of subjugating society to the needs of the monopolies, it was not surprising that Ruth Kelly should welcome its findings and recommendations. Setting out clearly her vision of the role of education, training and skills as being essential for "improving productivity and competitiveness", she said that the importance of FE colleges is that "our chances of winning this race depend on you".

            The conclusion to be drawn is that for the Labour government the FE sector exists primarily to help the monopolies win the international race for "improved productivity and competitiveness" and the learners and the entire workforce in this sector are the cannon fodder for the achievement of this goal. Ruth Kelly provided a new twist on the Labour slogan for public services, declaring that there would be "investment for reform". In other words, the dire funding crisis of the sector can only be addressed when the sector accepts the need for “reform” which completely imposes the agenda of the monopolies. Forced to face the reality of the funding crisis in the sector, Kelly declared, "I am well aware that many of you will be thinking that raising performance would be a good deal easier with more money." However, she provides a clear answer to this demand for adequate funding of further education, "Public funds will never be enough to fund everything we want to achieve. So working out the funding settlement for 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 involved some really tough choices."

            The mention of “tough choices” signals that the proposals will go against the desires of the teachers in FE and the need of society for education as a right. What is the proposal Ruth Kelly and the Labour government to find these missing funds and resolve the "tough choice"? She continues, "A recent survey by Mori showed that the majority of adults agree that people should expect to pay a substantial part of the costs because learning is a good investment for them." This, of course, is an argument that Labour used as part of its justification for the introduction of tuition fees in universities. It is a monopoly-led perversion of the call for investment in education and other social programmes. Reform is to be in the service of an economy based on making the monopolies competitive in the global market, while investment must be made by the people because these social programmes are alleged not to be in the general interests of society but solely for individual advancement, a grasping of opportunities made possible by the state. Ruth Kelly set out in the clearest possible terms the direction that the Labour Government intends to take, "I believe that Andrew Foster has produced an impressive report that sets out a clear direction of travel."

            The programme set out by Andrew Foster and Ruth Kelly represents an outrageous assault on the learners, lecturers and workers in further education in England and Wales. Thousands of lecturers and workers in this sector are working hard in difficult conditions, deprived of the resources they need to do their jobs properly, treated with a lack of dignity, not even paid pay increases which they have negotiated and agreed in good faith with their employers. They do this always with the intention of being of service to their learners and helping them to develop themselves as human beings. Under no circumstances, can the slanders hurled against them by the government that they are "failures" or "unsatisfactory" be accepted. Nor can the programme of the government to wreck FE and transform it into nothing more than an appendage of the monopolies be accepted .

            The whole programme of the Labour government for further education must be condemned and opposed. It is an urgent responsibility of society to call a halt to this wrecking activity of the government, to call a halt to the passing of an intolerable burden onto the teachers and lecturers, and to affirm in no uncertain terms that education must serve the needs of the people and society, not the dictate of the monopolies.

Article Index

Proposal to Deny Operations to Obese Patients:

Health Care Is A Human Right!

It is reported that obese people in Suffolk are to be denied some surgical procedures in a bid to "cut costs".

            According to the BBC, three Suffolk primary care trusts have ruled patients with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 will not get various kinds of operations, such as hip and knee replacements. Director of Ipswich PCT, Dr Brian Keeble, is reported as saying: "We cannot pretend that this work wasn't stimulated by pressing financial problems." Surgery will only be performed for such people where "conservative means have failed to alleviate the patient's pain and disability" and where pain and disability is "sufficiently significant to interfere with the patient's daily life and/or ability to sleep".

            The ruling has been met with condemnation. The clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, GP Dr David Haslam, said that "This level [a BMI of 30] condemns a quarter of the population to misery – there's a huge number of people with a BMI of over 30." A spokeswoman for the Patients Association said: "People are obese for all sorts of reasons. Unless there is a clinical reason for not carrying out surgery they should be entitled to have an operation as anyone else would be." A spokeswoman for the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority said: "Patients will be assessed according to their clinical needs, as is the norm, and if necessary advised to lose weight before treatment, which will reduce the risks and improve outcomes for surgery. The message is that patients who need clinical treatment will get it."

            The new guidelines are in line with the idea, propagated for some time now, that various sections of society are "undeserving" of treatment, their problems are of their own making, and the "rest of us" should not subsidise their treatment.

            The media has recently been cynically manipulating opinion polls in order to try to show that the public are falling in line with this view. On the contrary, people are concerned with their well-being and the well-being of their society.

            Such an anti-human notion is utterly at odds with the modern civilised concept that health care is a right, which should be available to all at the highest possible level, regardless of circumstances, lifestyle, or any other consideration. Such a concept was the achievement of progressive humanity in the 20th century. Health care should also be provided regardless of so-called "resources": the economy should be directed to meet the needs of the people!

            This attack on the population, an attempt to turn back time to before the last century, needs to be both exposed and opposed. Health care is not a "cost", it is a human right!

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