"It is a morality tale of opportunism and greed...and one thing leading to another, in a typically unplanned British way, on the part of successive governments."
Who said that and about what?
Andrew Adonis, about student fees, in The Guardian on 8 July 2017.
I expect you will recall that Adonis was the architect of the policy. I admire him for admitting after all these years that the system has failed and doesn't deserve to survive. Though, of course, he will never be held to account for it and nor will his successors. Which is why these disasters continue to happen.
What is unforgivable, though, is his utter naivety in assuming that when the government said that £3000 was the maximum that universities could charge for a course, the vast majority of courses would cost a lot less than that. When the cap was raised to £9000 under the Coalition, surprise, surprise, all degree course suddenly cost £9000. I don't know anyone that would not have assumed the opposite: that if you set a maximum, that's what universities will charge as the norm. It is blindingly obvious. How could he and the Blair government not foresee it? Plenty of critics of the policy at the time pointed this out but were ignored.
Adonis now condemns Vice Chancellors as being greedy. I don't doubt for a moment that they are. People at the top of most organisations these days do tend to be, don't they? He asks, with the bewilderment of a small child, "why did we give university vice-chancellors a licence to print money, and pay themselves £400,000 salaries, in a decade when austerity has dominated every other public service, including schools and hospitals?" Forget the we, Andrew. We had no say in it. It was you and malfunctioning politicians like you, who seem to understand nothing about how the world works.
It is now clear - and has been for many years to anyone with an interest in education - that most student loans will never be repaid. That means that we pay, we taxpayers. We taxpayers who previously funded the much cheaper and more effective system of grants. The grants system that Adonis and his friends overturned because...? It was one possible strategy to address the issue of "seriously underfunded universities trying to work out a survival strategy in the face of Margaret Thatcher's dislike of all things public sector." In other words, an ideological solution, rather than a pragmatic one in the public interest.
But what worries me as much, if not more, is that Adonis was also the architect of the academies system.
How long will it be before he admits that this, too, was a massive mistake?
Conditions similar to the student fees debacle were set up for the abuse and failure of the academies system, again because of naivety or wilful ignoring of its many critics. This is not to say that all academies and all academy leaders are villains - clearly not. But if you trumpet that academies offer new freedoms from previous safeguards (or, rather, "red tape") and autonomy, some crooks and charlatans will see plenty of opportunities to rip off the taxpayer. It would be naive, wouldn't it, to assume that everyone attracted to setting up an education empire funded by the state would be motivated by the purest ethics rather than personal gain?
There has been a steady stream of horror stories especially in MATs, where standards have either not improved or fallen but chief executives continue to pay themselves ever larger salaries. Some academy leaders have been jailed for fraud. Schools Week reported today (July 10th) that "Over 90% of investigations into academy finances are a result of whistleblowers"...It comes as an investigation published last week found the Rodillian Multi Academy Trust, which runs four schools in Yorkshire, broke the rules when it paid nearly £8,000 for its chief executive to stay in a four-star hotel for 78 nights, despite claims he lived within travelling distance...Whistleblowers have prompted three investigations this year, one last year, six in 2014-15, and four in 2013-14. They included tip-offs about schools falsely recording pupils who received free school meals, a chief executive buying personal items and presents for relatives on the trust's credit card, salary overpayments and safeguarding failures."
If you want to check out the truth of what I'm saying, read Schools Week for yourself. These stories almost never make the national media but they keep coming. If they were all to happen at the same time, there would, I hope, be a national outcry, but because they continue to trickle through and are not properly reported, everything seems OK and politicians continue to lie and are unchallenged about the supposed merits of the system over its predecessor.
What will it take for Adonis to face reality and admit that the academies programme is, at best, only a partial success and, at worst, as big a scandal and waste of public money as the student fees fiasco? I fear that he still believes that it's all been a massive success...
I'm prepared to wait a few more years before he finally writes about the academies programme that "It is a morality tale of opportunism and greed...and one thing leading to another, in a typically unplanned British way, on the part of successive governments."
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