Category Archives: education

Nail in the coffin of social mobility

The government has announced that it will abolish maintenance grants for the poorest university students, and because it is such an unpopular move, it will be doing it without debate or vote in the Commons or the Lords.

At the moment if your parents are poorly paid, you can receive a small grant to help with cost of living at university. It starts at £3,387 a year for families with income of less than £25,000, tapering off to zero for families with income of £42,620. That might sound quite generous for the half a million students a year who receive it, but average student rent outside London is £4,834, so the full maintenance grant doesn’t even cover the additional cost of a student having a roof over their heads. Maintenance loans are also available, for £5,740 a year, but even a full grant and loan doesn’t cover the costs of accommodation, books, travel and food. That means that university is already unaffordable for anyone without parents on a reasonable income. and those kids who do go have to get part time jobs, which prevents them from studying as much, resulting in significant drop out rates.

Now the government is proposing to do away with the maintenance grant, making it completely impossible for anyone from a poor background to go to university. Mwhahaha. Not only are they ditching the grants though, they are doing it through a legislation committee – a device that passes small changes without requiring debate by MPs. This is not the first time that the government has sought to hurt people through secondary legislation that bypasses the democratic process. They did the same with cuts to benefits, attempting to prevent debate in the Lords. It looks like a superbly evil trend that will allow the government to get away with all manner of mischief.

Social Mobility

Whether the government really needs to stop the poor going to university is debatable. Social mobility is already worse in the UK than in any other developed country, and it has got worse since the 70s. The gap between the rich and the poor has widened, and the proportion of those in the bottom 5th of income compared to those in the top 5th of income whose children go to university has decreased from 1 in 4 to 1 in 5. And the latest moves from the Tories will ensure the poor are kept in their place. Mwhahaha.

Autumn statement has numerous hidden evils

When George Osborne stood up in front of parliament to give his budget speech, he only spoke about the good things he did (or rather the bad things that he had threatened to do but then changed his mind in the face of overwhelming public objection). For some reason, he didn’t mention all of the evil things that he is doing in parliament – instead he published those in an 154 page document. Here’s some highlights of the evil buried deep in the document;

When students took out their loans, they signed up to a set of terms and conditions which described how much they would pay back and when they would pay it back. The amount they would pay back in any year depends on how much they earn above a certain threshold in that year, and that threshold increases with inflation. Except the government announced yesterday that they are changing the terms and conditions for people who already have taken out the loans to freeze that threshold rather than increase it with inflation – resulting in students having to pay significantly more of their wages in student loan repayments. If a commercial company changed loan conditions retrospectively, the FSA would stop them, but the government can do what it likes. Mwhahaha.

Whiplash injuries are thought to be a source of fraudulent insurance claims. Someone takes out their brake light bulbs, then slams on the brakes, and then claims for pain and suffering from whiplash injuries when the car behind hits them. This is thought to cost the average motorist £50 a year. In an effort to stop such fraudulent claims, the government is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. They are banning all claims for general damages (e.g. compensation for pain and suffering) in soft tissue injuries, and they are forcing anyone claiming under £5000 for an injury to do so in the small claims court – where they can’t recover any legal costs. So to stop fraudsters, innocent people are going to be out of pocket and under compensated.

Despite the high profile u-turn on withdrawing tax credits, a number of other changes are going on anyway. First of all, the tax credits are being withdrawn anyway, with people being switched over to universal credit, which will leave people £1600 a year worse off. Plus the chancellor will still cap child tax credit at two children, hurting families with more children.

At the moment student nurses get means tested bursaries to help them through their training. Nurse and midwife training takes 3 years, and typically has them working a 37.5 hour week during their training period, spending time working on wards in addition to lectures. So there’s little free time for a part time job on the side. But they can at least walk in to a job paying £21,692 a year at the end of it. However, thanks to changes in the autumn statement, nurses will be forced to pay for their training, so now they will start work with £50,000 in debt to pay off too.

Government to charge students more than they signed up for

Students. A bunch of loony lefties. Fortunately Cameron and Clegg made sure that they are now paying more to go to university than anyone since 1890. It’s a regressive system that discourages the poorest students from studying, thus keeping a lid on social mobility. Some disadvantaged kids were still trying to get an education though, so the Tories are proposing plans to punish any of them who tried in the past, and make sure future kids know not to get ideas above their station.

At the moment, kids don’t pay up front to go to university. They get a government backed loan for university fees. Interest rates are dependent on earnings, but are typically about 3% above inflation. But the interest rate isn’t totally relevant, because you pay 9% on everything you earn above £21k in today’s money for 30 years. It’s like a 9% extra tax for graduates. And the graduates have to earn a lot of money to ever pay back their loan – they need to earn a starting salary of £45k to pay it back before the 30 years is up. Anything less than that and you are effectively paying 9% extra tax for 30 years.

That might sound like a big penalty to pay, but graduates should typically earn more, and at least the students know what they are getting themselves in to – right? Well, as it happens the Government are planning on retrospectively changing the rules to make them pay even more. In fact a lot more in the case of the lower earners. To understand how you need to know how things work today. At the moment, the students are signed up to pay 9% of all earnings above £21k in today’s prices, increasing with inflation. That £21k is a bit like a tax allowance for student loans. With your income tax allowance, everyone gets £10,600 tax free, then pays income tax on any money earned above that. With the student tax allowance, everyone gets £21,000 tax free, and pays student loan tax of 9% on any money earned above that (pre-income tax). The income tax allowance goes up every year because of inflation – it was £10,000 in 2014, and £9,440 in 2013 for example. The £21k student loan tax allowance was also committed to go up with inflation, so that you continue to have a fair tax allowance. However, the government are proposing to change that. And not just for future students – they are proposing to make the change for people who have loans already too. The change that they are proposing is to freeze the £21k tax allowance for ever.

What does that mean in reality? If inflation was 3% a year, a salary of £25k in 2015 would be equivalent to £60k in 2045 if you just got inflationary pay rises. The 2015 tax allowance of £21k would be equivalent to a 2045 tax allowance of £51k. In 2015 you would repay 9% of £25k-£21k, which is £360, and in 2045 you would pay 9% of £60k-£51k, which is £810. However, under the new scheme you would pay 9% of £60k-£21k, or £3500. That’s the same as paying 39% interest under the current terms and conditions. Mwhahaha. And the less you earn, the higher the impact is too – nicely hurting the poor instead of the rich. In fact, if you end up on a job paying £21k or less, your percentage increase compared to the current scheme is infinite (maths graduates will be able to show that that is true – but they probably won’t be earning £21k).

Of course if a payday lender tried to change the terms and conditions of a loan after someone had taken the loan out, there would be uproar and court cases, and the ombudsman would get involved to stop it. But the government isn’t subject to an ombudsman, and can do what ever it likes to students.

Any school can be given away to an academy chain

David Cameron has confirmed that every school will be able to be an academy. He wants to give away our schools and valuable public land to private companies. And why? Because he can. Mwhahaha

What’s evil about this? Well, head teachers of academy chains have claimed that they have less freedom than heads of council run schools;

And even the Department for Education says that academies are under performing council run schools, with only 3 out of the 20 academy chains reaching the national average for added value (added value measures how much improvement the school makes – any school can do well with a good intake, so added value is the measure of good teaching).

So why is David Cameron ignoring the evidence and pushing for academy schools? Is it because it creates the illusion of doing something? Is it because, as distinguished author Michael Rosen notes, it allows the government to give valuable assets to their friends? Lets hope the public never find out. Mwhahaha.