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‘Cobra’ policy stings small maintained schools

Jonathan Simons writes weekly about policy and education

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In the mid-19th century in colonial India, the Raj realised it had a problem with cobras. To deal with it, a payment was offered for every snake that was killed. Some of the savvier locals quickly realised that they could breed cobras especially for this purpose. But the British heard about this and abruptly ended the programme. The disappointed snake hunters released all their now-worthless cobras into the wild – thus exacerbating the problem.

Public policy is rife with unintended consequences and the more complex an ecosystem, the more likely these are to exist.

Last year, the government ...

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