Folly of EU phone subsidy

23rd March 2007 at 00:00

One of the characteristics of colleges which makes them distinct from schools is that they are places where "inclusion" is based on catering for people who want to learn. It is this which makes colleges so exciting for many teenagers who benefit from the opportunity to be treated as an adult.

No "miss", no "sir" and no uniforms.

The notion of treating potential students like adults, however, does not fit well with Pembrokeshire College's scheme - subsidised by the EU - of issuing would-be students with mobile phones to keep them on course.

The idea that lecturers should keep in touch with people in text-language to coax them into studying is one which other colleges should think twice about copying. It has all the hallmarks of the way schools all too often deal with ill-disciplined pupils - by assuming they have a "problem" which needs to be solved. Thus we enable the least deserving pupils, and the offspring of the nation's most feckless parents, to receive a disproportionate amount of attention and resources to the detriment of their hard-working classmates.

Whichever precious resources are available should be focused exclusively on meeting the needs of those who choose to learn rather than those who choose not to.

If there are people who reject FE, this should be seen as an opportunity to divert resources towards provision which is more worthwhile - like Esol for asylum-seekers.

In the meantime, we should ask ourselves why British taxpayers' money is being handed over to Europe only to be handed back, minus admin costs, on the condition it is used to buy mobile phones for teenagers.

If Europe were out of the equation, this cash could have been given to colleges directly - and spent on education for those who want it.

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