Many hitherto Tory voters like myself will be dismayed at the Prime Minister's apparent obsession to force all schools into grant-maintained status (TES, September 15). Since it came to power this Government has sold off the greater part of our national assets in an attempt to cope with our balance of payments problems, and few of my colleagues in the public or private sectors seems to be persuaded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer's assurance that all will soon be well when he delivers his periodic Shakespearian performances on BBC Radio 4 or elsewhere.
The harsh truth is that the Western world will find it increasingly difficult to cope with overseas competition, particularly from the East; full employment is unlikely to be achieved for many years, if ever, and the amount of money available to finance the needs of our society will not increase, but almost certainly decrease in real terms. Our plight is already evident, not just in education cuts, but in health and social services where increasingly the clients have to meet all or part of the cost. According to a recent Which? report one person in nine has private health insurance and we are now informed that those who have assets will have to cash these in to pay for their long-term care even though they thought that deductions from their salaries were insuring against this.
Looking to the future several consequences will arise if all schools are forced to become grant-maintained in the face of an inevitably decreasing budget:
* Grants paid to schools will increasingly not meet the costs involved.
* National pay agreements for teachers and support staff will be replaced by local bargaining arrangements.
* Fees will have to be introduced to meet the shortfall.
* Schools in socially disadvantaged areas will find it impossible to deliver the standards achieved in the more affluent areas regardless of pupil ability.
How can the Government expect to attract suitable governors to oversee such a system? If schools are allowed to borrow money, how will they pay the interest on the loans? Presumably by allocating loss to the education of their pupils. Will governors be legally liable if the schools are bankrupt? Many governors would already be concerned if they really understood their legal responsibilities.
No, Mr Major, this is not a policy for winning the next election! What we need urgently is a frank and honest analysis and debate about our economic future, to identify our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) so that we can confront our problems and plan our future more openly and realistically, even if this were to show that we should privatise all our schools. Faced with the facts it would then be for the electorate to decide the preferred option.
I P S PIPER