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What do they mean...Co-payment

This isn't in common use yet, but this column's hot tip is that it soon will be. In finance they have emerging markets; in education, we have emerging jargon. Co-payment is the kind of pleasant phrase which replaces, or disguises, an old and nasty one.

Co-payment means charge, as in top-up fees. One day, sooner than you think, it might also mean "means-tested contribution" from parents. But while charge sounds aggressive, payment has a more friendly, almost voluntary ring to it. The Government is therefore poised to carry out a global search and replace, so that none of us will ever be charged for anything, ever again.

As these processes are a little heavy-handed, we may have to teach our young co-payments about Tennyson's Co-payment of the Light Brigade, but this is a small price to pay (a phrase currently under review) for the happy new world of reasonable mandatory contributions which opens up before us.

We at St Jude's are very keen on this idea, and are already looking at ways of refining it. Instead of co-payment being based on parents' means, it would be tied to the costs incurred by their children. Broadly speaking, this would mean that the faster they learnt and the less they wrecked in the process, the lower the co-payment would be.

As a further incentive, all co-payments would be displayed on a large board in front of the school. For a hefty additional co-payment, those with embarrassingly large co-payments on display would have them favourably re-adjusted to accord neatly with current government accounting procedures.

For those with exceptionally ghastly little darlings who would clearly be unable to co-pay the exorbitant amounts required, we would introduce co-payment in kind: they could build the board and put themselves at the bottom of it.

Unfortunately, in the highly co-paid atmosphere generated by these entirely reasonable arrangements there may be those driven to perform desperate acts. They will of course be reported to the police, who will provide them with their very own co-payment sheets.

Tim Homfray

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