Friday, July 25, 2014

Be your own boss, British employment minister tells pupils

Middle-class children should believe that setting up their own business is every bit as good as going to university and working for a big company, the employment minister has said.

Esther McVey told The Daily Telegraph that self-employment should be given the same social status and respect as the more conventional university route into employment.

The Conservative Party should be championing those who have the “spark” to create their own businesses and become “little engines” of wealth creation in their communities, she said.

The minister, who has a law degree from Queen Mary, University of London, was discussing figures that show strong growth in employment levels, partly driven by a big rise in the number of people becoming self-employed.

Some economists have suggested that self-employed workers often earn lower salaries and end up claiming tax credits.

Miss McVey, who joined the Cabinet in the recent reshuffle, strongly defended self-employment, saying that for many people setting up their own firm is “better” than working for an employer.

Asked if middle-class parents should encourage their children to view self-employment as a viable alternative to a degree, the minister said the different routes to work should be seen as equals.

“I believe in choice. If that is your route, to go to university and get a job that way, that is fantastic. If your route is that you are practically minded and that is what presses your button and you do an apprenticeship and you get a job that way, that is fantastic.”

She added: “But if you have this seed, this idea, this creativity, you want to set up a business, then that is what you should do and we as a Conservative Party should be able to support those people.

“That is what we should be doing, liberating everyone’s potential, whether it’s a self-made individual, whether it’s someone taking the university route, whether it’s the apprenticeship route. They are all equal and good and worthwhile.”

The Coalition has introduced a New Enterprise Allowance to provide money and support to people on benefits to start their own business.

So far, 46,000 have claimed the allowance, and Miss McVey said that a significant number are aged between 18 to 24.

“To think that we are all the same and going to follow the same journey, that is wrong. We are going to support and liberate people, to give people as many opportunities to succeed as possible, without being prescriptive,” she said.

Official figures last week showed that the UK unemployment rate has fallen to 6.5 per cent and the number of people in work stands at 30.64 million, just short of an all-time record.

The same figures show that more than 4.5 million people are self-employed, the highest since records began in 1992. The number of people working for themselves rose by 404,000 over the past year.

Critics, including the Trades Union Congress, have said that many new self-employed jobs are of low quality, suggesting that people working for themselves are doing so out of necessity.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, last week questioned the value of self-employed posts, saying that such workers have “seen their earnings drop by nearly 15 per cent in the last five years”.

Miss McVey, who grew up in Merseyside as the daughter of a self-employed property developer, said: “For my family, the people I know, they set up their own businesses, they looked after their wives and children — it set them free.”

She also cited an independent survey, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, as showing that only a fifth of people who start their own companies say they do so out of necessity.

The Department for Work and Pensions said that 60 per cent of the growth in self-employment since 2010 has been in the professional and skilled managerial sectors.


UK: Middle class children to miss out as poor prioritised

Middle class parents could be denied the opportunity to send their children to the best state schools after the government created a new code designed to prioritise youngsters from the poorest backgrounds.

The proposal, which will go to consultation, would apply to children subject to the pupil premium – a subsidy system that gives schools an extra annual payment of £1,300 for each primary pupil and £935 for each secondary pupil who receives free school meals.

The money is designed to help schools with poor pupils put in greater resources.

Free schools and academies can currently discriminate in favour of children on free school meals, but other state schools, including grammar schools, must apply to the Department for Education for permission.

Rules currently do not permit them to give priority based on their parents’ financial status. The exemption would allow them to give preference to "eligible for the early years pupil premium, the pupil premium and the service premium".

It means middle class parents would face stiffer competition for places in good schools as poor children are put to the front of the queue.

The plans were first announced by Michael Gove, the former education secretary, in 2010, as a measure to undo “Britain’s stratified and segregated education system".

He said the proposal would dovetail with the pupil premium since "schools would know that the more children they managed to attract from poorer backgrounds, the more cash they would be able to have".

"Schools would go out to parents who may well have thought in the past that they have got no chance of getting in there," Mr Gove said.

Separately, the Tories’ standing on education and schools among voters is at a two-and-a-half year high in the first poll since Mr Gove was removed as education secretary.

Some 29 per cent of voters think the Tories are the best party for education and schools, their best score - and the narrowest gap with Labour - since January 2012. Labour are on 30 per cent.

It is the first poll of its kind since Michael Gove was demoted to Chief Whip in David Cameron’s reshuffle. He was replaced by Nicky Morgan, who said she would be “nice to teachers”.

There are suggestions Mr Gove lost his job because his confrontational approach to teaching unions – whom he termed the ‘enemies of promise’ – was shown by internal Conservative polling to be deeply unpopular on the doorstep.

The Tories lead on Europe, the economy, law an order, tax and immigration, while Labour is ahead on welfare, housing and the NHS, YouGov found.


UK: Trojan horse school 'ordered some pupils to act as religious police'

The concerns over the “Trojan Horse” plot revealed by an official report include claims that dozens of pupils were recruited as “religious police” to spy on fellow students and staff.

More than 150 pupils at Park View school were tasked with reporting behaviour “deemed unacceptable by conservative Muslims” and notifying the headteacher of “staff who speak out of turn”, Peter Clarke’s review was told.

The review also highlighted fears of children being subjected to “anti-Christian and anti-Israeli indoctrination” at assemblies.

A number of extremist speakers were invited to lead assemblies, including Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman, a preacher who has called on God to “destroy the enemies of Islam”. At the same school IT technicians recorded what appeared to be al-Qaeda terrorist videos on to DVDs, while pupils were told that women who refused to have sex with their husbands would be condemned “to an eternity of hell”, Mr Clarke was told.

Mr Clarke said that Park View school exhibited “many of the most concerning features” reported to his investigation. He warned that the evidence uncovered by his inquiry raises “real concerns” about the vulnerability of pupils at the schools to being radicalised in future.

Mr Clarke found that a “significant body” of testimony pointed to the “influential role” of Tahir Alam in the changes he had observed in several Birmingham schools.

Mr Alam was the chairman of governors at Park View until recently and had been a governor since the 1990s.

Among the changes were the introduction by a senior leader of 160 prefects known as “Park View Ambassadors” who, some staff claimed, were selected because they came from strictly observant Muslim families.

Mr Clarke said: “They have been described as the 'religious police’ by some staff, although this is vigorously denied by the acting principal, Monzoor Hussain. Ambassadors have been trained to deliver prepared assemblies in each classroom every day. They are also alleged to report to the headteacher the names of staff and students who exhibit behaviours which are deemed unacceptable by conservative Muslims.

“These include behaviours such as boys and girls talking to each other or touching each other; boyfriend and girlfriend relationships; staff who speak out of turn; staff who wear inappropriate dress and Muslim women staff who may not be sufficiently covered.”

Mr Clarke also highlighted a disclosure, reported by The Telegraph in March, that assemblies included a talk for year 10 and year 11 students in November 2013 by Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman, who asked God to “give victory to the Muslims in Afghanistan and Chechnya” and to “prepare us for the jihad”.

Mr Hussain claimed that the assembly was simply about exam revision, but Mr Clarke said he was told that pupils were “shocked” by its content.

“Some students wondered why he had been talking about them being oppressed in this country,” he said.

Mr Clarke said the Park View Educational Trust disputed “most, if not all” of the allegations made against it.


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