Friday, May 27, 2016

Free nursery places at age three 'do not boost a child's education': Findings raise questions over £2bn state spending on subsidising childcare

"Headstart" doesn't work in Britain either

Children who were given free nursery school places at the age of three gained no educational benefit, a major study said yesterday.

It found that by the age of seven there were no differences in school achievement between pupils who had previously taken up the free places and those who hadn’t.

The findings throw a major new question mark over state spending on subsidised childcare, which began on a large scale in Tony Blair’s first term and Prime Minister and which, by 2012, was running at more than £2 billion a year.

This autumn David Cameron will throw another £1 billion a year into pre-school childcare subsidies.

Under the Government’s plans, the number of hours paid for by taxpayers that three and four-year-old children will be able to spend in nurseries or with childminders will double from 15 to 30.

But Dr Jo Blanden, one of the research team from Essex and Surrey universities which prepared the report, said: ‘On the face of it, our results cast doubt over the value for money of universal early education.’

She added: ‘More than 70 per cent of the children taking up free places would probably have gone to nursery anyway, and children’s test scores do not seem to be any higher in the longer term as a result of the policy.

‘In fact the main benefit of the policy seems to have been to make childcare cheaper for families with three-year-olds.’

The report, by a team led by Dr Birgitta Rabe, said that the Blair government campaign meant that between 1999 and 2007 the proportion of three-year-olds in England who had taken up a free childcare place went up from 37 per cent to 88 per cent.

However, most of the children would have been sent to nurseries anyway, so the effect was to give parents a discount on their childcare bills.

Children who took up free places who would otherwise not have gone into childcare were six per cent better in reading scores at the age of five, the study said.

But it added: ‘Although there is modest evidence that the policy had a greater impact on poorer children and those learning English as a second language, there is no evidence that the policy helped disadvantaged children to catch up in the longer term.

‘Indeed, there is no evidence of any educational benefits of the policy at the age of seven and 11.’

The study, published in the Economic Journal of the Royal Economic Society, said that by 2014 more than 600,000 childcare places were being subsidised at an average cost of £3.77 an hour in the private sector and £3.97 an hour in the public sector.

Other independent analysts have questioned the value of childcare subsidies. In 2014 the Institute for Fiscal Studies that the free nursery place programme had largely failed in its second objective of encouraging mothers to go back to work. Only 12,000 mothers had done so as a result of free childcare places, the IFS said, and most of them were working part-time for less than 30 hours a week.

Dr Blanden said: ‘In September, children in some areas will begin to receive 30 hours of free care if their parents are in work. As before, this will save parents money. But unless high quality settings expand capacity, it may not lead to the best educational outcomes for children.’


Government is Turning College into High School

It would take a miracle for Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination at this point, let alone the presidency.  One of his main ideas though, the idea that college should be free for Americans, is not going away anytime soon.

Just like healthcare, constant government regulation and intervention is making college more and more expensive every year.  Students are taking out huge government-backed loans to pay for their education, and the costs keep going up as more easy money enters the system.  Eventually the student loan bubble will burst, and this will be the excuse the government needs to step in and “fix” things.

You don’t have to look too far to find articles and studies on why the Bernie free college plan will be an economic and financial disaster.  But the huge taxpayer liability isn’t necessarily the worst part.  The worst part is that making college free will totally decimate the quality of higher education and it will keep the poor, poor and the rich, rich.

Let’s imagine Bernie gets his wish.  To start, most Americans will be eligible for government to pay for their college education.  To paraphrase a famous P.J. O’Rourke quote about health care:  If you think college is expensive now, just wait until it’s free!  Now that government is footing the bill, why wouldn’t college’s, and the various industries that go with them (books, school supplies, housing) up their costs even more?  Sure, the college’s that would be eligible for the free money will be “public” or “non-profit,” but since when has that been an impediment to making tremendous profits?  (The NFL and the Clinton Foundation are both “non-profit” organizations!)

Once this gets out of hand, the government will have two choices:  Either completely leave the field of funding and regulating higher education (Ha!) or completely socializing it.  I think we all know what path legislators will take.

Socializing higher education, in order to keep costs down and to make it “fair” for everyone, would have to look something like our current public school system.  First, you’d only be allowed to go to your local neighborhood college for free.  The costs of you choosing your college and the government paying for housing and travel will just get too high.  Not to mention, what happens if everyone wants to go to the same colleges?  There’s only so much room at each school, so to make it “fair” you’d be forced to go to your local government college.

So if you grow up poor and in a bad neighborhood, the option of working your way up and out is gone.  Previously, you could work your way through college, get some grants and/or loans, then you’d have a shot at a better life.  Now, unless you can afford housing in a better college district, you’re stuck.  And just like now, the poorer the neighborhood you live in, the worse the education you’re going to get.  Good luck getting a high paying job with your “Detroit Public College” degree.

How far does this “right” to free college go?

What if I’m a bad student and I’m constantly failing my classes?  What if I want to come back in 10 years when I’m finally serious about my education? Is there an age limit on my “right” to a free education?  Can the government deny me my “right” to free college then?

How about graduate school?  Who pays for that?  Is it fair that only the wealthy will get to become doctors, lawyers, dentists, and other high paying professions?  And if grad school is a “right” too, shouldn’t anyone get to go regardless of their aptitude or previous grades?

What if I want to major in two subjects?  Is that allowed for free?  Or will double majors just be for the wealthy?  Again, free college is a “right” so why shouldn’t I be allowed to go to school indefinitely, constantly changing or adding majors?

These are all questions that will not be decided by you and me on an individual and voluntary basis, but they will be decided by bureaucrats and legislators.  And you’re stuck following their decisions and paying for their decisions whether you like them or not.

If you’re a free college supporter, I’m sure you’re going to argue that many countries already have free college education, so why not America?

The reason many other countries can afford free college is two fold:  First they have much lower rates of people actually going to college, which leads to the second fold:  many occupations in European countries simply don’t require a college degree like in the U.S.  Apprenticeship and on the job training is still an important part of many industries in Europe, just like it used to be in America when someone with a high school degree could have a quality standard of living, and have an opportunity to move up in life if they choose.

The fact is, the results of offering free college to all Americans regardless of grades, aptitude, or ability to actually apply such an education will result in another failed socialized industry that will stagnate and just cost more over time.  Most Americans will get stuck in a local, government college that will eventually offer little more than what high school did.  Thus is the nature of a government monopoly.  We get a worse product at a much higher cost to everyone.

The only people who will be able to escape this system will be the wealthy, of course.  Just like all socialist policies, this will make it that much harder for someone on the bottom to move up in life, and it will protect the people currently at the top.


Schools Eliminate Valedictorians — Not Inclusive

How long can the bureaucrats in education extend the idea that competition and conflict should be banished in the educational system? Somehow, the school board in Wake County North Carolina thinks reducing competition will lead to a better education for students. While the board has to vote twice on the policy change, it unanimously approved a proposal this week that would do away with the distinction of a high school graduate with the highest GPA being named valedictorian. Competition was getting unhealthy, the chair of the school board explained, and students were setting a goal of getting the highest GPA instead of taking classes that might help them in the future. Thus, the board reasoned, it was better to bolster the Latin honor system and do away with the first and second place honors.

“Competition is a reality of life, whether these hippies like it or not,” writes Katherine Timpf at National Review. “The kid with the top GPA is still going to have the top GPA, no matter what you call (or don’t call) him or her for having it. Class ranking is a competition, and the kid at the top is the winner. Can we cut the crap? Sure, maybe that kid was motivated to win by the force of competition and not by holding hands with fellow classmates and singing ‘Kumbaya.’ But you know what? That’s the way the real world works, and it’s time for more people to start living there.” After all, the safe spaces go away after college and an education that hasn’t prepared students for competition and conflict has not educated them at all.


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