UK Politics

The Normal Johnson Column

The more I read about the background of Education Secretary Alan Johnson the more I am inclined to lend him my support in becoming deputy leader of the Labour party.

In a speech to the Sector Skills Development Agency today (during which he revealed that Nine out of 10 respondents to a PhoneBus survey backed the idea) Johnson made the case for raising the school leaving age to 18 by the year 2013. ( More here)

“There’s a spiral of despair for a significant minority which starts with disinterest at school, turns to disillusionment with society, and ends up presenting huge problems for society” Johnson claimed.

“The evidence suggest that the younger a person leaves school, the more likely he or she will be to use drugs, become engaged in prostitution or commit crime; finally winding up in prison, unemployed or homeless – often all three.”

There seems a strong case for this move, but the keywords above are “starts with disinterest in school.” Somebody who is disinterested at the age of 14 is unlikely to be any less so at 18 unless something is also done about the learning atmosphere during the years already covered by compulsory education (a subject we have discussed here before. )

Having already “outed” myself as somebody who to all extents and purposes rejected school as a “holding-pen” at the age of 14, I have my reservations about the new proposals. I have recently for the first-time however, begun working a half-day a week in a (Catholic) school (at the invitation of the headmaster.) And have been rather impressed by what I have found (although this is so recent that I don’t really feel ready to write about it yet.).

Anyway, tell us what you think about raising the school leaving age.

On Johnson himself the best recommendation I can find comes from his sister in the article linked to above:

“He’s just the same as he ever was. He’s passionate about the underdog, and he knows the hardships you go through in a single-parent family. Neither of us wanted our own children to go through that kind of poverty, and as a politician you wouldn’t want anyone else’s children to either.”

More politicians like this if you please….