Monday 29 June 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , , , , , ,
Posted by Jake on Monday, June 29, 2015 with 2 comments | Labels: , , , , , ,

For years the government has struggled with both Grade Inflation (us) and Grade Deflation (them).

In schools grades were inflating too much. Exam boards were allegedly in a "race to the bottom", competing for schools to sign up with them in return for easier marking and higher grades.

The government implemented multifarious education changes to tighten and toughen the curriculum, all slapped with the lipstick of changing the way GCSEs are graded. Instead of A*; A; B; C; D; E; F; G, grades awarded from 2017 (i.e. for courses started in 2015) will be 9;8;7;6;5;4;3;2;1. This provides 9 numeric categories, instead of the 8 alphabetic grades. 

The consequence being to make almost everyone feel a bit worse: a 9 will provoke scarcely more celebration than an A*; an 8 demotes the child from the elite; while a 1 will reinforce a child’s position in the de-elite even more poignantly than a G.  

On the other hand, the government's own grades on policy results were deflating, particularly to ministerial egos. 

For example Iain Duncan Smith's homework has produced some very worrying marks, (e.g. foodbank usage up; job centre sanctions up (artificially?)). Following a Freedom of Information Request Duncan Smith was hoping to lose his report-card on the number of people who died soon after having disability benefits withheld:

IDS's claim that he didn't have it (his dog ate it?) was scotched by his own staff. The Information Commissioner's report reveals
"The DWP [Department for Works and Pensions] responded on 12 August 2014. It stated that it held requested information however as it intended to publish this information it was exempt from disclosure under section 22 of the FOIA. It also stated that it did not have a definite publication date at the time."

On 30th April 2015 The Information Commissioner dismissed the DWP's excuses, ordering that the DWP must produce the information:

IDS appealed against this decision, kicking off a remarkably successful public petition: "Publish the statistics showing how many people have died after their benefits were stopped". 

Another method the Government has used to deal with “Grade Deflation” is based closely on its GCSE grading reform referred to above. Except while the grade boundaries for students have been raised, the grade boundaries for government have been lowered:

Child Poverty: The Tories plan to reduce Child Poverty not by making poor children better off, but by changing the definition of child poverty. Cameron said in June 2015:
"Just take the historic approach to tackling child poverty. Today, because of the way it is measured, we are in the absurd situation where if we increase the state pension, child poverty actually goes up."
The widely accepted definition of Poverty is households with income below 60% of the median (average) income. This attempts to link the economic condition of the poor with that of the rest of the nation.

The Tories would rather cook up a measure that allows half the country (upto the median) to get richer leaving the others behind without raising the poverty-rate-nouveau.

Fuel Poverty: In 2013 the UK government changed the definition of 'fuel poverty'.
"The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has changed the way it defines fuel poverty - seemingly lifting two million households out of it in the process. "

The graph below shows the government's expectation of the impact on Fuel Poverty:

Disabled: The Tories changed the definition of 'disabled'. Prior to the reforms one was eligible for transport related benefits if one could not walk more than 50 metres at a time. By changing the rule to not being able to walk more than 20 metres, as if by miracle an estimated 428,000 people would be declared fit enough and lose mobility benefits.

Of course the best way to be sure of good results is to have a sympathetic marker. How long before the government decides to ditch its unsatisfactory examiners (that would be many of us voters)? Perhaps by bringing back the potwalloper voting requirement: 
"The potwalloper qualification [for voting] was a householder who was self-sustaining (they made no claim on poor relief) and who had their own hearth on which they could cook or boil (wallop) a pot."


  1. Osborne, in his 2015 Summer Budget, created a new band of the "National Minimum Wage" for those over 25 years. He names this the "National Living Wage" even though it is below the long established "Living Wage" as defined by the Living Wage Foundation.

  2. Not to mention the "Unemployment figures" which the Tories have been massaging since they were in Coalition. They have been moving people off JSA and into putative self-employment claiming Tax Credits (almost) equal to their JSA payments (until the Chancellor scraps tax credits, of course).

    Whether so many unemployed people will be able to thrive or even survive as freelancers is worth debating but it does appear that the Conservatives have successfully privatised unemployment. The Self-Unemployment (and Self-Underemployment) figures should be reported alongside the declining Unemployment statistics IDS crows so much about.


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