Why not get G4S to run the fire services?

Hospitals and fire services will be run “outside the public sector” as the Conservatives dramatically shrink the state and cut costs, a senior minister has disclosed.

After all, a company that was part of that group does run the fire services in Denmark and has done for most of the past century.

83 thoughts on “Why not get G4S to run the fire services?”

  1. G4S is making an almighty mess of the courts process wherever it pops up. I have no idea if this is relevant to the fire brigade.

  2. So Much for Subtlety

    It is about jobs for the Left’s friends, not profits for the sort of people who vote Tory.

    Competence is neither here nor there when it is about adverts in the Guardian for one-legged trans-gender Afro-Welsh fire fighters.

  3. Well, could it be something in the MO? Outsourcing company comes along, says “we can do it for half the price!”, gets contract. Purchaser fires all their staff to replace with the outsourcer, and suddenly, gosh whodathunkit, the outsourcer totally unexpectedly discovers they can’t provide the service for less than twice the initial price. I mean, who ever saw _that_ coming?

    Maybe the Danish government is less of a sucker than the British government. Indeed, you don’t need to know much about Denmark to surmise that might be the case.

  4. The Danes are sensible people. But how could the British get this simple task wrong. Well let’s see how we can screw it up. Hire 3 hot consulting firms to restructure the service into 29 companies, separate polishing engines from polishing brass nozzles, that sort of thing. Then the senior officers could form their own private company to run strategy, funding and policy – all very secret and cosy. Of course commercial confidentiality must be built in and no company may talk directly to another, new computer systems for nozzle polishing invoices etc etc. Then will it cost less? Almost certainly not. Having used the fire service I can confirm that gradgrindian efficiency is not at the front of one’s mind when calling 999. Yes, the British can and will screw this up.

  5. “Why not get G4S to run the fire services?”

    Because “it’s not broken”?

    And in any case why would one recommend G4S for the job?

  6. Why not? Because they are a crock of shite, who look only to profit from increasingly-revolving doors at HM Gov – whilst somebody else has to pick up the pieces. Same goes for Serco, who screwed up on the provision of NHS OOH cover.

    Ideological masturbator Maude makes my skin crawl – the creepy fecker wouldn’t last five minutes on the frontline of the very jobs he would so happily out-source.

  7. I think it’s worth remembering the obvious at this point, which is that companies competing for government contracts are not a free market, like companies competing for customers. It’s a state market, or some such term.

  8. What rogerh said.

    Bloke in Wales – Ah, Strathclyde Fire & Rescue.

    They seem to be in thrall to some of the most loony-left trade unions reps in the country. Apparently they see it as their job to loudly hector people about supporting “refugees” as well.

    A Christian fireman disciplined for refusing to hand out leaflets at a gay pride march

    Why were they asking him to attend a gay pride march? Do they think we think that gay people don’t know about fire?

    Course not. This wasn’t about public safety, it was about being politically correct and being seen to support gay rights.

    I have no problem with firemen wanting to support gay rights, but they can do that in their own time. There is no realistic public safety argument to be made that chaps in PVC slave costumes or body glitter and angel wings are more in need of fire safety leaflets than any other public gathering.

    They don’t, after all, send people out to leaflet Orange Walks. And there are a lot more of them in Glasgow than there are gay pride marches. Also, those sashes and bowler hats are probably more of a fire hazard. At least the gay guys work out and don’t look as if they fry a lot of chips at home – they’d be faster at escaping the scene of a fire.

    One of the men, a watch manager, was demoted, costing him an estimated £5,000 in salary. The others received written warnings and were ordered to undergo “diversity training”.

    Diversity training, eh? Confirms what this was all all about.

    Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, condemned the agreement, saying: “The Strathclyde fire service should have seen this through.

    “The case would have set an important precedent – that public service workers cannot pick and choose which section of the public they will and won’t serve.

    “Although no life was threatened because this man refused to hand out safety leaflets, what if he, or his colleagues, now decide that they don’t want to deal with homosexuals at all?

    “Who is to tell them they can’t now?”

    Yes, Terry. They’re evil homophobes who will no doubt now be emboldened to make sure there are no Erasure albums in a burning house before they extinguish the conflagration.

  9. lost_nurse – Ideological masturbator Maude makes my skin crawl

    Better we have a stylish masturbator in charge, like Andy Burnham.

  10. I’m in agreement with previous commenters. The principle of outsourcing stuff like the fire service is sound, but the ability of a British government (of any hue) to fuck it up completely is guaranteed.

  11. Better we have a stylish masturbator

    All of ’em cheeks of the same arse, etc.

    None of which excuses predictable fcuk-ups involving G4S, Serco, etc – or this blog’s enthusiasm for them.

  12. If I recall correctly, Group Four had got themselves a bit of a reputation for cocking things up; and Securicor had a reputation for… well actually, they didn’t, I think that was the point?

    Two companies keen to “look forwards”.

    The result: G4S…

  13. “And there’s another very good reason for privatising everything: it really winds up the lefty twats.”

    Actually. I’m beginning to see the merits of this idea…

  14. what if he, or his colleagues, now decide that they don’t want to deal with homosexuals at all?

    Like, not putting out fires in gay peoples’ houses, businesses etc? Might that not be in breach of the general “being a fireman” type contract? Is there not some discernible difference between “providing firefighting services to gay people” and “doing other gay related things like attending marches”?

    This appears to be the same as saying that an atheist fireman who doesn’t want to attend church is not going to attend a church which is in flames or something. I really do think these are qualitatively different scenarios.

  15. Is this the same G4S that had to be baled out by the Army because they didn’t know which week the Olympics started, or something?

    I think we should be told.

  16. Privatisation is a crock of shite. Switching from state to corporate socialism adds nothing and disrupts what few areas the “public sector” have managed to cope with.(That is cope–not provide a good service).

    The states agents are numptys. Even assuming they are not directly corrupt, they are useless. They are the “simple shoppers” as the late “Burning Our Money” blog correctly called them. They will award the contracts to those who put in the lowest bid. The “companies” who do that then have low profit margins and a direct incentive to do as little as possible to save money. Add to that the fact that many of them will be out of their depth in terms of scale, have no idea of possible problems and even how to do what they have promised they can do. The market benefits thro’ the failure of the inept–but that is not much good if a former state monopoly has been handed over to a bunch of useless twats who then drop the ball –straight on the taxpayers nuts.
    The morons at HMRC outsourced their wages dept some years ago. So bad was the service and so many the complaints about no or wrong payments that they had to take the work back again in about a year.
    State activities must be gradually phased out and full and free competition introduced back into every area orig seized by said state. That is and needs to be a long term process to ensure a smooth transition.

    This, like Ozztwerp’s supposed super-cuts is just another BluLab scam to –as John Miller says above–to try and hit at UKIP. It is a non-starter from a bunch of liars.

  17. In essence there should not be much difference between a properly run service either in public or private hands – then you remove consequences for being a screw up or wanton profligacy and shazzam!! – neither public nor private performs or gives value for money.

    The blithering cronies of the Sir Humphries (Serco, Capita G4S and the menagerie of accountants and “consultants”) are simply playing a shell game – the rules of which are now pretty much set by that bastion of probity and efficient delivery of public services The EU bureaucracy.

    Ensuring the people in control of a situation will be damaged by their mistakes can lead to better behavior than ensuring that they’ll be protected as in the case of crony corporates and the present corrupt public sector

    What to do? – I think the fear of P45 should be far more prevalent in publicly funded services….

    Consequences for non performance are missing – everyone’s careful not to incite a revolution if they know they’ll be the first up against the wall.

  18. The general problem, following on from Ecks, is that the Tories believe something that we might call Stupid Capitalism. Stupid Capitalism believers believe that something is automatically bad if it is owned by the public sector, and automatically good (or better) if it is owned by the private sector.

    But the ownership is basically irrelevant. What matters is whether it is subject to market forces, in particular, whether the individuals running the organisation will personally suffer if they do a bad job. This is generally the case in the true private sector, since their company will fail and they will lose income, etc. It is generally not (or less) true in the public sector. But simply transferring ownership from public to private, without subjecting the new private owners to direct market forces, as we see over and over again by the Stupid Capitalists of the Tory Party, does not impose the essential sanction of customers ruining the individuals running/owning the company.

    What it primarily achieves is to give Proper Capitalism a bad name, and in dark moments the cynic inside me wonders whether this is really why the Tories do it, since they are mostly statists. It’s hard to believe they’re all just stupid, however tempting that interpretation.

  19. How about introducing markets & competition into the state providers? Each town gets to pick which fire service provider they’d like to use. Assets would be transferred to the chosen provider and workers would be TUPE’d across. We’d gain market efficiency without losing public-sector ownership. Both Left and Right could appreciate it.

  20. @IanB

    Maybe this is the point – privatise ruthlessly and wholly that which, if it fails, doesn’t result in people burning to death.

    If there’s a serious issue at the end of a fuck up, keep in in the State (though chop their wages and stop their sickies).

    @Steve

    I love the idea of Andy Burnham in charge of the fire brigade.

  21. I agree with everyone above who’s said that the British state can be guaranteed to fuck up any service they attempt to outsource. However, I reject the implication that they are not already fucking them up without outsourcing.

    I have long been saying that one of the biggest problems facing this country is our Lords & Masters’ inability to comprehend the difference between privatising an industry and outsourcing a monopoly.

    > What it primarily achieves is to give Proper Capitalism a bad name, and in dark moments the cynic inside me wonders whether this is really why the Tories do it, since they are mostly statists.

    Ha! If only the Tories were capable of playing a game that long.

  22. Lost_Nurse

    As of yet G4S hasn’t left our grandparents to die of thirst as you NHS heroes did at Mid Staffs under Andy Burnham’s control.
    G4S may be a “crock of shite”; you are not fit to say so though.

  23. Interested – “I love the idea of Andy Burnham in charge of the fire brigade.”

    🙂

    Rather him than Simon Burns.

  24. Ian B,
    You’d do it the same way your local council currently selects a bin collection company. Most voters don’t want to actively vote for SITA or Biffa or Veolia to empty their bins; the decision is left to the local council. The same could be achieved with the fire service: with the added twist that the fire services would remain in public ownership.

  25. Andrew M,

    That isn’t a market, it’s just shifting national democracy to local democracy. Which may or may not be a good thing, but isn’t the same thing as “markets and competition”.

  26. There’s definitely a market for bin-collection services. How is that different from a potential market for fire-extinguishing services?

  27. Interested – “I love the idea of Andy Burnham in charge of the fire brigade.”

    The bill for fucking eye makeup alone would bankrupt us.

    Andrew M–That is system we have now. It has sod all to do with a free market. Local gangsters get to pick which acolyte gets the job. Corporate socialism. On the basis you propose why shouldn’t the council hacks choose what car you drive or anything else?.

  28. > You’d do it the same way your local council currently selects a bin collection company.

    What, the same way as a universally unpopular service that has generated not only untold complaints but also bloody prosecutions against those who don’t toe the line? Yeah, great idea.

    The bin service is the perfect place for true market privatisation to start. No, don’t ask the electorate to vote on which one firm should have a monopoly. Simply allow more than one firm to do it. By all means have limits and enforced timetables due to limited road space etc — a maximum number of firms in a town, schedules to ensure you never get two lorries in the same street at the same time, whatever. But let me, if my binmen are shite (and they are), sack them and try a different firm instead.

    They could charge for extras. A surcharge to empty the bin every week instead of every fortnight. A discount if I take all the recycling to the dump myself. An offer to actually collect the bloody bins rather than insisting my wife wheel them out to the main road. And the certainty that attempting to prosecute me because my bin’s lid was slightly open will lead to a loss of revenue.

    It’s hard to think of an area of nationalised everyday life in Britain more ripe for a proper market.

  29. I didn’t say the bin collections were perfect – but presumably better than the pre-privatised version. Same goes for the fire service.

    Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  30. > There’s definitely a market for bin-collection services. How is that different from a potential market for fire-extinguishing services?

    If my rubbish is collected twenty minutes late, no-one dies.

    Not suggesting that a private service would be more likely to be late, but that the only criterion that mattered when choosing the service would be how close their depot is to your house — in which case, you still have an effective monopoly.

  31. S2, I already addressed that by pointing out you could transfer the assets to the new company. This is no different to transferring the train leases when a new train operator takes over.

    We’ve no shortage of public/private operating models in this country, whether its trains, buses, hospitals, or bins. Just pick the most appropriate one for the fire service. If the Danes can do it, then it’s a fucking embarrassment that we can’t.

  32. > I didn’t say the bin collections were perfect – but presumably better than the pre-privatised version.

    No, they’re worse. The nationalised bin service used to collect your bins every week and empty them and not take you to court. Amazing.

  33. Indeed. Back in the bad old days, you just put your rubbish in a bin and it vanished once a week. Seems like a kind of golden utopian age compared to now.

  34. > I already addressed that by pointing out you could transfer the assets to the new company.

    No, you didn’t, as I was talking about allowing more than one company to operate at once so that they may compete. You’re talking about licensed monopolies.

    What’s the point of privatisation without competition? In fact, sod the privatisation. We’ve got French state-run train services taking over some of our trains now. Good. I don’t care if they’re private; I care whether they’re subject to competition.

  35. T’bins were a man’s job in’t those days. They walked up your path, shouldered a hundredweight of cold ash and carried it out to the van and brought it back. They also wore their own clothes not dressed like robo-wankers in sickly fluorescent electro-parrot green/yellow.

  36. > What’s the point of privatisation without competition?

    There is competition: there are multiple buyers (local authorities) and multiple sellers (the service companies). Somehow you don’t think it’s a competitive market because the buyers aren’t individuals? Or it’s not competitive because local councils are corrupt?

    As per my first comment, I’m adding the twist that the sellers can be state-owned rather than privately-owned. So I’m not even proposing privitisation.

  37. It’s not because they’re corrupt. It’s because they’re the Council, Andrew. Whcih means that instead of you saying, “these bin collectors are rubbish, I’ll try switching to this other company”, you say, “these bin collectors are rubbish, and unless I can manage to vote for a different councillor, and enough people all over the town do, who will agree to change bin collector contractors, I’m stuffed”.

    Here’s the thing. It might be that one company give a great service for one type of customer (big families with lots of rubbish) and another gives a great service to another type (old lady who only throws small amounts away). But you’re forced to make a collective decision “for the town”.

    Imagine choosing, for instance, one ISP for the whole town, and you’ll see the problem. People have different subjective desires of a service, as individuals.

  38. G4S may be a “crock of shite”; you are not fit to say so though.

    My point was about the specious bollox spouted by the fat-jowled fcukfaces who form our incumbent political class, who neither grasp (nor care) what it means to hold the line. And their apologists, viz – re G4S – this blog.

    It was no specific comment upon any particular healthcare system, beyond the fact that Serco couldn’t organise a piss-up in a meths factory. But whilst we’re at it (and I write this in the aftermath of an incredibly busy nightshift, during which all admitted patients were given due care), let me say this: you can foxtrot oscar at the high port, sunshine – you know nothing of me, or my work record. I’d also suggest that you read the Francis Report, in full.

    “Ironman” – what an apt name for an internet blowhard.

  39. That’s a valid point, Ian. In some cities in America it’s up to individuals to procure rubbish collection services, just as businesses do in the UK. So there is scope for making bin collections more market-oriented.

    I’m not sure that works for the fire service though. Fire spreads, so if you and your neighbour are insured through different companies, does your insurer leave your neighbour’s house to burn? And surely having some degree of competitive pressure is better than none at all?

  40. > Somehow you don’t think it’s a competitive market because the buyers aren’t individuals? Or it’s not competitive because local councils are corrupt?

    I don’t think it’s a competitive market because I’ve observed it.

    > these bin collectors are rubbish, and unless I can manage to vote for a different councillor, and enough people all over the town do, who will agree to change bin collector contractors, I’m stuffed

    There’s also a huge difference between the criteria of an individual and the council. If a rubbish-collection service say “And rest assured that we will crack down even harder on the criminals who put milk cartons in their bins,” the council view that as a selling point. “Yay! They’ll help us with policing!”

  41. Lost_nurse – “My point was about the specious bollox spouted by the fat-jowled fcukfaces ”

    I may not agree with what you say, but I heartily approve of the way you say it.

    Fuck! Shit! Bugger!

    Gyles Cuntywanking Brandreth!

  42. > I’m not sure that works for the fire service though.

    As I said above, it definitely doesn’t. The choice always has to be whichever service has the most appropriate equipment the shortest distance away. There’s no way to know that in advance or to figure it out in an emergency. So there has to be a practical monopoly there anyway, so there may as well be a real one, at least for any one area.

    > surely having some degree of competitive pressure is better than none at all

    Agreed. My argument with you was never that the fire brigade can’t be privatised at all, but that comparing it to bin collections was a bloody awful comparison.

  43. I may not agree with what you say, but I heartily approve of the way you say it.

    Long may it be the discourse of the British. Amen to that.

  44. Nurse,

    > Serco couldn’t organise a piss-up in a meths factory.

    And the NHS couldn’t organise a treatment for a fucking patient. What’s your point?

    > But whilst we’re at it (and I write this in the aftermath of an incredibly busy nightshift, during which all admitted patients were given due care), let me say this: you can foxtrot oscar at the high port, sunshine – you know nothing of me, or my work record.

    Who gives a fuck? We’re discussing how best to run an entire industry here, not the records of individuals. Criticism of the NHS is often mischaracterised as a weird belief that it always fails for everyone because all its staff are always bad. Not surprisingly, that’s a pretty easy position to refute. But no-one on the planet actually holds it.

    I know for a fact that the Ulster Hospital contains some excellent staff, who gave my wife world-class treatment. It also contains feckless fuckwits who damn near killed her. The main thing the NHS lacks is an effective mechanism for distinguishing between the two and sacking the latter. The goodness of the former doesn’t negate that.

  45. The goodness of the former doesn’t negate that.

    Despite applying the MidStaffs paintbrush, I bet Ironman doesn’t even have a fcuking clue about the wards involved. Perhaps he could give a breakdown by clinical specialism, stop-loss/agency turnover, and the prevailing culture of DoH eyes-off-the-ball management (of which the 2012 HaSC is an exponential extension)?

    an effective mechanism for distinguishing between the two and sacking the latter.

    Market platitudes mean very little in acute care, much in the way that – quote – “there’s no way to know that in advance or to figure it out in an emergency.” In the context of which, what – on past form – do G4S bring to the table. Lay out their wares.

    In your own time, go.

  46. Fat-jowled fuck faces; I see you’ve been applying your delightful bedside manner again. Lucky patients on your night shift

    When you acknowledge the appalling catastrophe that those poor patients at Mid – Staffs suffered, then I will consider you worth listening to. When you acknowledge the failings of the NHS (no, not ‘Tories and cash) and show some signs that you believe there is need for reform, then I will listen to you. Whilst you remain in denial, however, and bounce on here to defend your religion, then you are not worth it.

  47. there is need for reform

    Ironman, I’ve worked in hospitals/on wards like that – 2 RNs and 2 HCAs on a nightshift trying to look after 24 elderly patients with mutliple/complex needs. Don’t lecture me on the need for change, or the reality. Elderly care is understaffed & under-resourced – and the nursing/care-home sector doesn’t offer much in the evidential gains. Fcuk knows – we need some kind of cultural shift. It’s desperate.

    The point being: G4S (as per Tim’s ‘why not?’) will not bring you that change, and the political rhetoric of twunts like Maude bears no relation to the coalface. And the current administration, in common with NuLav, is allowing the likes of G4S an ever larger slice of the provision pie. Why, FFS, does Tim cheer them on?

  48. lost_nurse

    having seen geriatric wards at first hand over a fair period of time – I have more than a little admiration for the workers there.

    That “MidStaffs paintbrush” however …. the level of delinquency and intrigue involved even on a superficial level is unequivocally actually criminal – and the subsequent antics of the perps reinforces this perception. You do yourself no service whatsoever attempting to push that one aside. The episode was shameful and the cover-up thrice so.

    To re-phrase what I said before – no amount of “competition” or “public service professionalism” has a cat in hell’s chance of providing an acceptably effective service if there are no real risks of uncomfortable consequences for non performance or worse.

    As for rubbish collection – that particular can of worms is *long overdue* for a cartel investigation

  49. bloke (not) in spain

    Just a thought…
    A refuse collection service is merely a delivery service running backwards.
    It shouldn’t be that hard, should it?

  50. Refuse collection isn’t hard, and was performed admirably by the public sector using corporation dustcarts and men who came and emptied your bins (except where Mr Ecks lives, where they brought your rubbish back again).

    What has destroyed it is, like most things over the past few decades, the taking over of it by Progressives, for whom the purpose is not to take your rubbish away, but to punish you for having any in the first place. This is known as “reform”.

  51. S2,

    “I know for a fact that the Ulster Hospital contains some excellent staff, who gave my wife world-class treatment. It also contains feckless fuckwits who damn near killed her. The main thing the NHS lacks is an effective mechanism for distinguishing between the two and sacking the latter. The goodness of the former doesn’t negate that.”

    Spot on.

    It really riles me how people characterise criticism of the system as “attacking caring nurses”. It’s the management that’s the problem, and when the top of that is a bunch of people who’ve never even run a whelk stand, the whole thing doesn’t have a hope of improvement unless it’s privatised (or you just launch money at the NHS from a trebuchet and hope a bit of it sticks).

  52. attempting to push that one aside

    Believe me, I’m not excusing either the neglectful actions of individual staff, nor the obfuscatory games played at management/departmental/ministerial level (still ongoing). Actually, IMO, there should also be a little more recognition for those who – contra headlines – went above & beyond to raise concerns & (try to) maintain patient care (esp on wards with high staff turnover/agency use). Now, we can argue the toss about nurses sat gossiping at the desk (or are they checking blood results?)… but it will ALWAYS come down to adequate (or not) staffing levels. It’s not somehow separate from a “good” ward culture (i.e. one that enables proper care & max productivity per x number of staff), it’s intrinsic to it.

    MidStaffs is an object lesson in how the pressure to achieve savings screwed patient safety – and it’s pointless to invoke what happened without 1.) contextual understanding of the ward-level meltdowns, and 2.) asking why/whether recommendations (esp re RN staffing) from the Francis Report are actually being implemented. Otherwise it’s just another anecdotal circle. Yes, neglectful individuals should suffer the professional consequences – but I’d be equally concerned about retaining decent staff. Poor patient care follows from poor morale as sure as night follows day. That’s not pushing the issue aside – I have plenty of bleak experience in the matter.

    Meanwhile… winter is fast approaching, and many hospitals are at severe risk of more “MidStaffs” – and the current reforms are not helping… indeed, they have actually made things much worse, as many suggested they would. Ditto other areas of [frontline] public sector (join the dots between A&E, social care & delayed-discharges…). Again, what do G4S & co bring to the party?

  53. Before we move on I should just say how fabulous some of the people who treated my father’s terminal cancer were earlier this year; really helped us through the process. I should also point out how unprofessional a small but noticeable minority were.

  54. Lost_Nurse

    And the request for your thoughts on reform were met with. ..bleating about resources. Exactly as I expected; you are not worth listening to.

  55. And the request for your thoughts on reform were met with. ..bleating about resources.

    Yes, straight-up, elderly care will need more resources – however you organise it. Deal with this simple fact.

  56. And so to the crucial point about health provision. Listen to nurses representatives talking with disgust about the profit motive and you would think they were all working for free. You would think Lost_Nurse had done the night shift for free. In fact of course they are all providing their services for a fee – just like the rest of us. Some of them do a fabulous job – just like the rest of us. Sometimes they don’t think they’re given enough money for what they do and take industrial action to try to get more money; legitimate maybe but hardly charitable.
    Some of them a very well paid; let’s call one such person Mrs Murphy. And let’s say Mrs Murphy is excellent. If asked should we pay her that much we would most of us say “Certainly, she’s worth every penny”. Lost _Nurse would definitely agree with that. It means Mrs Murphy’s fee is a fair exchange of money for services rendered. However, suggest that Mrs Murphy’s services should be offered through a private company, that investors might risk their capital in offering that service and so be entitled to a reward just as Mrs Murphy is and Lost_Nurse will go mental.
    Well this objection actually has nothing to do with health provision. It has nothing to do with the principle of health care being provided regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. It is pure.anti-capital socialist dogma dressed up as caring for the sick. It is itself sick because it is dishonest.

  57. PS I am not impressed by boasts that you treated your patients well on the night shift. That’s just your job and you got paid for it

  58. Ian B – What has destroyed it is, like most things over the past few decades, the taking over of it by Progressives, for whom the purpose is not to take your rubbish away, but to punish you for having any in the first place. This is known as “reform”.

    Same goes for the schools. I’ve been banging on about this – it’s rather depressing to realise – for two decades now. Read the past papers for O-levels from the 60’s and 70’s, then compare them with modern GCSE exam papers.

    The difference is shocking. Absolutely. Fucking. Shocking.

    Not in an old fogeyish Sir Bufton Tufton way. Not in an ironic Casablanca way. It is truly shocking to anybody who cares about the future of this country, and our teachers and headmasters and the Minister for Education should be ashamed to show their faces in public.

    I have no doubt in my mind that most of our recent university graduates would struggle to achieve good marks on an old O-level, and would probably struggle to pass an old A-level.

    Here’s a typical question from the 1966 Maths O-level exam – I haven’t chosen one of the harder ones, mind, just one that would be easy to transpose into bare text:

    The base angles of an isosceles triangle are each 73°. If the base of the triangle is of length 2x inches, show that the area of the triangle is x2 tan 73° sq. in. Hence, or otherwise, given that the area is 29.44 sq. in., calculate the length of the base.

    And here’s a typical question from the 2013 “higher tier” (!) Maths GCSE:

    Amina asks 50 people, “What is your favourite pet? Choose from cat, dog, rabbit or other.”

    (a) Which two words describe the type of data she collects from each person?

    Circle your answers.

    qualitative / continuous / primary / secondary

    (1 mark)

    (b) Which two diagrams could she use to represent the data?

    Circle your answers.

    scatter graph / pie chart / bar chart / stem-and-leaf

    (1 mark)

    Is it any wonder that there seem to be fewer kids from state schools making it to the top in British life these days? They are being systematically cheated out of the knowledge and the intellectual tools required to compete with posh kids from private schools.

    And the worst part is, they don’t even suspect it. I have never seen school leavers (and graduates!) with such stratospheric levels of self-esteem as in recent years. Nor with a more pathetically shaky grasp of literacy, numeracy, and general knowledge.

    I’m talking about young people who spent 12 years in our state educational system and then have to ask me if Belfast is in the United Kingdom. Who can’t compose their own CV’s without spelling mistakes. Who write me emails asking what they “should of” done.

    I’ll be working till I die on the job of a gramatically-induced heart attack, because these kids can’t be left to their own devices.

  59. Worse, the difference in schooling between Grammar and Other, where the former still exists, is appalling.

    There should, logically, be no difference (aside, perhaps, from the level they’re being taught). The number of hours involved, and the effort should be identical.

    We have a simple choice don’t we? The 11+ (or 13+), OR domination by public school children. Avoiding that question – relatively easy if you’re a monumentally well-connected millionaire, such as the PM – is terrifically wet and highly damaging.

  60. “The difference is shocking. Absolutely. Fucking. Shocking.”

    Neither of those questions is difficult. They are just testing different things.

    The old O level question is a trivial number plugger which tests whether you have memorised that tan is opposite over adjacent. Congrats to any unrecognised Einstens able to work that one out.

    The current GCSE question is a basic stats comprehension exercise to check if you were listening in class and that you understood at a ground level the meaning of what you heard.

    Both are incredibly basic and neither is intrinsically more difficult than the other. They probably appeal to slightly different kinds of child intelligence, that is all. They are both very easy and pretty meaningless in the grand scheme.

    There is a hideous tendency for older people to consider the skills they learned back in the day as the be all and end all of what is worth learning. To be honest it probably isn’t that useful for kids to memorise loads of formulas and know how to wire a ham radio these days. In fact, in the computer age, it is almost certainly a fucking waste of time.

    That isn’t to say that schools are doing everything right in the modern world; they are almost certainly not. It was always this way though. You have just forgotten.

  61. I mean seriously: apart from reading, does anyone here think they learned anything useful at school that they couldn’t have learned themselves in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost? Is there anyone for whom what they learned at school and university is still an important part of daily life? I mean the information, not the social experience.

    People make far too much of the state brainwashing centres that comprise formal education in the UK. It is true that they are pathetically ineffective. So what? This is a good thing.

    Free child care is all that primary and secondary education really amounts to, while universities are basically certification mills.

  62. Again, what do G4S & co bring to the party?

    In the UK not much – I don’t know about their Scandinavian home turf.

    As to Mid Staffs people? – as in one GP “went above & beyond to raise concerns” and was attacked by the perps who tried to get her officially written off as “mentally unstable” despite simply providing evidence and not opinion.

    No – I’m afraid neglectful doesn’t cut it – not quite Harold Shipman – but anybody who essentially causes a receptionist to be put on A&E triage duty should be publicly flogged.

    IMHO failings revolve mostly around the simply woeful administration and its appalling lack of competence which is seemingly deeply ingrained in some of the most underperforming outfits. Blobby Nicholson for instance personally presided over much of the Mid Staffs debacle – the arrogance, hubris and serial screw-ups fritter away the funds that you say (and I’d agree) – are required.

    That the NHS leads the field in gagging whistleblowers is enough evidence for me at least that reform is required

    This is not solely an NHS problem though – it’s across public services – the consequences for non performance in public sector management need some very long, sharp spikes rather than an expensively upholstered fluffy cushion.

  63. tomsmith,

    You might have a point if the GCSE question weren’t multiple-choice.

    > I mean seriously: apart from reading, does anyone here think they learned anything useful at school that they couldn’t have learned themselves in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost?

    Yes. Some of the lessons were a waste of time — at least the first two years of secondary maths, for instance, were simply dead time — but some of it was taught brilliantly and effectively.

    > Is there anyone for whom what they learned at school and university is still an important part of daily life?

    Yes: the logical analysis I learnt at degree-level Philosophy is basically what my career is built on.

  64. Nurse,

    > Poor patient care follows from poor morale as sure as night follows day.

    Can you not even see what you’re writing here? Have you no shame?

    I don’t get to use that excuse. “My morale is low, therefore I’ll do my job worse.” I am expected to do it well regardless. If I fuck it up, I get disciplined, and then maybe sacked. At the very least, if I’m merely mediocre, I won’t get a pay-rise, because my raises are based on being good at this, not on a bloody public-sector union-agreed time-served scale. But, ultimately, while some of my work is quite important, the worst-case scenario is not that people suffer and die. If I screw up, and then the rest of my team screw up as well by not spotting my screw-up, a bank could risk — not lose, just risk — more money than it intended to. This is considered important enough that I am expected to do it brilliantly no matter how I’m feeling. And, frankly, no-one likes this job. People don’t go into this industry because it’s fun, which is precisely why it’s well paid: if they didn’t pay us, we’d do something more rewarding instead. Most days, most people’s morale is second-rate at best. Boo fucking hoo. We do our jobs as well as we can anyway, because we’re grown-ups.

    But you, when discussing sick, old, disabled, and vulnerable people who need your help, apparently think saying “Poor patient care follows from poor morale as sure as night follows day” is not morally reprehensible.

  65. tomsmith – Neither of those questions is difficult. They are just testing different things.

    No they’re not rocket surgery. They’re exams for 13 and 14 years olds. The old exams are much tougher in my opinion though – no multiple choice questions for one thing.

    To be honest it probably isn’t that useful for kids to memorise loads of formulas and know how to wire a ham radio these days. In fact, in the computer age, it is almost certainly a fucking waste of time.

    I think this idea that kids don’t need to understand maths as well as their parents did, because computers, is wrong.

    You don’t know what you don’t know. I strongly suspect most of our school leavers don’t understand what a tangent function is so Google isn’t much help to them on that score.

    apart from reading, does anyone here think they learned anything useful at school that they couldn’t have learned themselves in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost?

    Some of the things I’m most grateful for are the less tangible learning outcomes:

    An appreciation for literature.

    Intellectual curiosity.

    Mental discipline.

    A practical understanding of rhetoric, dialectic, how to construct an argument, and how to articulate it in public speaking.

    Understanding the differences between primary and secondary sources, and being aware of their biases and omissions.

    A working knowledge of British and early modern European history.

    Knowing what the scientific method is, and having a grasp of basic scientific concepts.

    How to learn a language.

    And here’s another thing: for most plebs like me, the stuff you learn in school will be happily forgotten in adulthood, save for random flashbacks to Wilfred Owen poetry or whatever.

    But for the 5% of naturally exceptional kids – the potential Tommy Flowerses and Frank Whittles of the future – we are retarding their development with our shitty, soft soapy titwank excuse for primary and secondary education.

  66. Trig is pretty useful in everyday life despite computers. I think the idea that you don’t need maths if you’ve got a computer or calculator is a gross error. I admit I’ve never had to solve a quadratic equation for work, though I’ve done so a few times for hobbies. But I’ve done an awful lot with right angled triangles over the years. Wonderful things, triangles.

  67. I mean seriously: apart from reading, does anyone here think they learned anything useful at school that they couldn’t have learned themselves in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost?

    Yes: chemistry and physics. Wouldn’t have fancied tackling them alone. I dropped French at school, only to be lectured by lots of people on the importance of knowing a foreign language, none of whom can actually speak one even now. Whilst I can speak French. Heh.

  68. Lost Nurse

    I don’t get it. One minute your holding the line and fucking people off at the high port, next you’re letting grannies (including mine) die of thirst with bed sores.

    By the way, are you ex mil? Your jargon suggests it, and I recognise the whinging – frustrated lance jack who never got the second stripe because the boss was posh, I reckon. Scouser?

  69. I agree with both Steve and tomsmith. Exams are easier but it rob ably doesn’t matter.

    Incidentally, do the better state schools not sit the same exams as private schools anyway (making the suggestion that rich kids necessarily learn more stuff incorrect)?

  70. “I think this idea that kids don’t need to understand maths as well as their parents did, because computers, is wrong.”

    But that’s just it: memorising that tan is the ratio of opposite to adjacent in a right angled triangle and being able to plug some numbers into the equation you memorised isn’t understanding maths. That’s what schools used to teach in maths because it was an approximation of the kind of thing they assumed people might be doing when they grew up.

    It is the same with the kind of comprehension exercise shown in the GCSE example: it is the education establishment approximating what they think is required for the information age where comprehending and being able to locate the information is assumed to be more important than memorising it. Which is true in a way but that doesn’t make what they are teaching any more worthwhile than the rote memorisation of the old days.

    Both the prehistoric O level and the modern GCSE approaches are bullshit and, frankly, it is a waste of time for children to spend years of their lives doing this kind of thing once they have learned how to read.

    Let me give you an example from my life. I went to school in the GCSE/ O level crossover days, late 1980s to early 1990s. Even worse I attended a Scottish comprehensive where I did standard grades (easier than GCSEs) and Highers (about the same as GCSEs), then I went to a good university pretty young with a lot of English people who were both older than me and who had done A levels, gap years and that sort of thing.

    I proceeded to memorise my way through a science degree and emerged with a good degree but zero usable skills at the other end. I then worked for a few years, realized I was fucked, and then did a PhD (which in its own way was another naive and childish mistake). However in a year or two of actually doing science alone, not in a university, I taught myself all of the things I was supposed to be learning in university (and to a lesser extent school), just by reading about them in books and papers and then trying to do them myself while being genuinely interested.

    This made me realize that formal education is in fact mostly a waste of time. It takes about 15 years longer than it needs to, costs a fortune, and (mostly I think because there is no emotional involvement and no real reason to learn), achieves very little for very many children.

  71. I’ve been at work all day, and so don’t have time to argue… but in short order.

    That’s just your job and you got paid for it

    I do my job, and I do it properly. I don’t expect any particular recognition – but having done my job properly, I take frank exception to your comment that MidStaffs precludes me from commenting on the clowns at G4S. And if you think my language is filth, ask a paramedic about their glorified out-sourced taxi service.

    IMHO failings revolve mostly around the simply woeful administration and its appalling lack of competence which is seemingly deeply ingrained in some of the most underperforming outfits. Blobby Nicholson for instance personally presided over much of the Mid Staffs debacle – the arrogance, hubris and serial screw-ups fritter away the funds that you say (and I’d agree) – are required.

    I quote in full, because there’s not a single thing I disagree with here. Much as attacks on systems are often misconstrued as attacks on individuals, my defence of the NHS is not a blanket one. Nowhere do I defend the acts of neglect, diseased managerialism or subsequent cover-ups that characterised MidStaffs – but there’s no use pointing & shouting about these issues if they are not being remedied. Requesting that wards – especially elderly care wards – are properly-resourced and staffed is not “bleating” , nor is it excusing incompetence – it’s the only way you will guarantee proper levels of care, acoss any developed healthcare system you care to mention. And in that respect, I will defend the professionalism of my immediate team to the last – granted, we’re an acute area, thereby enjoying the luxury of slightly-better staffing than the general wards – but they do their job, and they do it well. In blunt terms: they don’t leave dehydrated war veterans lying in soiled sheets.

    Can you not even see what you’re writing here? Have you no shame?

    You either mis-read, or deliberately ignored my point. It’s not about having dog days & feeling low, FFS – everybody works through those. It’s about what happens to patient care when leadership crumbles and a ward team falls apart – haemorrhaging staff and barely-functioning, lurching from one agency-covered shift to the next. I’ve seen it happen – and it often (but certainly not always) forms the background to gross clinical neglect. You clock the signs, and it screams poor care. It was certainly the case at MidStaffs.

    next you’re letting grannies (including mine) die of thirst with bed sores.

    I didn’t – I look after elderly patients properly. They’ve done their bit, we do ours. If you see/have evidence of me doing otherwise, report me. Simple as.

    frustrated ex mil Scouser I reckon

    You reckon very wrong, although I work with many a rotating QA/CMT/MO. The swearing/jargon is much the same.

    Anyway, enough.

  72. 1. So let’s be clear here: your response to Mid Staffs (and more than 48 hours after you entered the discussion) is money and ONLY money. This is exactly what everyone here has been saying about you and try like. So I repeat, you are not worth listening to.
    2.”I don’t expect any particular recognition”. Oh yes you do! You introduced your night shift shift and tour sterling caring work, your shining ability not.to maltreatment your patients.

  73. @LN

    ‘Requesting that wards – especially elderly care wards – are properly-resourced and staffed is not “bleating” , nor is it excusing incompetence – it’s the only way you will guarantee proper levels of care, acoss any developed healthcare system you care to mention.’

    My grandmother died in the oxymoronic Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield.

    She had bedsores, and oral thrush from thirst. I went to visit one day and asked if she wanted a drink. She clouldn’t speak her throat hurt so badly, but nodded. I gave her two tumblers full.

    Meanwhile, nurses were chatting about their boyfriends at the desk. You could hear the fuckers giggling. They were not ‘checking bloods’.

    You don’t chat, or even check bloods, while your patients die of thirst in front of you.

    One day you will be on the other end of this ‘care’.

    I wish you the very best of luck with it.

  74. money and ONLY money

    Yes, sorry to break it to you, but proper staffing will cost money – not least given the health/social care needs of an increasingly elderly population. An adequate level of staffing (say, a ratio of 4:1 patients:trained nurse) will cost money. It will cost money in the NHS and it will cost money in a continental health insurance system – if a comprehensive level of cover is what we’re aiming for. Even if you factor in ‘proper’ reforms (i.e. what the NHS actually needs in terms of the allocation of available funds… and there’s a whole ‘nother issue here in terms of how the current reforms are pushing up both bureacracy and costs), you’re still left with the fundamental issue of having enough boots on the ground.

    Oh yes you do!

    Do bore off. I do my job, I do it properly.

    One day you will be on the other end of this ‘care’.

    Interested: I am sorry about your grandmother. It’s not behaviour that would be tolerated where I work.

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