Middle England Under Pressure to Pay New University Fees Up Front – Can Insurance Help?

So far, the impact of the recession has not really been felt by people who have kept their jobs. This is the case particularly for professionals and others who in the past would be described as ‘comfortably off’. This group represent a large section of British society that finds itself described as occupants of a mythical place called Middle England. However, as the Government looks for ways to balance the books, inevitably they will take more money from those who have it, rather than those who don’t. So Middle England look out! As the back bone of the tax paying, law abiding majority; you are the easiest source of revenue.

Since rechristened the ‘squeezed middle’ by the Labour Party, even those disinterested in politics have been watching with increasing alarm the gathering storm of Coalition benefit cuts and tax rises.

The combination of the removal of Child Benefit for households with one earner on 40% tax will be compounded by moves to lower the threshold for those who benefit from Tax Credits. However the real crunch will come in 2012 for families with children who are entering university for the first time. They will be hit by the planned tripling of university tuition fees.

Middle England realises how important a good education is to ensure it’s offspring achieve the best start in the world of work. This is now juxtaposed by the knowledge of just how damaging a large debt can be for their children’s future quality of life. For parents who have worked diligently to build up their savings to support sons and daughters through university, this hike in tuition fees has come as a bombshell.

Up until recently student debt was viewed as a necessary evil. However the modest loans and low interest rates made this acceptable. Now the proposed fees are close to three times higher, this has created a future tax nightmare for graduates. Causing more alarm, even among those who see £9000 per annum fees as inevitable, are the close to commercial rates of interest to be charged on those student loans. Parents are particularly aggrieved that their sons and daughters will be faced with a heavy debt burden, at the very time in their lives when they might be trying to set up homes of their own.

Although the final details have yet to be published, there is more than a suggestion that the Government are also looking at ways to penalise early repayment of these loans. Therefore, with its unavoidable interest charge, for the graduate, this will become a massive financial penalty for achieving future success. The political ramifications of this have yet to be fully understood, however the clock is counting down toward implementation. Many parents are already looking for ways to meet these tuition fees themselves to avoid a bleak financial future for their children.

Teenagers contemplating their university options are mindful of the potential weight of debt they would carry around their necks. They either need to be lucky enough to come from families that have the means to pay, or poor enough to qualify for a combination of benefits and bursaries to escape the majority of fees. Those students from England stuck in the middle may decide it simply is not worth going on to university. With minimum student living expenses of about £6000 per annum, when added to £9000 tuition fees each year, will mean a student will accumulate £45,000 of debt in just 3 years. When taking future interest payments into account, this could mean paying off nearer £50,000 over time.

Imagine a young couple who met at university and subsequently worked to achieve reasonably paid employment after a few years. They could easily have debt liabilities of close to £100,000 between them. That is ghastly and will add nothing to the willingness of mortgage providers to lend them enough to buy a home of their own. Many parents will have sacrificed a lot to enable their children to go to university. To see them subsequently struggle to even get on the property ladder, will engender deep resentment.

Indeed many hard working parents will openly question whether they should do anything to encourage their children to think about university, given the potential size of the financial millstone this will create for them. Will a full time university education prove to be only a luxury enjoyed by the rich and a means tested benefit for the poor? The children of the ‘squeezed middle’ being left to battle their way up the corporate ladder with the Open University offering one of the few debt free routes to a degree.

For the majority of children from Middle England who have recently commenced studying A levels, there are new risks that they will now need to assess regarding their future education. Unless they are very bright, with straight A’s to secure a place at a flagship institution, is there much point even thinking about university? However much fun student life might be, will the value they gain from an Arts degree at ‘Anywhere University’ be worth incurring so much debt?

The reaction of parents still digesting the ramifications of the new fee charging regime are as yet unknown. Many could be deciding to postpone retirement to work for several years yet to pay for their children to get through university relatively debt free. The need for more income will see many more dusting off their CV’s as well as demands for students to find better work to pay their way.

For parents, keeping their jobs and a second income coming in to get two children through University may become much more important. Inevitably contingency plans will need to be considered and Unemployment Insurance or Income Protection Insurance paying £1000 per month, if one of the parents is unable to work due to accident sickness or unemployment, could offer an answer. This insurance would guarantee the monthly income that many Middle England parents will soon see as essential for them to afford to pay for their child’s university education.

Dennis Haggerty, Marketing Manager of protection insurance specialist i:protect commented, “We see university fees creating a large and unexpected hole in the budgets of many families who simply cannot contemplate their children leaving university in so much debt. This in turn will create a demand for our product from a section of the market that hitherto could cope by taking money from their own savings if they were out of work. Now finding £15,000 per annum for each son or daughter at University, in addition to their usual household expenses, will drive the search for alternative sources of funding. For example, one of our policies with premiums of just £10 per week would pay £15,000 in benefits if the policyholder was unable to work for a year”

The lifetime habit of Middle England to support it’s children through university will be placed under severe strain. However, for the benefit of their children’s future, provided they are in work, most will ‘bite the bullet’ and pay as much as they can. More parents than ever may need to agree to pay the full cost of tuition fees for their offspring, just to convince them to take advantage of a university education. Otherwise many potential university students may refuse to go in fear of the financial consequences of their decision.

Helping to mitigate risk of lost earnings for parents contemplating paying these tuition fees ‘up front’ is worth consideration. Those same parents will soon be attending university open days for their sons and daughters to weigh up their options for future education. It would be nice to have the confidence that a minimum guaranteed income would be received, even if one of the parents were out of work for some time. Unemployment Protection or Income Protection Insurance does offer a viable ‘plan b’ in an uncertain job market.

Researching Teacher Education and Training in England (Key Ethical and Methodological Concerns)

The present teacher education and training environment in England is characterised by schools and university partnerships and school-based only frameworks. There are however an increasing body of ‘independent’ teacher education providers. Out of this ‘new’ thinking has emerged labels and entities such as School Direct, Teach First, Troops to Teachers and School-Centred Initial Teacher Training.

This occurrence suggests that increasingly, research in teacher education and training is being carried out in a variety of schools’ contexts. This also provides researchers with a larger ‘ground’ in which to work and a diverse array of potential respondents and participants.

While there is always a ‘downside’ some may argue that the positives (such as the potential for ‘rich data’ and increased understanding of teacher education and training issue based on a wider pool of participants) out-weight the potential negatives–some are highlighted later in this article. Additionally, the highlighted negatives are also preventable with proper understanding and application of research knowledge and procedures. However, given this ‘new’ environment here are a few ethical and methodological concerns that I see as key.

Key Ethical Concerns

Increase in the pool of research participants and places means potentially, there is an increase in the number of people who can be negatively affected. This therefore lends importance to the need to promise and maintain both confidentiality and anonymity and for researchers to be vigilant in these matters.

A lapse in confidentiality and anonymity can have adverse effects on participants, bring the researcher and her or his affiliate University into disrepute and impact negatively relations between University, partnering schools and sometimes Local Educational Authority. On the extreme end of the spectrum of negative effects, a lapse in confidentiality and anonymity could lead to Job loss, or participants being ostracized especially when the research involves sensitive issues such as race, diversity, social Justice or culture.

It is my practice – where possible- to omit names and places in my research reports. However, if these are integral to your study they should only be included after obtaining appropriate consent from potential participants. The use of pseudonyms to conceal identities is a long-standing practice among researchers and continue to aid in achieving anonymity. Additionally, confidential information about children or staff should never be disclosed at any cost.

Other ethical issues which are akin to confidentiality and anonymity is openness, honesty and autonomy. As a researcher I always inform key people in the school and assure participants of their rights to withdraw from the researcher at any time, should they wish to do so, without fear of being penalised.

It is my opinion that if these ethical issues are not carefully attended to, they may lead to less than complete and honest responses from research participants which brings into question the research findings and conclusions.

Key Methodological/Procedural Concerns

The ‘new’ environment with its wide and diverse array of potential respondents and participants provides researchers with an enlarged participant pool from which to draw. This fact suggests the need for caution and care in selecting participants for your research. Participants must be ‘information rich’. Guba and Lincoln (1998) define ‘information rich’ participants as those who are able to provide insight into the issues being researched. It is worth stating here that inappropriate participants will affect the accuracy of the conclusions you draw and the potential impact your study could have.

The other key methodological or procedural concern is the need for a clearly defined research problem. In fact, getting this right, not only helps in selecting ‘information rich’ participants, but aid university based researchers to explain to potential respondents or participants in partnering schools the research focus and guides researchers’ actions and thoughts. Additionally, a clearly defined research problem also helps to determine an appropriate research framework or procedure (e.g. Biographical, Ethnographic, Phenomenological, or Applied Research) that could be used to solve a problem, data collection methods (Interview, survey, experimental) and data analysis approach (qualitative and/or quantitative)

So what have I said?

I said, key ethical concerns for researching teacher education in the ‘new’ teacher education environment in England are confidentiality and anonymity, openness, honesty and autonomy. Key methodological or procedural concerns are participants’ selection and clearly defined research problems. These are critical in light of the enlarged field of potential participant which emerges from the new environment.

Reference

Guba, E., G & Lincoln, Y., S. (1998). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In Denzin, N., K., & Lincoln, Y., S. The Landscape of qualitative research theories and Issues. Sage USA.

Church of England School

About one fourth of all primary schools in England are Church of England schools. Most British citizens believe that receiving and education from a CE School is important for children to be able to learn and develop a sense of what is right and wrong. Individuals also believe that these students will receive a finer education and evolve into a responsible member of their society.

There are three different categories of schools located throughout England. The first one is called voluntary aided; the school is owned by the church and the governing body of the church handles all school operations from appointing teachers to raising money to aid in the repairs of school buildings.

The second category is the voluntary controlled, where the school is owned by the church and it appoints its own overseers. However, the school board is not totally loaded with church members, and the teachers are not appointed by the church board. Rather the teachers are hired by the local education authority who also oversees any repairs to school buildings as needed. The last type is the foundation, where a foundation owns the school and the foundations board employs the teachers and other staff and oversees all school operations.

The Church of England is also in the first throes of a major expansion project, hoping to open over 100 additional schools. Currently as of 2004 approximately 25 of these schools had been opened with another 15 of them almost completed. Because of the popularity of catholic education, such expansion is possible and needed to provide the education for British children across that country.

The admission policy in England is pretty straight forward. The board will admit students of all faiths provided there is not a shortage of available spaces in the school system. If there is a shortage, preference will be given to students who are, of course, from the catholic faith, and then to students who have excellent academic records, and go on from there. In some locations, scholarships are available to the families of students who excel in academics but cannot afford to pay for a private education.

There are some myths of catholic education. For example many individuals do not believe that catholic schools educate children on the topic of sexual education. In fact, there are requirements that this topic is taught as part of each school’s science curriculum. The catholic school system has also been accused of not wanting to educate children who are of different faiths. That too is a myth. Of course, the church believes in the religious education of all children, particularly the catholic faith. However, children of all faith are welcome to the system, as are children who express no faith at all.

The catholic way of education has been founded in history in the country of England, going back to the legendary kings of England who were the heads of the Catholic Church. The catholic education of England’s children remains a very popular educational system.