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Customer Review

on 20 July 2014
I found this a very interesting read. The book seeks to expose the myth that cutting costs results in more efficient businesses and a more successful society which enjoys more choice. Margaret Heffernan argues that the exact opposite is the outcome, not least because workers on minimal wages cannot afford the products they make (or even lunch) and that competition stifles the creativity of collaborative working. Speaking as someone who works as a teacher it is self-evident to me that she is right. Schools are being forced to pretend to be businesses and are being obliged to cut costs by not replacing teachers who retire, by hiring newly-qualified teachers (who can be exploited more easily) instead of experienced staff, by using performance management systems to manage experienced (and thus inconveniently more expensive) people out of their jobs. What is the result? Staff who are frightened for their jobs, who are terrified of suggesting innovations for fear of being earmarked as not being 'on message', and who take on the duties of staff made redundant out of fear of being made redundant themselves. Subjects deemed to be 'non-viable' are cut along with their staff, thereby diminishing the curriculum on offer and making the schools less attractive. This diminishes student uptake, thereby necessitating more cuts and further decline. School leaders increasingly are little more then government ideologues acceding to the exhortations to cut, save and cut some more in the interests of their own pay packets, instead of being innovatory and creative. Schools now brazenly compete with one another for students and even staff meaning that the 'better' schools (which means those that restrict themselves to scoring on government data) attract students whose gullible parents believe the government data and solicit staff from other schools who they bribe with attractive extra payments that they deny their existing staff. The more challenged schools decline some and then decline further. This is happening all over the UK exactly as Heffernan describes that it will. Heffernan spends most of the book analyzing the crippling and destructive effects of self-serving competition which anyone in the UK will recognize. Will anything change? I doubt it very much.
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