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Taking children out of school....

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We actually sponsor our daughter's school (through our business) and if the LEA ever decides to fine us for taking her out of school then we will simply deduct that "expense" from the sponsorship we give them. So it's effectively their choice although we've never stated it like that! Last year we wrote a nice letter to the head teacher explaining that we were going to take our daughter out of school for the last 2 weeks of spring term (so we could actually go skiing for 4 weeks in Canada) and they were pretty cool about it. No fines, no threatening letters, nothing. So we're doing the same again this year.
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"Its easier to seek forgiveness than permission" Tell em after the event and promise never to do it again wink
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I would simply inform the school, most politely, of my plans. Not apologise, and not promise never to do it again.
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pam w wrote:
I would simply inform the school, most politely, of my plans. Not apologise, and not promise never to do it again.


I agree with this approach. We have nothing to hide and we will almost certainly do it again.
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pam w wrote:
Quote:

it is patently unfair to be subsidising the state while at the same time paying fees out of post-tax income

Do you believe education is the only aspect of state expenditure which tax payers should be able to opt out of, @zikomo? How about health? (you have BUPA) or libraries (you don't want to borrow books) or roads (you don't have a car) housing (you pay for your own).


Spurious argument in the extreme. I accept that those of us who earn more should carry more of the burden for collective services - I would suggest a bit more gratitude would be in line rather than criticism.
I have private healthcare for my family, but of course the NHS remains as a safety net so to some extent it is reasonable that I also subsidise it.
Libraries are services you can choose to use or not (my kids happen to use them quite a bit) - not at all the same as healthcare or education which are more necessities than luxuries. Lots of people don't use libraries, but everyone tight a child uses education and pretty much everyone uses healthcare
I of course use roads like the rest of the populace
Education is something that is planned and provided for on an individual basis - i.e. each child is planned for and there is a defined cost in the state system for each child. Very different.


I am happy to pay fees for schooling, that is my choice. I just think all parents should have the same choice - the state tariff should be given to all parents and they should then be free to choose how it is spent (as happens in Sweden and several states in America). I would have thought that would have been to your benefit more than mine.
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@zikomo, what about those of us who pay but don't have kids? Do we get money back too?
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Quote:

Spurious argument in the extreme

Laughing yes, the whole idea of opting out of bits of tax is pretty silly.
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pam w wrote:
Quote:

Spurious argument in the extreme

Laughing yes, the whole idea of opting out of bits of tax is pretty silly.


Very silly.
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I think there is perhaps a case for issuing vouchers equivalent to the cost of state school education and then people are free to spend the voucher where they choose or top it up as well if they like. There are all sorts of complications with this approach so I'm not sure I'd rush to change it.

At the risk of even further thread drift, what is slightly strange in the UK is the way that the more people pay in tax the more critical the general public and media are likely to be.
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foxtrotzulu wrote:
I think there is perhaps a case for issuing vouchers equivalent to the cost of state school education and then people are free to spend the voucher where they choose or top it up as well if they like.


Sweden's system has been heavily criticised on the back of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) survey results.

http://www.thelocal.se/20140401/sweden-takes-another-tumble-in-pisa-school-rankings

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/04/sweden-school-choice-education-decline-oecd
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@miranda, ^Indeed, it is not a straightforward solution. However, it would be a strange thing if we had stumbled across one of the very few areas in which less choice and less competition delivered better results than more choice. Perhaps the key was in the quote that said 'Schools should return to competing on the basis of better education rather than shiny buildings' [or something similar]. That implies it is not so much a problem with competition, but lack of transparency in terms of what is actually being offered. Then again, perhaps that's not the key. Around here parents have choice of one school, or two if they are lucky. That can't be a good thing however you look at it.
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foxtrotzulu wrote:
@miranda, it would be a strange thing if we had stumbled across one of the very few areas in which less choice and less competition delivered better results than more choice. Perhaps the key was in the quote that said 'Schools should return to competing on the basis of better education rather than 'shiny buildings' [or something similar].


Well if that's what the consumers want...
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Quote:

However, it would be a strange thing if we had stumbled across one of the very few areas in which less choice and less competition delivered better results than more choice.

There is certainly a school of thought reportedly from economists that you can have too much choice which creates too much complexity and decreases efficiency see things like energy tariffs.

As an observation many of the best performing schools in Scotland anyway are in rural areas where there is no choice even when allowances are made for deprivation (which is often high). There may of course be other social factors at work.
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foxtrotzulu wrote:
@miranda, ^Indeed, it is not a straightforward solution. However, it would be a strange thing if we had stumbled across one of the very few areas in which less choice and less competition delivered better results than more choice. Perhaps the key was in the quote that said 'Schools should return to competing on the basis of better education rather than shiny buildings' [or something similar]. That implies it is not so much a problem with competition, but lack of transparency in terms of what is actually being offered. Then again, perhaps that's not the key. Around here parents have choice of one school, or two if they are lucky. That can't be a good thing however you look at it.
When competition between schools is advocated as a way of ensuring or raising education standards I try hard to understand just what this means in the day to day life of schools, but I struggle to see what it means and how it would work. I also reflect on programmes which have had a significant improvement in terms of educational outcomes, London Challenge for example, which are more about developing links between schools and sharing best practice, as well as the regular and detailed benchmarking of performance between schools in similar circumstances as well as national averages. Maybe it is a strange thing that education works best when schools are not forced to compete in the way in which advocates of competition between schools might imagine...?
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T Bar wrote:
Quote:

However, it would be a strange thing if we had stumbled across one of the very few areas in which less choice and less competition delivered better results than more choice.

There is certainly a school of thought reportedly from economists that you can have too much choice which creates too much complexity and decreases efficiency see things like energy tariffs.

As an observation many of the best performing schools in Scotland anyway are in rural areas where there is no choice even when allowances are made for deprivation (which is often high). There may of course be other social factors at work.
Agreed. There is absolutely no guarantee that choice will improve standards, although it does generally seem to be one of the best tools we have for doing so.
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rob@rar wrote:
foxtrotzulu wrote:
@miranda, ^Indeed, it is not a straightforward solution. However, it would be a strange thing if we had stumbled across one of the very few areas in which less choice and less competition delivered better results than more choice. Perhaps the key was in the quote that said 'Schools should return to competing on the basis of better education rather than shiny buildings' [or something similar]. That implies it is not so much a problem with competition, but lack of transparency in terms of what is actually being offered. Then again, perhaps that's not the key. Around here parents have choice of one school, or two if they are lucky. That can't be a good thing however you look at it.
When competition between schools is advocated as a way of ensuring or raising education standards I try hard to understand just what this means in the day to day life of schools, but I struggle to see what it means and how it would work. I also reflect on programmes which have had a significant improvement in terms of educational outcomes, London Challenge for example, which are more about developing links between schools and sharing best practice, as well as the regular and detailed benchmarking of performance between schools in similar circumstances as well as national averages. Maybe it is a strange thing that education works best when schools are not forced to compete in the way in which advocates of competition between schools might imagine...?


As you say, it is possible that schools maybe the exception to the rule. I'm not sure that we have any evidence to suggest that yet. The Swedish approach seems very successful and now seems less so. An indicator that choice is not the panacea it might be, but certainly not yet proof. Because of their nature their is a small degree of 'natural monopoly' about schools but I still wonder if the idea is not worth exploring a little further. Choice seems to work well in nursery schools (from what I have seen), and seems to work very well in the independent sector. Are State primary and secondary schools really so different? I genuinely don't know.
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@foxtrotzulu, by what mechanisms does choice mean that the standards in nursery schools improve (perhaps so the best get better, or the less good improve)? How do we know that choice works for nursery schools? Ditto the independent sector? When we talk about choice, what do we mean? What sort of options do parents look for if the are choosing a school? Is the choice anything more than wanting to choose a good school and not be forced to accept a poor school?
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rob@rar wrote:
@foxtrotzulu, by what mechanisms does choice mean that the standards in nursery schools improve (perhaps so the best get better, or the less good improve)? How do we know that choice works for nursery schools? Ditto the independent sector? When we talk about choice, what do we mean? What sort of options do parents look for if the are choosing a school? Is the choice anything more than wanting to choose a good school and not be forced to accept a poor school?


By what mechanisms does choice work? Simple. Any school that isn't good enough and doesn't improve will simply run out of paying customers and close down. It's happened frequently in the private sector too. Improve or die. As I also said on a similar thread to this some months ago, anything (like a voucher) that helps to remind parents that they are paying for their education through their taxes and what the true cost if that education is, is probably a good thing. (Forget about choice and all the other changes we can make, IMO the biggest improvement will only come about when we rediscover our respect for education. Having lived in Africa and elsewhere it is amazing to see the burning desire that parents and children have there to get an education. We seem to have lost that.

What do parents look for when choosing a school? Herein lies one of the problems. I fear, say he in a nannyish sort of way, that not enough parents would focus on the right things and be swayed by daft things like new Astros and so on. Hopefully parents will look at results, culture and try and judge how their child will fit in.

I think there is an attitude that we can't allow schools to close down however poor they may be. Should they really be such sacred cows? There is an issue with the fact that the school buildings are a big investment, but perhaps there would be ways around it.

As I said above, I'm not convinced that choice is THE answer, but it might be part of the answer, and I'm not yet convinced that schools are somehow immune from all the improvements that choice can bring.
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@rob@rar, choice means different things to different people (a truism, I suppose). People choose all sorts of things, based on all sorts of parameters. In other words, they define "goodness" differently. In our own case, we chose to remove our daughter from the local primary because, although it was good in very many respects, they could not push our mathematically gifted daughter to an extent that would keep her engaged. There were two conveniently located independent schools that could. Both achieved very good exam results. We chose the one was that slightly inferior in that respect most years, simply on the grounds that the pupils seemed happier and pleasanter. So, I don't think it's as simple as good versus bad in education (or most other fields).
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foxtrotzulu wrote:
Are State primary and secondary schools really so different?


Well, for a start, they don't have a choice.
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foxtrotzulu wrote:
By what mechanisms does choice work? Simple. Any school that isn't good enough and doesn't improve will simply run out of paying customers and close down.
Does this require excess capacity, in terms of school places and the number of schools in order for parents to be able to have genuine choice no matter their location? We should also remember that education authorities have a statutory responsibility to provide a school place for all pupils, so simply allowing schools to wither and die has implications for the size of other schools (most good schools will not want to expand as that could threaten their quality of their provision), or the number of other school. Technically we have school choice now, where funding follows the pupil, and have done for years, but the reality is for many parents quite different. Rural locations with no practical alternative to travel to a different school. Heavily over-subscribed schools with neighbouring unpopular schools. Schools with a particular specialism which parens might want, but no similar school to choose from, etc, etc.

I'm interested in school improvement. Letting bad schools (actually, unpopular schools) die isn't really school improvement. It's devil take the hindmost, and to me at least so far from the reality of providing education across the country that it seems odd to even be discussing it. The facts are that there are not enough good school leaders to go around (lots of evidence which shows that schools have trouble appointing heads and deputies at all, never mind recruiting excellence). Initial teacher recruitment and training is once again missing targets so there is an undersupply of new practitioners. There is increased pressure of public funds for education, as with all public services. All of this acts against the spare capacity necessary in the system to improve the standards that we currently have, which is clearly necessary in too many locations. At the same time we have some well documented examples of how to raise standards across a number of schools, many working in very challenging circumstances, through collaboration, targeted support, useful accountability measures, benchmarking of performance and sharing best practice and high performing school leaders. That's where the debate should focus in my opinion, not on school structures and vague free-market notions.
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laundryman wrote:
@rob@rar, choice means different things to different people (a truism, I suppose). People choose all sorts of things, based on all sorts of parameters. In other words, they define "goodness" differently. In our own case, we chose to remove our daughter from the local primary because, although it was good in very many respects, they could not push our mathematically gifted daughter to an extent that would keep her engaged. There were two conveniently located independent schools that could. Both achieved very good exam results. We chose the one was that slightly inferior in that respect most years, simply on the grounds that the pupils seemed happier and pleasanter. So, I don't think it's as simple as good versus bad in education (or most other fields).


I don't have any objection to parents having choice of schools (including for the sorts of reasons that you cite), although as I just said, in many, many places there is not a real choice for large numbers of parents. I just don't think it is a way of improving schools, so in too many places it is just a choice between schools which parents perceive to be good or bad.
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Had a robust debate with the missus (ex-Governor) over the weekend, initially about the strictness (and hypcrosiy) of rules regarding packed lunches and snacks at school. Very similar to the taking your kids debate. I think the high level issue is this:

It used to be that the Governments duty was merely to serve and protect. But it's now dawned on many that the Government has a duty to guide and nurture behaviour. Why? Well because it's clear that many people are very poor at looking after their physical and mental health and that of their children. And, more importantly, that doesn't just affect them. It affects us all. It's a drain on the health service, it's a drain on the benefits system, it indirectly contributes to crime and it's a drain on our economy. It's also recognised that a lot of these lifestyle and behavioural problems stem directly from early life.

People have always expected the Government to deal with problems as they arise a la my house has been burgled, please catch them and lock them up. But now they expect the Government to stop people becoming burglars in the first place. To do that you have to break the cycle and that starts at a young age.

A good parent has to play by the same rules as a bad parent - otherwise the rules become weak and gradually become unenforceable.

That said, I've heard the argument the bad parents are ignoring the rules anyway and are not being pulled up for it. I don't know whether that is true or not. But for sure if it is then yes there is no point in persisting with the rules. But I would suggest long term that is not the way to go.
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miranda wrote:
foxtrotzulu wrote:
I think there is perhaps a case for issuing vouchers equivalent to the cost of state school education and then people are free to spend the voucher where they choose or top it up as well if they like.


Sweden's system has been heavily criticised on the back of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) survey results.

http://www.thelocal.se/20140401/sweden-takes-another-tumble-in-pisa-school-rankings

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/04/sweden-school-choice-education-decline-oecd


Yes but health and well being are higher in that nation than pretty much anywhere else. Swedes are amongst the wealthiest, healthier, longest lived, and contented people in the world. I think you need to take a wider view of eduction, it is not simply a matter of academic result, which are often hard to compare across geographies anyway.
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Gerry wrote:
pam w wrote:
Quote:

Spurious argument in the extreme

Laughing yes, the whole idea of opting out of bits of tax is pretty silly.


Very silly.


Ummm...I never suggested not paying tax. In fact quite the opposite - I said I am happy to pay more tax because I earn more, it is entirely fair that those who make the most also should contribute the most. I just think it would be fairer for all parents to have a choice in how the money allocated by the state for their children's education is spent. As it stands this is not the case.

And those who choose private education are penalised unfairly, as school fees are paid put of post-tax income (in essence I am paying the tax for a service I am not getting, then paying for that service out of income that has been taxed) and I do not get the cost allocated by the state for education offset against the fees. It is actually a rip off when you think about it
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What a ludicrous argument. You're paying tax for a service you CHOOSE not to use but could use if you wanted. You're also benefitting from the rest of society getting educated in the same way as any non-parent tax payer is.
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You are living in a society where doctors, nurses, paramedics, police, teachers, scientists etc. etc. etc. - everyone providing services that help you - are only able to be so because they have received an education from the state. You are getting a service from state education.
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@rob@rar, I do agree with you that implementing this sort of policy would be extremely hard, perhaps impossible. It is somehwat telling that all the measure youtalk about to improve schools (collaboration, targeted support, useful accountability measures, benchmarking of performance and sharing best practice and high performing school leaders etc.) are pretty much what the wider world of commerce has been doing for decades. There does seem to be a problem that it has taken so long for these ideas to have spread to schools.
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swiftoid wrote:
What a ludicrous argument. You're paying tax for a service you CHOOSE not to use but could use if you wanted. You're also benefitting from the rest of society getting educated in the same way as any non-parent tax payer is.


Not ludicrous at all. You might not agree, which is fine, but it is certainly not ludicrous. I am paying tax for a service I choose not to use, which saves the tax payer money, but I also pay for the service out of post-tax income so it is s double whammy to me and a double benefit to the tax man. You may think that is fair and you are perfectly entitled to that opinion, I do not think it is fair.

Quite a few other countries either allocate the state tariff for parents to spend as they wish or allow payment for education out of pre-tax income (or both). The reason they do so is because they think spending on education is a net positive benefit for society as a whole (as do I). The theory being that encouraging and supporting additional spend by doing so increases choice of provision as well as raising the overall investment in education (because more parents will choose to spend on education than would otherwise be the case). But of course that must be completely ludicrous according to you.
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zikomo wrote:
Swedes are amongst the wealthiest, healthier, longest lived, and contented people in the world. I think you need to take a wider view of eduction, it is not simply a matter of academic result, which are often hard to compare across geographies anyway.


Well, yes, it is hard to compare a country of 9.5 million people v a country of 64 million people.

But the World Health Organisation ranks the UK healthcare system higher than Sweden's, Sweden has higher youth unemployment, higher suicide rate.... Life expectancy is one year greater than in the UK but is the same as or lower than 18 other countries so not exceptional.

Sweden is without doubt a wonderful place and I'm not knocking it but I don't think I - more than anyone else - need to take a wider view of education actually, nor that the Swedish system holds all the answers.
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@zikomo,
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miranda wrote:
zikomo wrote:
Swedes are amongst the wealthiest, healthier, longest lived, and contented people in the world. I think you need to take a wider view of eduction, it is not simply a matter of academic result, which are often hard to compare across geographies anyway.


Well, yes, it is hard to compare a country of 9.5 million people v a country of 64 million people.

But the World Health Organisation ranks the UK healthcare system higher than Sweden's, Sweden has higher youth unemployment, higher suicide rate.... Life expectancy is one year greater than in the UK but is the same as or lower than 18 other countries so not exceptional.

Sweden is without doubt a wonderful place and I'm not knocking it but I don't think I - more than anyone else - need to take a wider view of education actually, nor that the Swedish system holds all the answers.


I don't at all understand your point that you cannot compare a small country to a big country, and neither do I understand why you have decided to take such a snide tone about it. It is very easy to compare a country of 9.5M to a country of 64M people, economists, sociologists and statisticians far cleverer than you do so all the time - and organisations of considerable repute (like the WHO you refer to) produce very meaningful comparisons. The fact is, in general, smaller countries do better across a range of measures - please not I said in GENERAL, which means not all small countries do better than larger countries.

Sweden is not the be all and end all, and neither have i claimed it is. It is simply an example. Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands are other good examples where education choice is supported by the state. That being said the OECD Better Life Index does suggest they are doing rather well, and rather better than us in lots of ways. http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/sweden/


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Mon 15-02-16 12:54; edited 1 time in total
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@zikomo,
Quote:

I said I am happy to pay more tax because I earn more, it is entirely fair that those who make the most also should contribute the most

Most people who say this don't really believe it....less than an hour later I think you proved it.
Quote:

I am paying tax for a service I choose not to use, which saves the tax payer money, but I also pay for the service out of post-tax income so it is s double whammy to me and a double benefit to the tax man.
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@zikomo, I was not being 'snide' Confused

And now I think you are coming across as being a bit rude and not worth engaging with any further.
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Rareperk wrote:
@zikomo,
Quote:

I said I am happy to pay more tax because I earn more, it is entirely fair that those who make the most also should contribute the most

Most people who say this don't really believe it....less than an hour later I think you proved it.
Quote:

I am paying tax for a service I choose not to use, which saves the tax payer money, but I also pay for the service out of post-tax income so it is s double whammy to me and a double benefit to the tax man.


The lack of logic here is astonishing. And I actually made the point about those who earn more paying more much earlier, so you are also simply wrong.
I don't think anyone enjoys paying tax, but I think that paying more because I earn more is entirely fair. And most people agree.
The two statements are not at all related, and you are also completely ignoring my logic and the context. I understand that you don't agree with me, which is fine, but that might be more constructively expressed in a logical and factual manner. Who knows, you may actually have some great points to make that I would find genuinely interesting and that would inform my own opinion. This type of sniping is not likely to achieve anything.
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miranda wrote:
@zikomo, I was not being 'snide' Confused

And now I think you are coming across as being a bit rude and not worth engaging with any further.


I interpreted it that way, sorry if I got it wrong. I do not at all intend to be rude, but I do like to debate the facts and I also like to see respect for differing opinions. Apologies again for any offence.
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rob@rar wrote:

I don't have any objection to parents having choice of schools (including for the sorts of reasons that you cite), although as I just said, in many, many places there is not a real choice for large numbers of parents. I just don't think it is a way of improving schools, so in too many places it is just a choice between schools which parents perceive to be good or bad.


Agree choice is not a reality for most parents without significant financial reserves. If you take a hypothetical town with say a maximum of 3 state schools. Almost certainly there will be one which is ranked lower than the others so the place lottery ends up being gamed for the other 2. The unlucky losers end up in the worst choice school along with those who didn't care. The higher ranked schools don't miraculously generate extra places to take up the demand. Nor does the 3rd ranked school suddenly up its game.
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Under the zikomo plan I wouldn't be paying a penny of taxation for eduction; single, childless, privately educated.

But I still don't agree. People who choose to opt out of the system with private education, healthcare, helicopter or whatever should still contribute to the state. Or go and live on a desert island somewhere and have nothing to do with society at all.
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@queen bodecia, I think you have misinterpreted the @zikomo plan. I think he is suggesting private school fees (for ones children) be offset against tax.
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@laundryman, no I understood, but the plan smacks of choosing what taxes to pay according to one's lifestyle and budget.
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