Thursday, May 23, 2013

HM Government and me - more on the Life in the UK test as "unfit for purpose"

Lord Roberts of Llandudno, a Liberal Democrat Peer in the House of Lords, submitted a question to the government about my recent work on the new Life in the United Kingdom citizenship test, which I've described as "unfit for purpose" here and here. His Lordship writes:

"To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Taylor of Holbeach on 6 February (WA 58), what assessment they have made of Dr Thom Brooks’ recent evaluation of the Life in the UK Test being “unfit for purpose”."
(Hansard Citation: HL Deb, 21 May 2013, c43W)

Lord Taylor of Holbeach, a Conservative Peer and Whip in the House of Lords, responds:

"Revised Life in the UK tests based on the new Life in the UK handbook, began on 25 March. The majority of feedback received has been positive. The Government do not share Dr Brooks’ view that the handbook goes too far by including information about British culture and history at the expense of practical knowledge.

The test is one of the ways in which those applying for permanent residence or naturalisation as British citizens can demonstrate the required knowledge of language and life in the UK. The majority of those applying will have been in the UK for at least five years and should therefore be aware of practical matters, such as how to contact the emergency services. The Government therefore consider that it is right for the Life in the UK test to concentrate on British history, culture and democracy and that the handbook succeeds in providing information on these topics in an interesting and accessible way."
(Hansard Citation: HL Deb, 21 May 2013, c44W)

The Government's Life in the UK handbook is explicit: it will "help ensure a broad general knowledge of the culture, laws and history of the UK" to "help you to integrate into society and play a full role" -- but then it has omitted previously published information about the NHS and how to register with a GP, how to contact the police and report a crime, rights upon arrest, how the educational system works (including subjects taught and qualifications earned) because, well, people should already have this broad general knowledge and be integrated prior to exposure to, erm, more broad general knowledge that is impractical, inconsistent and trivial?!

The handbook says nothing at all about omitting information because people living here for at least five years should already know about it - and so it need not be required knowledge for the test nor noted in a handbook which states on its cover A Guide for New Residents. Indeed, persons living in the UK for at least five years might be expected to know already that the Queen is Head of State (so why is this noted?), that the government includes the Prime Minister and a Cabinet (so why is this included?) or that British currency includes £5 and £10 notes (so why this is required knowledge?).

If there was a genuine attempt to exclude information that every citizen should know (but must know to satisfactorily satisfy the five year residency requirement), then how was this conducted? Who was consulted about such decisions and why was information about £5 notes included anyway, but not how to contact the police?

I suspect the real problem is that this process was rushed through too quickly with insufficient attention to detail. My report to be published on 13th June will highlight in depth serious flaws with the Life in the UK test that will make for sober reading. Expect much more in due course.

No comments: