Posts Tagged 'Education'

Raging shock as ‘the powers that be’ increasingly run out of control

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

It was good intentions that saw healthcare professionals raise concerns about the food that some children were being given in their packed lunches.  It was good intentions that saw education professionals say they should therefore advise parents what a balanced packed lunch should contain.  It was good intentions that then saw education and healthcare professionals unite to dictate what food and drink should be in the child’s packed lunch, or else there would be consequences.  As surely as night follows day it was a certainty that these good intentions would be hijacked and transformed into an agenda to wield control over other people.

Two weeks ago a local news story from Dagenham, east London showed this control agenda in action and running into some scattergun resistance from confused and frustrated parents.  A water-only policy for the drink in a packed lunch has clashed with some parents’ desire to put sugar-free squash in the lunch instead, due to their young children – just fancy – not liking the taste of water.  It turns out the school has made an application for the London Healthy Schools Award, hence its zealous dietary restrictions.  The actions of the school have prompted some parents to keep their children off school, affecting what passes for an education there.

In fact, it is the desperation of Valence Primary School to achieve that award, that has seen staff have been removing drink cartons from children and throwing them away, and pouring out drink from containers to check the colour of the contents.  The school’s headteacher, Elizabeth Chaplin, said that the school had a policy where midday supervisors disposed of half-empty drinks and yoghurt pots to prevent spillages in lunchboxes, which makes things sound inocuous enough, until she goes on to say that children who were questioned over their drink contents were “more than happy to confirm or demonstrate the water content”.  The few reactions to the story from those of an authoritarian bias, prompted me to leave this response:

This local example of the powers that be running out of control has now been added to by a national story from the Daily Mail.  That paper reports that Colnbrook C of E Primary School near Slough, has suspended a six-year-old child because his parents refused to stop putting a pack of Mini Cheddars in his packed lunch, in contravention of their ‘healthy eating’ policy.  This follows a letter sent to all parents in mid January which included the following:

Chocolate, sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks are not allowed.

If your child’s lunchbox is unhealthy and unbalanced they will be provided with a school lunch for which you will be charged.

To be picky, Mini Cheddars arguably do not fall into the list of prohibited foods.  But regardless, such behaviour by this and other schools is another example of the machinations of the state taking ownership for the raising of children and imposition of constraints on parents.  That is unacceptable.

The state’s agents are out of control.  And as for the lack of perspective, for the sake of a cheesy biscuit snack comprising a small part of a child’s diet, that child is having his education, such as it is, adversely affected because the school wants to assert power over his parents.  This is more than wrong, it is perverse.  It would be wrong to describe this as the nanny state, nannies tend to be kind and affectionate rather than power crazed obsessives who abuse their positions to pursue an agenda set down by those who believe they know best and everyone has to fall into line with their viewpoint.  It’s time for parents to shake off their fear of officialdom and take back control of the raising of their children.

Collectivism, statism, authoritarianism…

Call it what you will, no matter how you dress this up it shows the disturbing, even dangerous, mindset of socialists (h/t Liberty Blitzkrieg).  Speaking as a parent of two children, the message in the clip below is utterly appalling.

When people like Melissa Harris-Perry want to take responsibility for the education of your children you’ve got to ask why, what’s in it for them?  Clearly they want to dictate the way the child will think when he is older.

For socialists it is too much of a risk to let a family influence the way the child might think – after all, the chilld might not accept the distorted, fallacious secular shibboleths that underpin the authoritarian, statist creed the collectivists cling to. Parents cannot be trusted to indoctrinate the children with the ‘correct’ viewpoints.  Free thinking and independent, critical analysis that might lead someone to question or challenge the statist orthodoxy cannot be permitted.

So confident are these people, they don’t even try to hide their nefarious agenda any more.

Oh the irony

So on the day we discover that English schoolchildren have slipped down the international league tables in primary Maths (10th from 6th) and Science (15th from 7th) we have teaching unions, councils and schools going to court to challenge a change in grade boundaries from June’s English GCSE exams.

Is it any wonder our educational standards are falling when teachers focus more on ‘inconsistencies’ and ‘lack of even-handedness’ affecting the number of youngsters achieving a grade C, rather than getting the kids up to grade A standard?

For too long teachers have coasted along relying on grade inflation to make it look as if performance in the classroom has improved. But the evidence shows that against our international competitors we are losing ground. Now the teachers and councils are so desperate to maintain the illusion they will even go to court to force over-lenient grading of papers so more kids achieve the benchmark C.

They may be kidding themselves, but worse they are betraying the children, whose interests they profess to have at heart. They are also failing the country which will continue to see jobs and opportunities lost to other nations where teaching and subsequent exam results are of a much higher standard.

Sadiq Khan MP and a lesson in historical ignorance

From the Daily Wail

A left-wing MP has claimed that new immigrants know more about the nation’s heritage than many Britons.

Labour justice spokesman Sadiq Khan said that it  ‘frustrated’ him to see newcomers obliged to sit citizenship tests when many people ‘know b***** all’ about British history.

Mr Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants and MP for Tooting in South London, said he met many people who have gone through the citizenship ceremony who  feel ‘so excited and enthused’.

But he added: ‘Then I’ll be canvassing in my area and there’ll be people who have lived in the same home for three or four or five generations who know b***** all about our country, about our heritage.

‘It frustrates me that you’ve got new citizens who have an obligation to learn about our country but we aren’t doing enough to make sure everyone shares that knowledge.’

It is hypocritical of Khan to protest in this way.  For many years Khan and his socialist ilk have strived to demonise the history of this country and teach only a slanted and pejorative version of our past.  They have consistently cited our imperial and colonialist history as something of which this country should be ashamed and therefore should be swept under the carpet – denying younsgters the chance to learn with balance some of the positives of what we also contributed to the world in those days.

The socialist airbrushing of our past has been reflected in the history syllabus in state schools as the focus switched from teaching historic facts about our country and its place in the world to indoctrinating youngsters with the kind of marxist nonsense spewed forth by the likes of the arch-apologist for communist inspired genocide, Eric Hobsbawm.

Burwood School assaults – Ofsted shows its inspections are worthless

In January this blog focused attention on the background to the serious assault on two teachers at Burwood School in Orpington, and the media’s failure to report the story in a fuller context.

The Daily Mail later looked deeper into the story and obtained an interview with the father of one of the seriously injured teachers, Diane Whithead.  In that interview, Ms Whitehead’s father shared the previously unreported news that she had suffered another assault at the school in 2009 that resulted in two broken ribs.  Although I carried out a detailed search for news of this incident, there were no reports about it in the archives of the local or national press.  Not only did was this incident hushed up, but it took place in in the very year that Ofsted took Burwood School out of special measures, having been placed in them after the 2007 inspection.

Clearly Ofsted had questions to answer about this – and as the media has lost interest in the story and moved on to its usual diet of celebrity fayre and tittle tattle, I duly submitted a Freedom of Information request asking the following:

  • Did the assault in 2009 take place before or after the Ofsted inspection?
  • If the assault preceded the inspection, were Ofsted told about it?
  • If Ofsted were told, was it taken into account when lifting the school out of special measures?
  • If the assault followed the inspection, were Ofsted told about it?
  • If Ofsted were told, did they consider another inspection?
  • Were the Ofsted inspectors conducting the 2011 inspection aware of the 2009 assault?
  • If they were aware, why did the school get a satisfactory rating despite safety concerns of several parents and carers and evidence of issues around behaviour management?
  • If they were not aware, why did the inspectors not investigate the parental concerns more vigorously?

Although the reply came in February, I’ve delayed returning to this story as I tried another avenue to get more information.  However, now seems as good a time as any to revisit the story and publish Ofsted’s reply following a written answer to a question about violent crime in schools in Parliament that was published yesterday in which no mention was made of Ofsted and its role in assessing safety and behaviour in schools:

Ofsted’s reply which amounts to ‘nothing to do with us, guv’.  It is staggering that documents are destroyed after only six months so there is no way of looking back at evidence collected during previous inspections.  How on earth is an inspector supposed to accurately assess a school’s change performance from its previous inspection when all that is available is what amounts to a brief summary report?  This only reinforces the belief that Ofsted inspections are largely cosmetic and ultimately worthless.

There is no point having Ofsted assess and share information about safety and behaviour in schools if it is incapable of being held to account for its reports when events show them to be flawed or hopelessly out of kilter with the day to day reality in our schools.

There was a hoo last year when Ofsted’s budget for 2014/15 was announced as £143 million.  This is down from £198 million in 2010/11 and £266 million in 2004/05.  For all the use Ofsted is and lack of value it provides, it would seem reasonable to argue that even £143m is far too high a price for taxpayers to pay.  It may have the motto ‘raising standards, improving lives’ but it clearly failed spectacularly when it came to Burwood School, with serious consequences.  Ofsted simply isn’t fit for purpose.

What does Ofsted mean by ‘Satisfactory’?

Regular readers will be aware this blog has been looking at the can of worms opened up by the serious assault on two teachers at Burwood School.

We return to the subject today following a story in today’s Guardian, which explains:

The Ofsted rating of “satisfactory” for schools – widely regarded as a euphemism for a poor school – is to be scrapped, the new chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, will propose as he outlines new plans to tackle “coasting schools”.

Granted, the Guardian’s angle with the story is to put forward the teaching unions’ narrative about this being another mechanism designed to shoehorn schools into Academy status.  But it nevertheless highlights an issue with Ofsted’s school inspections that is evidenced by the two most recent reports submitted about Burwood – one of the 28% of schools given one of these ‘Satisfactory’ ratings.

The Wilshaw proposals, that schools must demonstrate improvement over the course of two more inspections over a three-year period or face going into special measures, would have signalled greater focus at Burwood before the attack took place.  Burwood School’s 2011 Ofsted rating overall was ‘satisfactory’ as you can see below…

But this is no different to the inspection rating in 2009, where a separate inspector also gave Burwood a ‘satisfactory’ rating.  At the time, with the school emerging from special measures, the inspector described Burwood as a rapidly improving school.

Although the two reports do not present the key criteria in a like for like fashion (ensuring it is difficult to establish a benchmark to judge future performance – update… and a tweeter advises that the criteria has changed again from 1st January this year) what we can see is that there were items in the 2009 report, shown below, rated ’2′ or ‘good’.  After that 2009 report it seems the rapid improvement arrested.  By 2011 there were no ’2′ or ‘good’ ratings.

Having given Burwood School another satisfactory rating and highlighting required improvements, some of which are incredibly similar to those highlighted in 2009, why did Ofsted not consider putting the school back into special measures?  The direction of travel, to coin a phrase, was clearly not one of improvement.  If anything things were slipping backwards, but this seems to have been blithely dismissed and swept under the carpet.

One wonders if special measures had been in force again and there was more scrutiny on the inconsistencies in classroom discipline, and the excessive culture of rewarding pupils with fun activities instead of lessons, the 10-year-old alleged attacker might have had his behaviour nipped in the bud before he exploded out of control.

While Ofsted was content to rate Burwood School as satisfactory, it seems Ofsted’s own actions in addressing failings at the school were anything but.  It could be argued they share responsibility for what happened in that classroom on 5th January.

Burwood School assault – the questions Ofsted must answer

When this blog did what the media didn’t, and named Burwood School as the venue of a serious assault on two teachers by a 10-year-old pupil, we took a look at the Ofsted inspection report from 2011.

The report mentioned concerns by parents and carers about safety at the school, but this was offset by the inclusion of the finding that:

Burwood is a safe school

and that:

students are unanimous in confirming that they feel safe in school

At the time we said that:

Given the incident that has taken place, that assessment finding should surely come in for substantial scrutiny – something any half decent media would be focusing attention on.

The media, God love them, haven’t got that far yet.  Only the Daily Mail seems to have dug deeper into the story.  What the Mail has done is obtain comment from the parents of Diane Whitehead, the teacher whose leg was shattered and kneecap dislocated in the incident.  Although some people speculated the injury may have been caused by an awkward fall while restraining the child, it transpires the injury came as a result of a deliberate karate-style kick to the leg moments after the boy had headbutted another female teacher in the face, knocking her unconscious.

What stands out in the interview is the previously unreported news that Ms Whitehead suffered another assault at the school in 2009 that resulted in two broken ribs.  Reports of this previous incident cannot be found in the archives of the local or national press.  It appears to have been hushed up.  However, 2009 was the year that Ofsted took Burwood School out of special measures, having been placed in them after the 2007 inspection.

So what we have is a substandard level of performance at Burwood in 2007 necessitating special measures… sufficient progress supposedly being made to take the school out of special measures in 2009 – the year Ms Whitehead suffered the previous serious assault… parents and carers expressing concern about safety at the school in 2011 which Ofsted appears not to have investigated more deeply despite observations of behavioural management issues… then this grievous double assault in 2012.

Ofsted has questions to answer in respect of its inspections at Burwood School:

  • Did the assault in 2009 take place before or after the Ofsted inspection?
  • If the assault preceded the inspection, were Ofsted told about it?
  • If Ofsted were told, was it taken into account when lifting the school out of special measures?
  • If the assault followed the inspection, were Ofsted told about it?
  • If Ofsted were told, did they consider another inspection?
  • Were the Ofsted inspectors conducting the 2011 inspection aware of the 2009 assault?
  • If they were aware, why did the school get a satisfactory rating despite safety concerns of several parents and carers and evidence of issues around behaviour management?
  • If they were not aware, why did the inspectors not investigate the parental concerns more vigorously?

As the media is not asking them, we will.  An FOI request is on its way and we will return to this subject when we have received a reply.

It’s ok, it’s other people’s money

With so many frustrating issues going on in this declining country, it is only to be expected that people often miss what’s going on right under their own nose.  This morning saw one of those ‘close to home’ issues thrust into consciousness at Mind Towers, with the arrival of an email from Mind Junior’s school that read:

Dear Mr Mind

Did you know that just by registering your child for Free School Meals the school gets extra money?

For every child registered, Xxxxxx Xxxxxx School will get £600.

Registering is quick, easy and confidential. Full details are given in the attached document. Please contact me if you have any queries.

If you qualify, your son or daughter will receive a free, healthy meal at lunchtime, you could receive other financial help, and the school gets an extra £600. If your child does not want to have a school meal, the school will still get the additional funding.

Please read the attached document and make an application if you think you qualify – the additional funding will make a real difference to the provision of education for your son or daughter.

Yours sincerely

And we wonder where our tax pounds go..?  A few moments of research revealed to my blind eyes that variations of this email have been sent to parents by schools up and down the country in recent weeks and that the scheme facilitating this is the Department of Education‘s ‘Pupil Premium’.

Its purpose is set out on the department’s website and explains:

The Government believes that the Pupil Premium, which is additional to main school funding, is the best way to address the current underlying inequalities between children eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) and their wealthier peers by ensuring that funding to tackle disadvantage reaches the pupils who need it most.

But the department also makes clear that:

Schools are free to spend the Pupil Premium as they see fit. However they will be held accountable for how they have used the additional funding to support pupils from low-income families. New measures will be included in the performance tables that will capture the achievement of those deprived pupils covered by the Pupil Premium. From September 2012, we will also require schools to publish online information about how they have used the Premium. This will ensure that parents and others are made fully aware of the attainment of pupils covered by the Premium.

However as experience has shown us when it comes to public spending, as always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – if you will pardon the pun. Organisations often find ways around the rules in order to use the resources made available to them in a manner they were not provided for.  The style of the emails and letters sent out by schools show that effort is already underway.

If a family has financial difficulty and cannot afford to provide a meal for their child during the school day, then I feel it is right that the taxpayer funded safety net should kick in to provide for a meal.  It should always be a provision based on need.

But what we are seeing is that even if a family’s means – augmented by some form of credit or benefit that makes their children eligible for free school meals – enable them to provide a meal for their child, schools are encouraging them to register for free meals just so the school can claim more taxpayers’ money. Encouraging parents and carers to register for something they may not need – and implore them to do so even if they don’t need or want to take up the free meals – so it benefits the school, feels like fraud.

If a family is getting by without making use of free school meals, then do they really have the ‘need’ that free school meals are being used as a measure to gauge? Once again it seems the government have failed to think things through and a proportion of the £1.25bn of our money set aside for the poorest in our society will be hoovered up by schools for people who in reality do not fall into that bracket.  But as always no one seems to care because it’s other people’s money and the government can always pick our pockets for more of it in the future.

Another example of lazy journalism failing the public – Burwood School

What is the point of journalists?  Increasingly in this country we see reporters publishing stories they have not written, and to which they add virtually nothing.

A story doing the rounds today is a glaring example of this churnalism.  Picked up from the newswires by the BBC, national papers and a raft of regional titles, is the story of a 10-year-old boy who has been arrested for allegedly attacking two of his female teachers at his school in Orpington.  One has facial injuries, but the other has a broken leg and dislocated kneecap.

All the reports and headlines are virtually identical, as you can see from the Press Association (the likely origin of the story), the BBC, the Independent, in The Sun, the Metro and more besides.

But all of these outlets miss the opportunity to put the story into all-important context.  For while they content themselves to repeat a police spokesman’s words saying that police attended a school in Avalon Road, Orpington, and detailing the injuries sustained, none of them name the school and therefore help the audience to understand more about what happened.

The only school on Avalon Road is Burwood School, which describes itself thus:

So the incident has not taken place in a run of the mill mainstream school, but in a boys only establishment made up of around 44 youngsters with various problems who are not suitable to be in maintstream education.  Not only that, but an establishment placed into special measures by Ofsted for two years in 2007 and was subsequently forced to reduce the designated age range of its pupils so it could no longer accept youngsters aged between 7-10-years-old.

While this information does not detract from the seriousness of the incident and the apparent extreme violence meted out by a mere 10-year-old, it is clear the school runs a higher risk of violent incidents taking place due to the troubled nature of its pupils.  Although it came out of special measures in 2009, the 2011 Ofsted inspection‘s key findings clearly show standards at the school have a lot of improvement to make:

The Ofsted report goes on to mention that concerns have been raised by a minority of parents and carers about safety in the school, something which appears to have been dismissed by the inspectors who state:

‘Burwood is a safe school’

and go on to add that:

‘students are unanimous in confirming that they feel safe in school’

The students? Since when does their opinion trump that of responsible parents and carers?  It is interesting therefore that this information is shared in the report given Ofsted confirmed in their introduction that their inspection was somewhat devalued (my description) by the fact that:

There were limited opportunities for lesson observations because Year 11 students were out of school on study leave throughout the inspection, and two of the five remaining classes went on an educational visit for the whole of the second day.

Given the incident that has taken place, that assessment finding should surely come in for substantial scrutiny – something any half decent media would be focusing attention on.  As should the feeling running through the report that pupils determine too much of what goes on in the school at the expense of formally planned and disciplined educational activity.  There are clear issues here that are of public interest, but will likely go unexplored because the media has failed to provide all the information.  The media is leaving the public in possession of only part of the story,  resulting in a very misleading impression of the circumstances.

The question is, why did none of the journalists who published this story take a few minutes to uncover and report these important details before making the story live?

We already know the answer.  This is yet another example of our media being lazy, derivative and unfit for purpose , therefore ill-serving the public audience.  No doubt it will fall to blogs to tell the story the media is incapable or unwilling to research and publish, and serve the public interest.

Joe Cotton, a typical 15yo GCSE student?

One of the stories of the day sections of the media are lapping up is that of a 15-year-old schoolboy who delivered a speech at the National Union of Teachers conference in Harrogate.  As usual the media fails its readers once again.

Joe Cotton from Calder High School in Yorkshire was given a standing ovation after his speech on the axing of the education maintenance allowance (EMA). The teenager urged the NUT to do all they could to keep education “affordable and accessible”, according to the BBC.

Good luck to the lad.  I don’t agree with his views about the EMA but I don’t take issue with him being motivated enough to stand up in front of 1000 delegates and speak his mind.  Someone I do take issue with however is the NUT general secretary, Christine Blower. After Cotton had finished speaking she took to the stage to congratulate him saying:

“Now that’s what comprehensive education can do.”

Really?

Let’s examine the facts shall we?  Fact one is that Joe Cotton is not an average 15 year old run of the mill GCSE student.  Joe was was invited by a member of the NUT executive to speak at the conference after he was heard speaking at a rally in Halifax.  He is clearly a self motivated high achiever who also has the good fortune to attend a school rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted and described thus in its last inspection report:

Many parents of children at comprehensive schools would love to see that kind of description for the school their youngsters attend. It is not par for the course.

Then there is young Joe Cotton himself.  Regardless of his views this lad is a stand out kid.  Many youngsters spend their free time attached to a keyboard in their bedroom or wandering around the streets looking for some kind of stimulation, but not Joe.  Unlike many kids he likes to get involved in available activities and strives to succeed – quite possibly due to positive parental influence, encouragement and support. Evidence?  Read on…

There is this local news story from 2009 where Joe was a star turn in a mock trial contest.  In fact he was named the best prosecution lawyer, denoting an ability to articulate his thoughts and express himself clearly and effectively. But then this should not be so surprising when you understand that Joe is heavily involved in amateur dramatics and theatre with entities such as the Calderdale Theatre School.

Indeed an acting career could even be on the cards as this story about the drama ‘Dreaming of Foxes’ in which Joe starred suggests.  Another story about the same drama on the Calder High website (scroll down to Dreaming of Foxes) backs this up and is the immediately followed by a reference to Calder High School’s reputation for excellence in the performing arts as Year 12 drama students performed their exam piece, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in front of an external judge.

Not content with mock trials and acting, Joe also finds time to be involved with a youth run organisation which covers a range of issues from current affairs to opinions to music, called The Painter’s Chronicle.  One wonders how he finds time for all his homework and coursework with his GCSEs coming up.  But then, Joe might not need to worry about passing his exams as he has also demonstrated his entrepreneurial talent by winning Calderdale’s own version of The Apprentice -  the photo above shows him during the competition.

Now, back to Christine Blower’s little piece of propaganda. Given all the evidence above, just how likely is it that a comprehensive education is the reason for the talented and intelligent Joe’s achievements? Perhaps Mrs Blower could put her claim to the test and demonstrate what a comprehensive education can do by going to the nearby Park Lane school in Calderdale, where the comprehensive experience is more in keeping with that suffered by many youngsters around the country.

Perhaps Mrs Blower could invite one of Park Lane’s pupils to address the next conference and see if the outcome is anywhere near as good as having the exceptional Joe Cotton at the podium. Somehow I think that particular comprehensive’s performance would make such an invitation unlikely.

Of course if you were relying on the media to provide anything like this level of background detail about this young man and put his appearance at the NUT conference into context, you would be waiting a long time.

Not education, propaganda

Since Mind Jr arrived home from school this afternoon I have been stewing with barely concealed anger.  For within minutes of getting in, a very earnest Junior sat down Mrs Mind and myself and solemnly announced that we would no longer eat red meat in our household.

The inevitable question ‘why?’ resulted in a detailed explanation concerning today’s Geography lesson.  It was there Junior was informed that red meat should not be eaten any more than once per week, we were told, because any frequency beyond that will kill us all with strokes or heart attacks – and in any case it contributes to global warming.

Conscious of the need to help develop Junior’s critical thinking capability, I asked her why she thought this message had been shared in the lesson.  She opined that the class had been taught this because it is good for us.  And right there was the heart of the matter.  No discussion about it in class, no contrary view presented, no balance to the message, just a binary condition of good v bad and that we must listen to what the ‘experts’ say.  So what we have is a curriculum item check box, duly ticked, relying on an appeal to authority with theory presented as fact and a class of 13-14-yr-olds duly brainwashed with the partial and biased opinions of the political class that formed the syllabus.

In Geography this week and in Science last week, the class had been fed the party line on global warming and health.  I probed further to see just how much they had been taught.

  • Which greenhouse gas is present in the atmosphere in highest concentration?  Methane.  Wrong, I explained. Had she been told about water vapour?  There had been no mention of it.
  • How much CO2 is there in the atmosphere?  That wasn’t covered either, so I explained it was 385 parts per million.  She was stunned.
  • How much atmospheric CO2 is produced by humans and how much by nature?  Most of it from humans she said.  No, only around 5% with the rest coming from nature.  Now she was bewildered.  Her next comment summed everything up when she said, cutting out red meat won’t make much difference then.

As for the dietry aspects, had there been any discussion of the effects of sugary carbohydrates, the benefits of the complex carbs and the relatively benign influence of proteins such as meat?  Clearly that was too much to hope for, nothing of the sort had been covered.

It is simply unacceptable that our children are being plied with propaganda in this way.  This is not an education, it is an indoctrination constructed by special interest groups.  Rarely have the lyrics of Pink Floyd been more appropriate, leave them kids alone.

Use Climate Week to challenge the man-made global warming consensus

(Re-post from November 2010)

Oh Joy. From the pages of Environmental Data Interactive we learn that the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, Greg Barker, will be giving a keynote address today to mark the build up to the UK’s first Climate Week (21st-27th March 2011). Apparently Climate Week aims to enhance society’s approach to combating climate change:

‘It hopes to do this by creating an unprecedented opportunity for individuals and organisations from all parts of society, to share ideas, forge new collaborations, motivate their peers and inspire others to act.’

In other words people are going to be hectored with ever more shrill taxpayer funded propaganda about the crumbling anthropogenic global warming (AGW) orthodoxy. The true believers will continue their attempts to indoctrinate others while ignoring the many claims that have been debunked. As part of their effort some star names of the climate change movement are being rolled out… such as Al Gore.

It seems one of the worst ever Secretary Generals of the UN, Kofi Annan, is on board but now needs to be described by the organisers as a ‘Nobel Peace Prize laureate’ to boost his credibility. Also getting the red carpet treatment is Lord Nicholas Stern, whose error-littered report has been comprehensively eviscerated. In addition we are being treated to A-list celebrities backing the campaign such as Sir Paul McCartney, Michael Palin, Mark Ronson, Lily Cole and Sienna Miller. With so many scientific heavyweights on board, how could anyone fail to be persuaded by their claims?

The best response to this campaign would be for all those who question the climate change consensus to spend Climate Week pointing out the facts about climate change, to debunk the myths and ensure people are aware there is a compelling counter argument. To make sure it is an Honest Climate Week.  Just for starters here are some of the things that could be done:

  • On every blog, message board, newspaper comment thread and radio phone in, ensure people understand AGW is a theory not a scientific fact.
  • Highlight the media bias and ask why scientists who question the climate change orthodoxy are deliberately excluded by the media from discussions on the subject.
  • Demonstrate that the science is far from settled and the debate is nowhere near over by correcting false and mistaken assertions about things such as… rising temperatures, Arctic sea ice melt, the infamous Hockey Stick, the extent of Antarctic sea ice, dramatically inaccurate weather forecasting, missing and non existant data sets.

There is plenty of material out there that challenges the consensus. We should use it to educate those who have only heard one side of the story or do not have the time or inclination to explore the subject and identify for themselves those things that don’t add up.

Spread the word. Let’s ensure there is a real debate during Climate Week and that the myths and distortions are challenged.

University tuition fees foolishness

If a nation wishes to compete in the world then it should invest in the education of its people. But it is not a black and white issue and there is a difference between investing in the nation’s needs and the blanket funding of everyone who wishes to go to university.

You only need to look at some of the degree courses that have been subsidised by the taxpayer in recent years to know we have not been getting value for money. Many of these courses have sprung up in response to the Labour government’s desire to get as many people through college as possible at huge cost to the taxpayer, irrespective of their career plans and probable value to the country. Here is a selection of degree courses being offered in 2011:

Fashion Accessories (BA)
Viking Studies (BA)
Sport & Exercise Studies and Third World Devt (BA/BSc)
Surf Science and Technology (BSc)
Dance & Movement Studies and Env Hazards (BA/BSc)
Peace Studies (BA)
Customised Award Scheme (BA/BSc)
Ecotourism (BSc)

Some people will argue graduation in these courses may enrich the cultural tapestry of our country. But these are not areas that will improve this country’s competitiveness against our rivals in the global marketplace, so why should taxpayers heavily subsidise students of these subjects when they will not realise a return for their money? Would it not be a better investment to subsidise students of mathematics, science, engineering, artificial intelligence, medicine, chemistry, etc? That way there are incentives for bright people to become experts in fields that have tangible benefits for this country’s trade and wealth.

All too often in this country we swing from one extreme to the other, from everything to nothing. Where is the common sense, ability to be more selective, targeting of limited resources into areas (including tuition fees and grants) where they will derive most benefit and therefore a strategic plan for this country’s future wellbeing? We should put the money where it reaps a benefit and let those who wish to indulge in an interest fund their own activities. It’s not rocket science but neither the students nor the politicians appear to get it. Both groups let down the country yesterday. As for the protests themselves, more on that in a post later today.

Use Climate Week to challenge the man-made global warming consensus

Oh joy. From the pages of Environmental Data Interactive we learn that the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, Greg Barker, will be giving a keynote address today to mark the build up to the UK’s first Climate Week (21st-27th March 2011). Apparently Climate Week aims to enhance society’s approach to  combating climate change:

‘It hopes to do this by creating an unprecedented opportunity for individuals and organisations from all parts of society, to share ideas, forge new collaborations, motivate their peers and inspire others to act.’

In other words people are going to be hectored with ever more shrill taxpayer funded propaganda about the crumbling anthropogenic global warming (AGW) orthodoxy. The true believers will continue their attempts to indoctrinate others while ignoring the many claims that have been debunked. As part of their effort some star names of the climate change movement are being rolled out… such as Al Gore.

It seems one of the worst ever Secretary Generals of the UN, Kofi Annan, is on board but now needs to be described by the organisers as a ‘Nobel Peace Prize laureate’ to boost his credibility. Also getting the red carpet treatment is Lord Nicholas Stern, whose error-littered report has been comprehensively eviscerated. In addition we are being treated to A-list celebrities backing the campaign such as Sir Paul McCartney, Michael Palin, Mark Ronson, Lily Cole and Sienna Miller. With so many scientific heavyweights on board, how could anyone fail to be persuaded by their claims?

The best response to this campaign would be for all those who question the climate change consensus to spend Climate Week pointing out the facts about climate change, to debunk the myths and ensure people are aware there is a compelling counter argument. To make sure it is an Honest Climate Week.  Just for starters here are some of the things that could be done:

  • On every blog, message board, newspaper comment thread and radio phone in, ensure people understand AGW is a theory not a scientific fact.
  • Highlight the media bias and ask why scientists who question the climate change orthodoxy are deliberately excluded by the media from discussions on the subject.
  • Demonstrate that the science is far from settled and the debate is nowhere near over by correcting false and mistaken assertions about things such as…  rising temperatures, Arctic sea ice melt, the infamous Hockey Stick, the extent of Antarctic sea ice, dramatically inaccurate weather forecasting, missing and non existant data sets.

There is plenty of material out there that challenges the consensus. We should use it to educate those who have only heard one side of the story or do not have the time or inclination to explore the subject and identify for themselves those things that don’t add up.

Spread the word. Let’s ensure there is a real debate during Climate Week and that the myths and distortions are challenged.

Education professionals undermining our children

In today’s News of the World, David Cameron shares his fears that he will struggle to give his children a decent education because there are so few good comprehensive schools close to Number 10.  As Cameron explained:

“In some parts of the country, there isn’t a choice of good schools,”

This is something that has been apparent to parents for many years.  Why else do parents spend a fortune to buy houses in the catchment areas of schools that do deliver a good standard of education to youngsters?  Why else are decent performing schools oversubscribed by many times for each place?  It’s just another example of Cameron stating the bloody obvious.

But while Cameron laments this state of affairs and gives the impression of standing on a level playing field with other parents, there is a complete absence of an explanation from him about why there are so few good schools.  For Cameron, a political coward who is only capable of facing down his own side, is terrified of admitting there are so few good schools because the standard of teaching is so poor.

And is it any wonder why the standards are so poor when the Chairman of the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), Zenna Atkins, holds views such as this:

every school should have a useless teacher [...]

[...] If kids can manage to cope with one bad teacher that’ll be a good learning lesson for them in life – it is not necessarily an absolute disaster.

Why should any schoolchild have to cope with a bad teacher?  Atkins has desperately tried to qualify her comments and wrap them into a different context, but the fact remains the person with responsibility for educational standards has such views.  The teaching unions are just as bad, given they are loathe to let any incompetent teacher be removed from a school.  The interests of children should be of absolute priority, but in reality they aren’t.  The children are expected to cope and if they can’t, well that’s just too bad.

Is it any wonder why the United Kingdom has slipped down the international league tables when it comes to ability in English, Maths and Sciences?

NLGN – The unthink tank

It is said by some that ‘think tanks’ have a role in thinking the unthinkable when it comes to proposing policies to address specific problems.  After listening to the Head of Communications for one left wing think tank on BBC Five Live ‘Drive’ this afternoon, James Hulme from the New Local Government Network (NLGN), it would be fair to assume some think tanks also have a role in providing employment to utter idiots unfit to work in the real world.

The topic under discussion was the Conservative plan to allow parents or interested parties to set up and run schools within the state sector.  Hulme, being of the left and formerly homed at Tony Blair’s favourite think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), clearly opposes the plan on spec. After all with his world view, unless a branch of government has control, ’tis bad.  But his reasoning revealed a complete disconnect from reality and ridiculous lack of understanding about what the plans actually mean.

He prattled on about having visited many schools and seen how incredibly hard the headteachers and teachers worked.  Then, astonishingly, declared the idea that schools could be set up and run by people such as parents as unworkable because he couldn’t see these busy people in classrooms teaching algebra!

One would guess that among think tank wonks, James Hulme is not alone in lacking the mental capacity to understand the difference between setting up and running a school’s affairs (as per the proposal) and parents putting themselves forward as untrained teachers. But maybe I’m being unfair and not considering that perhaps Hulme does understand the difference very well, and was instead using spin in a calculated manner to misinform listeners about what setting up a school really means.

In which case it shows that rather than thinking the unthinkable he is simply acting as a propagandist for the Labour party, which ensured that in 2008 the NLGN received a chunk (£118k) of £1.6m of taxpayers’ money to fund think tank activites, such as campaigning and political advocacy.  That’s right, the same taxpayers’ money Labour kept telling us at the time could not possibly be cut because it would affect frontline public services.  Quelle surprise!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Labour announces new education strategy

Imagine my excitement when I caught sight of an announcement to the House of Commons yesterday that the government has a new education strategy.  It would certainly be something that is long overdue.

The last OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results released in December 2007 showed that British teenagers had plummeted down the international education league table following the decline in education standards under Labour.  The PISA 2009 results are due out in December 2010.  Could it be that Labour had finally woken up to the consequences of failing a generation of British children by dumbing down education in the classroom, and how that adversely affects our international competitiveness?

Alas, no.  Not content with undermining the prospects of our children by levelling standards downwards and holding back our brightest and best, it seems Labour wants to help other countries to increase their own competitiveness at the cost of British taxpayers.  As wee Dougie Alexander explained in yesterday’s written statement from the Department for International Development (DfID):

I have deposited in the Library today my Department’s new education strategy, entitled; “Learning For All: DFID’s Education Strategy 2010–2015”. The strategy has been placed in the Libraries of the Houses and an electronically accessible version is available on the DFID website at http://www.dfid.gov.uk/educationstrategy.

“Learning For All: DFID’s Education Strategy 2010–2015” outlines how DFID will contribute to helping the world’s children realise their full potential through access to a quality basic education for all.

If only this government would show as much interest in the development of our own youngsters as it does in the development of youngsters overseas.  The government should be getting this country’s house in order before grandstanding on the world stage about funding education in under developed countries.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Oh the delicious irony

If anyone wants to understand why it is the Conservatives are not doing much better in the polls under David Cameron, a piece in the Telegraph goes some way to explaining it.  For it tells us that Britain has become more conservative in both politics and economics, according to the annual British Social Attitudes Survey.

The problem for the Tories is that while people are becoming more conservative (small c) the Conservative party is becoming less conservative.  The Tories and the electorate are passing each other on the road, going in opposite directions.  While the Heir to Blair continues to make his party more like blue Labour with each passing week in the hope of securing ‘centre ground’ votes, the voters are rejecting the centre ground and moving to the right:

The public have said “enough is enough” when it comes to wealth redistribution and no longer has an appetite for tax increases and raised spending on key services such as health and education.

Views on market forces and laissez faire is even stronger now than it was under Margaret Thatcher, the report concluded, and blamed the shift on New Labour repositioning itself towards centre politics.

Cameron thought Tory unpopularity was all to do with policy and set about reversing the party’s position on low taxation and pledging to spend more on public services.  The problem is that he wrongly identified the reason why people turned against the Conservatives in the 1990s.  It was to do with the ERM debacle, the Tory wets pushing us further towards European integration with Maastricht and sleazy personalities acting in arrogant fashion. 

Because Cameron refuses to accept that policy was not the problem and is determined to advance towards consensus politics, despite poll after poll showing people supporting Tory policies until they discovered it was Tories offering them, many people are now wondering what the point is of supporting the Tories today.  Especially as it is clear they are determined to pursue the same harmful approach as Labour, which has resulted in a catastrophic impact on the public finances and the efficiency of service provision.

Make no mistake, a lot of people still think the Conservative party is conservative and will vote for them this year in the hope they will rebuild Britain like Thatcher did in the 80s.  But after a term of a Cameron government with its social democract agenda and refusal to address the issues people feel strongly about, we will see many more people desert the party in search of a genuine conservative alternative.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Will David Miliband’s school choice be a Balls up?

So David Miliband and his wife Louise have chosen to send their son at a Church of England primary school two miles from their home, when there is a ‘successful’ state primary school just 80 yards from their door.  Good for them I say.  Parents should have the ability to seek the best school they can find for their children without being hindered by the state and its interfering bureaucracy.  They should have the ability to send their children to a faith school if that is their choice.

Now that Miliband has nailed his colours firmly to the mast of parental choice and spurned the local state primary in favour of a faith school, we expect to see him standing up for his principles in the House of Commons the next time the vindictive Ed Balls launches another of his assaults on faith schools.

It’s probably just a coincidence that the Milibands lived in their home for five years and their son was two years old before Lutheran Mrs Miliband was suddenly inspired to seek spiritual nourishment in the local Anglican communion – and with it the near certainty of a place at the nearest Church of England school for Miliband Jnr (will he take an apple in for teacher, or will it be one of his dad’s infamous bananas?).  It should not matter that Mr Miliband is an avowed atheist and agreeing to send his son to a faith school is anathema to his orthodoxy.  It’s probably just a sign he’s becoming more open minded.

What matters is the ability to choose.  The ability for parents to decide what is best for their children and pursue it with vigour.  The Milibands have chosen and more power to their parental elbows.  Of course, by doing this the only logical course of action is for David Miliband is to champion faith schools in Parliament and demand that all parents enjoy to same opportunity he has taken advantage of.  Surely he has no option but to fight any proposals the arch secularist Ed Balls brings forward that make it harder for other committed parents to do the same as Miliband has.

Anything else would be sheer hypocrisy.  No self respecting and ambitious politician would ever stoop so low as to secure an advantage for themselves that they would deny to others through legislation.  Would they?

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine


Enter your email address below

The Harrogate Agenda Explained

Email AM

Bloggers for an Independent UK

AM on Twitter

STOR Scandal

Autonomous Mind Supports