Friday, February 04, 2005

British schools crisis as discipline standards fall in classrooms

A growing discipline crisis and thousands of persistently failing schools are undermining efforts to raise education standards, the head of Ofsted gave warning yesterday. David Bell said that one in ten schools had made no real progress between inspection visits in the past three years. Of the 10,000 schools visited since 2001, a tenth had made "unsatisfactory, poor or very poor" progress. Applied to England's total number of state schools, this would produce a figure of 2,500 schools that had made no real progress nationwide.

Mr Bell, the Chief Inspector of Schools in England, cast doubt on the Government's approach to weak schools and suggested that it was time for more aggressive action. He also highlighted rising levels of classroom disruption a day after Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, promised "zero tolerance" of even the mildest forms of misbehaviour by pupils. There had been a sharp increase in the percentage of schools where discipline was "unsatisfactory or worse". Levels of good behaviour were at their lowest since Labour came to power. Behaviour was good in only two thirds of schools compared with three quarters in 1997. Discipline was poor in 9 per cent of schools compared with 5 per cent a year ago. Mr Bell said that no schools were free from low-level disruption caused by a minority of pupils. He added: "All schools, to a greater or lesser extent, even if they are otherwise orderly or successful, have to deal with a number of pupils who cause disruption. "You can have relatively small numbers of pupils having quite a substantial and disproportionate effect on the others."

Presenting his third annual report as Chief Inspector, Mr Bell said that the proportion of schools where behaviour was poor "shows no sign of reducing". His findings come just months before a general election, expected in May, in which discipline and classroom standards are set to be key issues of controversy between Labour and the Conservatives.

Tim Collins, the Shadow Education Secretary, said: "Conservatives are convinced that schools which perform poorly in their teaching assessment are those with the worst discipline record. It is therefore no surprise that Ruth Kelly has decided to raise this problem just weeks before an election - having ignored it for nearly eight years. We will not make the same mistake. "On Day 1 one of the new Conservative government, we will bring forward measures to restore head teachers' authority over pupil behaviour and teaching, so that the people who know and care for our children are put back in charge."

Mr Bell said that inspections in 2003-04 showed that England's education system was improving and contained "many of the preconditions for further improvement". But Ofsted's report still showed that the number of failing schools jumped by 18 per cent to 332 in 2003-04, the second successive increase. Mr Bell said that more schools had failed because Ofsted had raised its expectations.

From The Times


Surely Americans of all points of view can agree that in an age of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the military can use the best attorneys it can get. So it's a disgrace that some of the nation's law schools, objecting to the Pentagon's "discrimination policies," refuse to permit military recruiters to make their pitch on campus, relegating them instead to unofficial off-campus venues. Law students pondering their first career move can be wined and dined by fancy firms that set up recruitment tables at campus job fairs, but they have to stroll over to the local Day's Inn to seek out the lonely military recruiter.

To put it another way, the same liberals who object that the military includes too many lower-class kids won't let military recruiters near the schools that contain students who will soon join the upper-class elite. It's almost enough to make us contemplate restoring the draft, starting with law school students.

Needless to say, such scholastic shenanigans don't go down well with Congress, which in 1994 passed the Solomon Amendment, named for the late New York Republican, Gerald Solomon. The law requires schools that receive federal funds to provide equal access to military recruiters. Today, the House is scheduled to vote on a resolution brought by Alabama Republican Mike Rogers that would restate the House's support for the Solomon Amendment. Something similar passed the House and Senate by overwhelming margins last year and was incorporated into the Defense Authorization bill.

The impetus for Mr. Rogers's move is a November ruling by the federal appeals court in Philadelphia in favor of a group of law schools and legal scholars that had contested the Solomon law. The 2-1 opinion found that the Solomon Amendment violates the schools' First Amendment rights to free speech and association. Next stop is the Supreme Court, which is expected to take the appeal that the Justice Department plans to bring.

There are many peculiarities to this lawsuit, starting with the fact that the group that brought it--the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights--declines to release the names of the 26 law schools and faculties that belong to its coalition. Some of the participants (New York University and Georgetown, for example) have outed themselves since the suit was brought in 2003, but others steadfastly maintain their own don't-ask-don't-tell policy

In any event, there should be no legal question about Congress's right to put conditions on grants of federal funds to universities. It does this all the time--including requirements that colleges adhere to certain civil rights and gender standards. With a few exceptions, universities have no trouble going along and courts have no problem letting them.

If, as is likely, the Supreme Court overturns the appeals court decision, that will be the end of it. Almost all universities, public and private, take millions of dollars in federal money that would be next to impossible to give up. That's especially true of the elite schools, both public and private. Still, it would be nice to think that the nation's universities would welcome the military for reasons other than the mercenary. Patriotism, perhaps?



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


No comments: