Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cadet forces in schools would restore discipline says British union

Military cadet forces should be set up in schools to restore discipline and control unruly pupils, a teaching union will hear this week. Voice, which has 38,000 members, will discuss a motion that it should welcome the establishment of cadet units in state schools. This clashes with the stance of the NUT, the biggest teaching union, which voted in March to oppose military recruitment campaigns in schools. One teacher told that debate that military cadet forces should be barred from schools because they were used for recruitment.

But two months later, a report commissioned by Gordon Brown said more cadet corps should be set up in schools, and recommended the inclusion of lessons on the Armed Forces’ role in society in the national curriculum. It also said more military personnel should visit schools. This has found favour with Peter Morris, the retired teacher who is making the latest proposal. He will tell the Voice annual conference on Wednesday that a military presence at school would foster patriotism, integrity, loyalty and courage. “Society as a whole is becoming less disciplined,” he is due to say. “As a profession, we continually complain about the indiscipline of pupils. The establishment of cadet units will, I am sure, help with discipline in our schools. They will give pupils an insight into the role of the armed forces.”

Mr Morris will tell the event in Northamptonshire that having a cadet force on site will help prevent low-achieving pupils from dropping out of school and drifting into crime. He is expected to say: “I have seen a pupil lift a computer monitor above his head ready to throw it at a teacher. I have seen pupils barring the way of a teacher along a corridor. “Pupils are well aware of their rights these days and exercise those rights to the full, often leaving teachers with little or no power to restore discipline.”

An IT teacher for 15 years, Mr Morris was formerly a policeman, but retired after suffering assault while on duty. In an apparent allusion to the NUT stance, he will tell delegates: “No doubt left-wingers in our profession will try to sabotage the government’s plan for cadet units, just as many colleagues in another teaching union recently voted to ‘actively oppose’ the army making visits to schools. “The structure which is lacking in the lives of so many young people today is offered by cadet units, and there is nowhere better to house these cadet units than in schools. “These units can work well for high achievers as well as those who will drop out of school early - with the consequential risk of falling into a life of crime.”

Mr Morris will tell the conference that cadet forces will “inculcate some of the values which we, as a society, are missing: self discipline, self-reliance, loyalty to one’s comrades, to one unit and to one’s country, courage, respect and integrity.”

Voice, formed from what was the Professional Association of Teachers, and other unions, counts teachers, lecturers, heads, support staff, nannies and childcare professionals among its members. Speaking to The Times, Mr Morris said many discipline problems in the classroom were caused by having mixed-ability lessons, during which both high and low achievers became bored. He said cadet units could engage some pupils by giving them a sense of purpose and achievement, and showing them how a career in catering or music could be pursued within the military. They could also be used to help schools provide after-hours activities. The Government wants all schools to become “extended” by opening from 8am to 6pm.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, said at the time of the report to Gordon Brown: “I believe combined cadet forces can make a huge difference to the young people who join them and the schools and communities in which they are based.”


Texas financial aid proposal may emphasize academics as well as need in award distribution

With a limited pot it makes sense to give the aid to kids who are smart as well as poor

When it comes to qualifying for the state's biggest pot of college financial aid, being poor may no longer be enough. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board forwarded a plan to lawmakers and Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday that could fundamentally change the design and mission of the TEXAS Grant program. It would favor students who excel academically, shifting priority away from those with the greatest financial need.

Kimberly Anderson of Dallas fears the proposed changes could prevent some students from going to college. The 2008 graduate of Carter High School is headed to the University of Texas at Austin in the fall and plans to pay with grants and scholarships. "I understand they don't want to waste the money," she said. "I think it's still fair to go off needs."

Thursday's move paves the way for debates in the coming legislative session about spending priorities for higher education. Since 2004, the state hasn't provided enough money to cover all students eligible for the grants, which provide about $5,200 a year - enough to cover average tuition and fees at public universities. For the coming school year, the coordinating board estimates there will be enough grant money for only 28,000 of the 70,000 new students who qualify. Thursday's action is a move toward deciding which students deserve the money most.

"It is not a good message to send to poor students that by virtue of the fact you're poor, you're going to get aid," said Raymund Paredes, the state's higher education commissioner. "Students from all income classes should be sent the message that you should be expected to perform as well as you can."

But state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said the changes could hurt the very students the program was supposed to help. "Don't be in a position where we end up being penny-wise and dollar-foolish. The plan is working," said Mr. Ellis, who led efforts to create TEXAS Grants in 1999. Under current rules students must take a college-preparatory curriculum in high school to qualify for the grants. The vast majority of Texas students meet that standard today.

The proposed changes come at a time when political and business leaders are pressing public universities to enroll more low-income and minority students - people who make up a growing share of the state's workforce. The bulk of TEXAS Grants goes to students whose families make less than $40,000 a year. Three-fourths of recipients are minorities.

Last year, the Legislature ordered a review of state aid programs to make sure money is spent efficiently. The coordinating board hired a private consultant to come up with recommendations. The consultant recommends that to receive TEXAS Grants, students either score 1350 out of 2400 on the SAT or 18 out of 36 on the ACT; graduate in the top half of their high school class; or complete the state's most rigorous high school curriculum. Dr. Paredes offered an even tougher set of recommendations Thursday. They include requirements that students either score 1500 on the SAT or about 21 on the ACT; graduate in the top 30 percent of their high school class; or graduate high school with a B average.

While board members voted to send the consultant's report to the governor and lawmakers, they didn't expressly endorse it. Nor have they endorsed Dr. Paredes' recommendations. Rather, several board members said they need more information on how the proposed changes would affect lower-income and minority students. Board member Robert Wingo of El Paso said more study is needed "so we are not putting the very students we're trying to help at risk." ...

TEXAS Grants don't begin to cover the total cost of attending a four-year public university in Texas - add in books, room, board and other expenses, and the total averages $17,500 a year.

Keshav Rajagopalan, student government president at UT-Austin, said adding some academic standards makes sense, but the consultant's report leaves out a key issue. "There is nothing that talks about actually funding these programs," he said. "You can't just say we've got programs and then not put money toward them."

Coordinating board officials said any changes in eligibility wouldn't take effect for several years.


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