Friday, September 25, 2009

Corruption behind a firing at a British school

'Bully' named by fired dinner-lady is school governor’s son. The school initially tried to cover up the assault until the dinner lady spoke to the mother of the bullied girl. The school then fired the dinner lady for breaching some imagined code of Omerta

A governor at the school where a dinner lady was sacked for telling parents about alleged bullies is the mother of one of the four boys involved, The Times has learnt.

Angry parents are demanding the resignation of the headmistress and governors of Great Tey Primary School, Essex. Some are threatening to remove their children if Carol Hill, 60, is not reinstated. Mrs Hill, who was dismissed this week, has since been banned from a voluntary post in the Beaver Scouts and the local youth group because of the decision. The grandmother has spent thousands of pounds on legal fees and is preparing to take further action against the school.

The headmistress, Deborah Crabb, the governors and the local vicar, John Richardson, struck off the dinner lady for a breach of pupil confidentiality after she informed the parents of Chloe David, 7, that the girl had been tied up and whipped by a group of boys at playtime.

Parents questioned whether the decision was influenced by the fact that Kathryn Spicer, a parent governor who did not take part in the disciplinary hearings, is the mother of one of the four boys accused of tying Chloe’s wrists and ankles with a skipping rope.

Sarah Harris, 36, who has two children at the school, described the treatment of Mrs Hill as terrible and unfair. “Maybe this would have been dealt with differently had a governor’s child not been involved,” she told The Times. “You put your trust in these people not only to teach your children but to keep them safe and look after their pastoral care. I am worried and very concerned as to what else may have been covered up.”

Ms Spicer has been a governor at the school since 2006 and has two children there. She refused to comment yesterday. Mrs Crabb, 35, has been headmistress for three years. She was previously a reception teacher at the school, which has 60 pupils.

Sue Dyer, who has five children at the school, said that she no longer trusted the headmistress or the governors and called for Mrs Crabb to step down. Her husband, Ivan, said that parents had been concerned over the headmistress’s level of experience.

Mrs Hill is preparing a case against the school. Her lawyer was not permitted into the dismissal hearing on Monday but the school’s legal representatives and a human resources adviser from Essex County Council were present to advise the board.

Mrs Hill said that she was not able to comment until her appeal. Her husband, Ronald, 65, said: “She is a very strong person but this has got her down. She really loves her job.”


Kiddy "bang, bang" game deemed politically incorrect in sick England

Now the deranged headmistress is lying in her teeth about her actions

Excited by stories of the Second World War during school classes, Steven Cheek did what generations of young boys have done before him. Making an imaginary gun with his fingers, the nine-year-old pointed it at a classmate and said: 'We've got to shoot the German army.' Moments later he found himself in front of the deputy head, who accused him of racism because his 'victim' had been a Polish boy.

He was made to stand in front of the class and make an apology while his mother, Jane Hennessey, was called in by the head of Purford Green Junior School in Harlow, Essex. She was informed that a permanent record of her son's misconduct would be placed on file.

Miss Hennessey yesterday accused the school of overreacting. 'Steven has always wanted to join the Army when he grows up,' she said. 'That's his burning ambition and he loved learning about the war in class. 'In the week leading up to what happened, the school had been telling the children about the history of the war and he had come home every night talking about it.

'He's not a racist. He's only nine years old and he didn't single out the Polish boy, who is one of his good friends. This just happened to be who he was playing with. The deputy head shouted at Steven and said, "That's racism", which is ridiculous because Steven has a Polish aunt and they were on our side during the war. 'He didn't understand what he had done wrong. He was just playing a game like kids always do. He came home after being told off and said, "Mum, what's racism?" The school has overreacted and been very heavy-handed. They could have quietly told him off instead of turning it into a big issue.'

Miss Hennessey, 37, who lives in Harlow with Steven's father Darren Cheek, 39, an electrician, said her son got carried away during a class where the war was being discussed. He had never been in trouble before and had been bullied by other pupils since having to make the public apology.

'My main concern is that this will stay on his record and count against him when he goes to secondary school.' Miss Hennessey added: 'Other teachers have told me that they think he has been harshly treated. Everything was blown completely out of proportion. 'This young Polish child had only started at the school in September and I thought he and Steven got along well. 'He speaks perfect English. I don't think Steven even really knew or understood he was Polish and from another country. Children don't see differences between people like adults do.'

Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education pressure group, accused the school of 'absurd political correctness'. He said: 'It's a shame that teachers these days all too often fail to crack down on real problems like bullying but overreact to a child with a healthy imagination. Boys will be boys and what the teacher should have done was ask Steven not to play in the classroom, instead of sending him to the deputy head who then humiliated him in front of his class.'

The school, which has around 175 boys and girls aged between four and 11 and was rated 'good' in its last Ofsted report, yesterday claimed Steven's class had been learning about space, not the war, when he was reprimanded and denied he had been accused of racism. Headmistress Viv Perri said: 'When a pupil uses inappropriate language or terms that could be offensive, we have a responsibility to explain to them why their behaviour is wrong. 'We want to give all our pupils the best possible start in life which can mean educating them about knowing right from wrong. 'The incident in question involved a short conversation with a pupil to explain the inappropriateness of his comments and then a meeting with the parent to explain the context.'


Arizona Pols expected to tighten school tuition tax credit rules

Arizona needs to adjust its private-school tuition tax-credit law to ensure better oversight and keep pace with other states that have enacted similar programs, some key lawmakers said Monday. Rep. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa and chairman of the House Education Committee, said the Legislature will consider changes to the law when it convenes next year. "The budget will overshadow everything, but there will be legislation run on this," Crandall said after a meeting of a Democratic-led task force that is examining gaps in the law highlighted in a series of reports by The Arizona Republic. "My guess is there will be something that passes."

The program faces renewed scrutiny after reports that, in many ways, the 1997 law has fallen short of its original purpose: to help make a private education available to all children, not just those who can afford it.

The Republic has found that the school-tuition organizations that collect the tax-deductible donations have almost no oversight and that, last year, 10 of 53 had fallen short of spending at least 90 percent of their revenue on scholarships, as required by the law. Some of the organizations have encouraged a system of swapping donations, allowing even children of affluent families to effectively receive a publicly subsidized private education. The tax credit allows donors to give up to $1,000 for private tuition and cut their income-tax liability dollar for dollar.

Crandall and Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe, agreed that any legislative changes would likely go beyond the tax-credit donations used to defray private-school costs and would affect a tax credit for those who help underwrite the cost of extracurricular activities at public schools.

At least two groups that advocate for school choice have joined the chorus calling for changes to the state's law. Last week, House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, formed a Republican-led special committee to weigh changes to the law, as well. Schapira stressed that his goal is to improve the tax credit, not end it.

Lawrence Mohrweis, an accounting professor at Northern Arizona University who also oversees a tuition organization in Flagstaff, said school-tuition organizations should register with the state and have annual audits or financial reviews, depending on how much money they handle. He also urged lawmakers to give the Department of Revenue some oversight authority. "I compare it to speed-limit signs," Mohrweis said. "What would happen if the state patrol could pull you over but never give you a fine or give you a ticket? . . . That's effectively what we have within STO organizations right now."

The Goldwater Institute for years has suggested changes to the tax credit. Matthew Ladner, vice president for research at the free-market, non-profit think tank, supports auditing responsibilities and empowering the Revenue Department. But he also favors a personal-use tax credit that would allow all parents to deduct at least some of the cost of educating their child regardless of whether the child attends public or private school. At the same time, he would change the current tax-credit law to also help only students from low-income families. Arizona has a corporate-tax credit that must go to the poor, but the credit available to individuals is not limited. "Fundamentally, the program needs some kind of sheriff," Ladner said. "There are different public or private models that could help accomplish that goal."

The School Choice Working Group, which represents more than a half-dozen groups, plans to work with the special committee on legislation that would create need-based criteria for scholarships and would offer reports on how prevalent such scholarships are, said Sydney Hay, a spokeswoman for the group.


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