Monday, July 12, 2010

Every school should have a bad teacher: British schools chief in extraordinary outburst

This is the sort of nitwit the Labour party put in charge of British institutions

Every school should have a 'useless teacher', according to the chairman of Ofsted. Zenna Atkins prompted fury among heads by claiming that a bad teacher helped children learn how to 'manage' people who are not good at their jobs.

She said: 'It can be crushing for pupils to have a truly awful teacher. I have watched kids who learn an awful lot by having them though. They learn to manage those dreadful teachers, while keeping their confidence.'

Her foul-mouthed outburst also includes comments that the education system's credibility is 'shot to shreds' and that violent computer games like Call Of Duty should be used to teach children in class, according to The Sunday Times.

Atkins,44, emphasised that the opinions were her own, rather than those of Ofsted, but they will nonetheless cause huge embarrassment to the regulatory body.

She said: 'It's about learning to identify good role models. 'One good thing about primary school is that every kid learns how to deal with a really s*** teacher. 'In the private sector, as a rule, you need to performance manage 10 per cent of people out of the business. But I don't think that should be the case in schools.

'I would not remove every single useless teacher because every grown up in a workplace needs to learn to cope with the moron who sits four desks down without lamping them and to deal with authority that's useless. 'I'd like to keep the number low, but if every primary school has one pretty naff teacher, this helps kids realise that even if you know the quality of authority is not good, you have to learn how to play it.'

Atkins's comments are at odds with the opinion of Christine Gilbert, Ofsted's chief inspector of schools, who has previously attacked a 'stubborn core' of bad teachers in the British system.

The comments also follow a report last week which said that, although the General Teaching Council estimated two years ago that there could be as many as 17,000 sub-standard teachers circulating in Britain, just 18 had been struck off in the last ten years.

Ofsfted distanced itself from Atkins' comments. 'Ms Atkins was being interviewed in a personal capacity about the private sector role she is taking up in a few weeks," said a spokesperson. 'Ofsted has an unshakeable commitment to ensuring children benefit from good teachers in every lesson.'

Atkins's views were described as 'appalling' by Rod MacKinnon, a former Ofsted inspector and headmaster of the independent Bristol Grammar School. 'I am amazed and horrified,' said Mr MacKinnon. 'We should be seeking to give children the best education possible.'

Atkins has always cut an incongruous figure in the world of education, having been a self-confessed failure at school. She revealed in an interview with The Times in 2007 that she was illiterate at the age of 11, was expelled from school and failed her English O level - with an unclassified U grade - three times.

Atkins has already announced that she will step-down from her position as Chairman of Ofsted as of August 31, 2010. She is set to take over as chief executive of the UK arm of Gems, a private education company, where she plans to launch state-funded 'free schools' under government reforms.

Her approach will be highly scrutinised as the government seeks to introduce more private sector control into state schooling, but Atkins sees her approach as revolutionary and reforming.


British city forces schools to rearrange exams and cancel lessons to avoid offending Muslims during Ramadan

Schools are being urged to rearrange tests, cancel swimming lessons and stop sex education to avoid offending Muslims during Ramadan. Head teachers in Stoke-on-Trent have been issued with the guidance for treatment of Muslim pupils who may still be fasting when the new term starts in September.

But critics dismissed the advice as ‘over-zealous’ bureaucracy and said all pupils would be forced to miss out on activities as a result.

During Ramadan, all Muslims who have reached puberty avoid eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset to encourage discipline and self-restraint. To help them with this, Stoke council advises schools not to schedule exams or hold parents’ meetings and social events after school.

They should also avoid swimming lessons because some parents and pupils consider the risk of swallowing water too great. It even advises schools to cancel sex education because Muslims are expected to avoid sexual thoughts while fasting.

Although the guidance was specifically drawn up to help Muslims, it will affect every pupil in the 89 schools in the Potteries. According to the last census in 2001, 3.2 per cent of the population of the city is Muslim.

The co-founder of the the Campaign Against Political Correctness, John Midgley, said: ‘Instead of meddling in this politically correct way the council should trust the judgment of pupils, parents and teachers. ‘They should be able to cater for what goes on in schools without wasting time on overly bureaucratic and politically correct guidance.’

He warned that the advice could be counter-productive and encourage disapproval of the city’s Muslims. And he added: ‘If there’s an over-zealous implementation of this guidance that may mean some pupils could miss out on activities.’

Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, meaning it falls on a different date each year. It is between August 11 and September 9 this year. For most of the holy month, the pupils will be on holiday. They will only be at school for the last week.

Mr Midgley said the guidance was a ‘waste of time’ as pupils are rarely examined in the first week of term and parents’ evenings would be unlikely to fall at that time.

But Ruth Rosenau, a councillor, said: ‘We live in a multicultural society and already accommodate Christian celebrations. ‘So we’re just asking teachers to be more aware and more accommodating of the Muslim ones. ‘These are not rules that are going to be introduced, but guidance asking schools to be slightly more flexible in how they deal with Ramadan.’ [Backdown under publicity]


Australian schools fleeced as red tape leads to waste

MANY public schools are overpaying when buying goods through government-endorsed delivery channels. The overpayments run to hundreds of dollars - and in some cases thousands - each year.

An investigation by The Australian has found wastage in education departments is not isolated to the $16.2 billion schools stimulus building program. Public schools are being overcharged for products from projectors and calculators to refrigerators. The problem appears worst in NSW, where the state government collects a fee of up to 2.5 per cent on all items purchased by government departments - and public schools - through its Smartbuy procurement program.

A survey by The Australian has found many products offered through Smartbuy can be bought on the open market for less than those prices offered through the government scheme.

Government supplier Corporate Express is quoting $1708 for a 564-litre, LG refrigerator. An identical item is advertised online for $1276, including delivery. Another Smartbuy supplier is quoting the Bison AMP-1715 wireless projector to schools at $2905. The same product is advertised at $2499, including delivery. All prices and quotes include GST.

NSW public school principals must purchase all items through Smartbuy - regardless of their value - unless they provide the Education Department with details of the product, and the department approves each request.

NSW Education Department spokesman Liam Thorpe said: "We ask schools to notify us of cheaper products they have found so we can check they're the same size, same warranty and that there are no additional costs. If the product is the same, the school can purchase it."

The Public Schools Principals Forum, which is calling for centralised procurement to be scrapped, said the additional red tape meant schools rarely opted to purchase outside the program. "The (NSW) Education Department is saying it doesn't trust principals to do the right thing, that the department knows better than principals do when it comes to school requirements," said forum chairwoman Cheryl McBride.

The federal opposition said last week a Coalition government would give school principals more autonomy, including more financial independence from state bureaucracy.

Mr Thorpe said NSW government schools purchased goods worth $12.5 million through Smartbuy in the first 11 months of last financial year.

A major supplier to NSW public schools is OfficeMax Australia, which sends schools a catalogue. The Australian has found many of the items in its catalogue can be bought for substantially less elsewhere. The Canon Tx-220TS calculator quoted at $29.98 can be found online for $24.33. The Raffles medium-back executive chair offered for $371.81 is $315 at Allgood Office Furniture. Both prices include GST and a three-year warranty.

OfficeMax has repeatedly refused to comment when contacted by The Australian in recent weeks.

When asked about the widespread cost differences, the NSW Department of Services Technology and Administration, which operates Smartbuy for all state government departments, said it was unable to comment on "commercial decisions made by individual suppliers".

"The prices for goods and services in state contracts are based on those included in competitive tender offers, and they factor in considerations such as delivery, warranty and compliance with government policy," a spokesman said. "The majority of state contracts have a clause that provides for NSW procurement to request suppliers to vary their prices if there is evidence that external market pricing is consistently more competitive."

He said an independent review for the 2008-09 financial year had estimated that $360m in "cost avoidance savings" were delivered across all NSW government departments from the use of state contracts. It was unclear how that figure was derived.

Ms McBride said such studies failed to account for the suitability of products delivered to schools and rewarded under funding of public schools. "The lack of choice means schools often end up with products that are not suited to their requirements, leading to even more waste."

The centralised procurement model was of particular concern to country schools, she said. "The local businesses are seeing all the goods for the public schools coming in on the train from Sydney, so when it comes to those schools attempting to fundraise the local businesses want nothing to do with it," she said.


No comments: