Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Allow private firms to run British State schools, says regulator

Private companies should be allowed to take over the running of state schools, the outgoing chairman of Ofsted has said. Zenna Atkins praised the Government's free schools policy, which allows parents and charities to run state schools, but urged ministers to go further by extending that right to profitmaking firms.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Miss Atkins, who has left her job to run the British arm of GEMS Education, an independent schools chain, said that state schools could also improve exam results and save money by learning new techniques from the private sector.

It came as figures from the Department for Education showed that academies, many of which have corporate sponsors, improved their performance at three times the national average in last week's GCSE results.

Academies, which the Coalition plan to expand greatly in number, reported a seven per cent increase in the number of pupils gaining five GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and maths, compared with the national average of 2.5 per cent.

Miss Atkins said: "At the moment the constraining factor is the fact that academies, free schools and schools that are state funded need to be run by charitable trusts or by the state itself and I think there is an opportunity to expand and look at the role that the private sector can play.

"Currently the private sector, if you're running a school, has to set up a charitable vehicle to do that and that seems to be an unnecessary level of bureaucracy. "A lot of countries are trying to open up the market so that increasing numbers of schools operators can get involved in the delivery of schools.

"At the moment in the UK that is being opened up with quite a progressive policy by Michael Gove (the Education Secretary) and his team but I think that doesn't necessarily need to stop with the charitable sector."

Miss Atkins said the Coalition's free schools, which will be free from local authority control, would benefit from the help of private companies. "It's a daunting thing for a group of parents and they will need support and assistance in doing that," she said.

"The Government can offer a lot of practical guidance and support going through the process. They don't offer the practical guidance and support in how you actually run the school. "I think parents are looking for a greater degree of support in that."

She added: "Schools tend not to be run in a businesslike fashion. And that is everything from the management information to basic systems, processes, back office."

Using better systems could help more children pass exams with improved grades, she said, and finances in the education sector could also benefit from corporate expertise.

She insisted that new school premises could be constructed from existing funds despite Mr Gove's decision to scrap 715 projects in the building programme which was known as Building Schools for the Future. "I think it's perfectly possible within existing funding formulas to run schools more efficiently. Therefore, you can afford to service capital and you can afford the school that you aspired to get while Building Schools for the Future existed," she said.

Miss Atkins also insisted she was unaware of the phenomenon of parents who opportunistically begin attending church in order to win places for their children at oversubscribed church-run schools. The practice has even led the Church of England to introduce a system to evaluate how often parents worship, to help prioritise admissions.

Asked if she had a view on the trend, Miss Atkins said: "As far as I'm aware Ofsted haven't got any subject matter that shows that has happened. "You are probably better qualified about it than I am."

Her remarks come despite evidence from different denominations about parents joining congregations in a bid to secure school places.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the then Archbishop of Westminster and leader of the 4.5 million Catholics in England and Wales, told this newspaper in 2008 that he did not condemn parents who misrepresented their religion. "I wouldn't want to judge parents who pretend to have a faith to get their children into school," he said. "They'd do anything for the good of their children."

In 2007, the numbers of families doing so led the Church of England to set out three tiers which describe a prospective parent's relationship with the sponsoring church.

Families who worshipped twice a month would be regarded as "at the heart of the church" and therefore their children may be more likely to be awarded priority places. Less frequent worship would lead to an applicant being regarded as "attached to the church" or "known to the church", the guidance said.


34 Ways a Teacher CAN Get Fired

The LA Times recently published a detailed expose of how ridiculously difficult it is to fire a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The article documents countless horrifying offenses that won’t get a tenured teacher booted. I couldn’t help but wonder what will leave a public school teacher unemployed.

Since, there have been so few examples in LA (less than 1 in 1,000 tenured teachers get the axe in LAUSD), I had to broaden my search to the nation, so here’s a less-than-comprehensive list of things that will leave your local indoctrinator polishing his or her resume.

* Let students go joyriding in your car.
* Put on The Laramie Project.
* Give your students a suggestive, but actually clean, four-letter word quiz. It doesn’t matter if you’re teacher of the year.
* Work weekends in a bikini, on a fishing boat.
* Explain what bad words mean to your ESL students.
* Use MySpace…er, to talk about “getting any” with your students.
* Call your students “filthy animals who belonged in a f***ing zoo.” Nice.
* Randomly try to beat the crap out of a student.
* Have your third grade students give you massages.
* Be a wizard. Oh wait, make that, perform a thirty second magic trick with a toothpick. Yeah, that’s right.
* Duct tape your student’s mouth shut. Oh, did I mention she was a special needs student. Classy.
* Maintain academic standards and fail the damn students that are failing.
* Have the wrong views about homosexuality.
* Be in an x-rated movie. More than a decade ago.
* Add “nonviolently” to a state-mandated loyalty oath. You might call this the “be a believing Quaker” case.
* Take your students to an art museum, without ensuring that all the fig leaves have been reattached.
* Demand your student pull down her pants and reveal her menses.
* Be married to a really ugly man. Oh, and go on the Howard Stern Show, mostly nekkid.
* Pose for Playboy (you had to see this one coming).
* Take your students to a gay strip bar. Why exactly a female teacher would take four female students to a male strip bar is…unclear.
* Prevent a cop from roughing up one of your students.
* Tie your student to a chair with a bed sheet. Your TWO-YEAR-OLD student.
* Protest your government’s actions. In Russia, anyway.
* Refuse to remove your bible from class. Those allegations about burning crosses into students’ arms are totally false. Totally.
* Watch porn at school. No, flimsy excuses won’t save you: “I wanted to make sure the kids couldn’t see it!”
* Question the administration’s gaming of the public funding system.
* Be a woman. [Note: this isn't a public school, but it's too ludicrous not to mention.]
* Teach about magical penis theft.
* Give your student a graphic novel that’s, well, too graphic. Particularly if you’re a man, and she’s a 14-year old girl.
* Be an obnoxious vegan.
* Be a painter…who just so happens to paint using his naked buttocks. Ah, modern art.
* Tell your students to “give into their boyfriends’ requests for sex.” Female empowerment!
* Throw eggs with your students, and promote drag racing.
* And, of course, have a 17 yeard old lover…who was kinda one of your students.

I’m sure there are many more but this sampling should reveal that it’s not completely impossible for a teacher to be fired.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

History wars set to break out again in Australia

THE new national school curriculum could be delayed under a Coalition government, which would review it and address ideological concerns it has about some history topics.

The Coalition's education policy broadly supports Labor's moves towards a nationally consistent curriculum, due to be introduced next year, but it accuses Labor of politicising the draft curriculum in history.

The policy is critical of the absence of references to the Magna Carta and the Westminster parliamentary system, which underpin Australia's legal and political systems. It is critical of students being taught about the "day-to-day activities of trade unions and the history of the Australian Labor Party".

School teachers have complained that the history and English curriculums have been politicised by governments.

The Howard government commissioned a Monash University historian, Tony Taylor, to draft a new Australian history curriculum, but sidelined its recommendations. The conservative historian Geoffrey Blainey and the political commentator Gerard Henderson were later appointed to rewrite the curriculum.

Associate Professor Taylor acted as a consultant in the drafting of the new history curriculum introduced under the current Labor government, and said a "huge amount of work" had gone into it. "In the history area, the sequence of drafts have been devoid of ideological overtone," he said. "From a professional point of view, it would be inexplicable if any new government decided to go back to square one."

NSW English and maths teacher organisations are unhappy with the draft national curriculum, saying they favour the existing NSW Board of Studies curriculum. Eva Gold, a spokeswoman for the NSW English Teachers Association, said teachers would be relieved if the national curriculum was scrapped.

"Teachers in NSW would be greatly relieved to teach the NSW curriculum rather than the national curriculum," she said. "Our members are not happy at all with the K to 10 [kindergarten to year 10] curriculum."


1 comment:

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