Sunday, October 10, 2010

Baccalaureate board probes Wikipedia plagiarism claim

The credibility of the International Baccalaureate (IB) has been questioned amid claims parts of its marking guides were plagiarised from Wikipedia.

The Times Educational Supplement (TES) reports that guides for three history papers are being investigated by the IB's managing board. The guides offer model essays and are used by examiners marking papers.

The A-level alternative is mainly taken in private schools, but ministers say other schools could offer it.

One IB examiner told the TES they were "shocked" to discover what was called "serious examples of academic dishonesty" in the guide for one of the papers. He claimed information from 14 of 24 questions contained sections copied from websites such as Wikipedia.

A teacher who runs training workshops for the IB warned the programme had been put at risk and told the TES they were "livid" and "stunned".

The IB diploma, taken by teenagers, is currently offered in more than 200 UK schools and is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to A-levels.

An IB spokesman told the TES: "The IB has always insisted on academic honesty throughout our examination system since the organisation was founded. "We have always taken immediate and appropriate action when we discover any violation. "The issue related to the history paper mark scheme is one of those cases, and our investigation of this matter is moving forward but has not yet been completed.

"As a general rule, for each exam session we investigate any and all allegations of malpractice. "This includes deploying technology to screen and scan scripts, and conducting unannounced inspections of schools' arrangements for the examinations to ensure compliance."


More revelations about Britain's insane State school system

Stabbings, threats, red-tape blunders and ‘gruesome’ pupils who terrify classmates. This is the bleak picture of secondary-school life revealed in an internet blog by Katharine ­Birbalsingh, the teacher who became a star of the Tory Party Conference with a speech about the chaos in the education system.

In the shocking account, Oxford-educated Miss Birbalsingh describes the ‘madness’ in her academy, comparing it to the notorious prison Alcatraz because ‘none of the kids choose to go there’.

She also refers to one of the pupils using the pseudonym Gangster.

The 37-year-old received a standing ovation from Tory delegates in Birmingham last week when she claimed she had abandoned her Marxist beliefs for Conservatism because of poor pupil behaviour.

Now details have emerged of the blog, published on the internet anonymously but for which Miss Birbalsingh has secured a deal with ­Penguin for a book, which comes out in March.

In it she describes life as a teacher in the state sector, including her current school, St Michael and All Angels Academy, in Camberwell, South London. She writes: ‘I watch Gangster, a year 11 pupil, go into the Head’s office with his mum for a meeting, because on the last day of school in July he stabbed another boy in the playground with a knife.

‘The madness does not stop there. In April three boys were “excluded” for stabbing a boy from another school. At the time, ­certain paperwork was not filled out. The consequence is that the ­powers-that-be can now force us to take these three criminals back. Three gruesome, terrifying, influential boys who terrorise everyone around them are coming back and there is nothing we can do.’

A source at the Diocese of Southwark, which has run the academy as a faith school since last year, said it was unaware of the blog, called To Miss With Love, until Friday evening.

The school would not comment on the alleged stabbing as it was said to have happened when the local ­education authority was still in charge. Scotland Yard was unable to find details of the April incident. But Miss Birbalsingh said she stood by the account although she admitted that she did not confirm the accuracy of incidents that took place before she arrived at the school.

Police figures show there were 21 criminal allegations at the school in the past academic year, including five of actual bodily harm and a rape.

Nevertheless Miss Birbalsingh’s comments have angered colleagues.

School governor Musa Olaiwon said: ‘I am astonished and I can only think that she has a hidden agenda. It’s not a violent school.’ Miss Birbalsingh added: ‘I have no regrets. Not the blog and not the speech. I am a whistleblower. I am passionate about teaching but there is something fundamentally wrong in our system.’


Leftist hypocrisy never stops

Atheist British Liberal Party leader considering sending his son to exclusive Catholic school -- because their nearby government school is crap -- only fit for "the masses"

Nick Clegg is considering sending his eldest son to one of Britain’s leading Catholic state schools – despite both his atheism and his party’s opposition to faith schools.

The Deputy Prime Minister faces accusations of ­hypocrisy after he and his Catholic wife Miriam were given a private tour of the London Oratory, where Tony Blair controversially sent his sons.

Headmaster David McFadden told The Mail on Sunday that he believed his school would be a ‘natural choice’ for the couple, who were ‘happy with what they saw’ ­during their tour last week.

The news that the Liberal Democrat leader is ‘very keen’ on the elite school for his nine-year-old son will dismay many within his party, which has repeatedly made clear its opposition to faith schools.

In a manifesto pledge that was widely seen as a commitment to dismantling faith schools in their current form, the party vowed to ‘ensure that all faith schools develop an inclusive admissions policy and end unfair discrimin­ation on grounds of faith when recruiting staff’.

Elsewhere, the Lib Dems have said the party would halt ‘the establishment of new schools which select by ability, aptitude or faith’ and said it would introduce ‘policies to reduce radically all existing forms of selection’.

The Cleggs live in Putney, South-West London, where their three sons attend Catholic primary schools. Their nearest Catholic secondary school, less than a mile from their home, is John Paul II in Wimbledon. A high percentage of its students are from deprived areas and many have English as a second language. Ofsted ranks the school ‘satisfactory’. However, the London Oratory was classed as outstanding – Ofsted’s highest grade – in its most recent inspection.

In the 2009 examinations, 94.5 per cent of pupils attained five or more GCSEs, at Grade C or above, including English and maths. This compared with 50 per cent at John Paul II and a national average of 46.7 per cent. The school also has a strong record in ­sciences, with 86 per cent of pupils securing at least two GCSEs, Grade C or above, in science subjects.

But it is more than twice as far away from Mr Clegg’s home as John Paul II school.

Mr Clegg revealed his atheism in a radio interview in December 2007. Asked directly on BBC Radio 5 Live ‘Do you believe in God?’, Mr Clegg replied simply: ‘No.’ Later, he said he had ‘enormous respect’ for people with faith and added: ‘I’m married to a Catholic and am committed to bringing my children up as Catholics.

‘However, I myself am not an active believer, but the last thing I would do when talking or thinking about religion is approach it with a closed heart or a closed mind.’

Earlier this year Mr Clegg was accused of discovering religion just in time for the General Election when he claimed that Christian values were central to his party’s policies. And during the campaign he was photographed attending Sunday worship at an Anglican church in New Malden, Surrey.

A few days later he was spotted at his local Catholic church, Our Lady of Pity And St Simon Stock in Putney, for his eldest son’s first communion. It later emerged that the boy was recorded on the list of children receiving the sacrament under his Spanish-born mother’s maiden name.

Mr Clegg’s interest in the Oratory will also surprise many within his party, given his recent insistence that faith schools should teach that homosexuality is ‘normal and harmless’. It prompted a furious response from the Family Education Trust, which accused him of showing a ‘woeful lack of respect for faith schools and totally dis­regarding the deeply held views of parents’. It added: ‘The vast majority of ­parents do not want their children’s schools to be turned into vehicles to promote positive images of homosexual relationships.’

The London Oratory is linked to one of the most conservative Catholic churches in Britain, the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, popularly known as the Brompton Oratory and controlled by a group of fathers known as Oratorians.

Three years ago the school cancelled plans to raise money for the Terrence Higgins Trust, one of Eur­ope’s most respected Aids charities, because it did not consider it a suitable recipient of charity from a Catholic institution.

Mr McFadden said yesterday that the Cleggs’ eldest son would be ­considered for entry in two years’ time if his parents decide to submit an application. ‘We don’t admit children on the jobs of their parents, but I think most parents who apply to the school do so on the basis of the Catholic nature of the school more than anything else,’ he said. ‘I think his wife seems to be the driving force.’

He added that he believed the ­couple would look at other schools in the area but said: ‘I think it would be a natural choice for them [to come here], yes. ‘They’re just normal parents of Form Five boys who are starting to turn their thoughts to secondary schools.’

Last night a spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minister said: ‘Nick Clegg’s sons go to a local school in South-West London. ‘Miriam and Nick have always refused to turn the issue of their children’s education into a political football. ‘He and Miriam are currently considering a number of schools for their eldest son but no decision has yet been made.’

The Oratory, along with other ­voluntary-aided schools, previously conducted interviews with the parents of prospective pupils and their children to determine the depth of the religious faith, which led to accusations of ‘covert selection’.

However, a change in the law ended the practice and the Oratory – which does not require both parents to be Catholics – now asks for references from parish priests and demands that parents complete a stringent ‘religious inquiry form’.

The four-page document requests details of how frequently the ­prospective pupils and their parents attend Mass and holy days of obli­gation. The application form questions how long they have lived in a particular parish and whether they ­worship weekly, fortnightly, monthly, occasionally, rarely or never. It also asks ‘How does your parish priest know your child?’ and ‘How does your parish priest know you?’


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