Wednesday, January 19, 2011

30,000 British schoolkids branded as bigots

More than 10,000 primary school pupils in a single year have been labelled racist or homophobic over minor squabbles. Even toddlers in nursery classes are being penalised for so-called hate crimes such as using the words ‘white trash’ or ‘gaylord’.

Schools are forced to report their language to education authorities, which keep a register of incidents. This leads to at least 30,000 primary and secondary pupils per year being effectively classed as bigots because of anti-bullying rules.

The school can also keep the pupil’s name and ‘offence’ on file. The record can be passed from primaries to secondaries or when a pupil moves between schools at the request of the new head.

And if schools are asked for a pupil reference by a future employer or a university, the record could be used as the basis for it, meaning the pettiest of incidents has the potential to blight a child for life.

Figures for the year 2008-9 were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the civil liberties group, the Manifesto Club. They show 29,659 racist incidents reported by schools to local education authorities in England and Wales. Of these, 10,436 were at primary schools and 41 at nursery schools.

Birmingham City Council had the highest number of any authority, with 1,607 racist incidents, compared with only two each in the Vale of Glamorgan and Hartlepool.

In the majority of cases, the ‘racist’ spats involved mere name-calling. Yet in 51 cases police became involved, with Hertfordshire schools turning to officers for help in 38 incidents, according to the Manifesto Club report which will be published shortly.

A spotlight on just 15 LEAs discovered 341 homophobic incidents logged by schools in 2008-9, including 120 at primaries. A staggering 112 such incidents were reported in Barnet, North London.

At one primary, teachers filled out an incident form after three Year Four pupils, aged eight or nine, told a classmate he was ‘gay’ and could not play with them.

The Manifesto Club report’s author, Adrian Hart, said: ‘I feel that childhood itself is under attack. It’s absolutely the case that these policies misunderstand children quite profoundly. ‘Racist incident reporting generates the illusion of a problem with racism in Britain’s schools by trawling the everyday world of playground banter, teasing, childish insults – the sort of things that every teacher knows happens out there in the playground.’

Schools were required by the Labour government in 2002 to monitor and report all racist incidents to their local authority after the introduction of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act in 2000. Teachers must name the alleged perpetrator and victim and spell out the incident and the punishment. Local authority records show the type of incident but not the name of the child involved.

LEAs are expected to monitor the number of incidents, look for patterns and plan measures to tackle any perceived problems. Heads who send in ‘nil’ returns are criticised for ‘under-reporting’. In March 2007, the Commons Education Select Committee called for schools to record all types of bullying, including homophobic and disability-related. LEAs also began demanding that schools report their homophobia data, alongside racist incidents, although not all do so.

Labour had also planned to make reporting ‘hate taunting’ statutory for every school but the policy is under review by the Coalition.


Work experience now essential for most British graduate jobs

More than 45 students are expected to compete for each graduate job this year amid record demand for the most sought-after positions, according to research.

At least half of Britain’s biggest employers are reporting a surge in the number of applications being submitted for skilled jobs, it was disclosed.

The study warned that competition is now so fierce that many companies are refusing to consider graduates – even the very brightest – unless they have completed relevant work experience.

An estimated third of this year’s vacancies will be filled by applicants who have already worked for the employer as an undergraduate.

The disclosure will fuel fears that degree results and A-level grades alone are no longer enough to satisfy prospective employers.

Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research, which carried out the study, said: “The class of 2011 will be disappointed to hear that graduate recruitment has yet to return to the pre-recession levels seen in 2007, especially as there are an estimated 50,000 extra graduates leaving university in 2011 compared with four years ago.

“Today’s report includes the stark warning that in this highly competitive graduate job market, new graduates who’ve not had any work experience during their time at university have little or no chance of landing a well-paid job with a leading employer, irrespective of the university they’ve attended or the academic results they achieve.”

Researchers surveyed 100 leading graduate employers, including the Civil Service, KPMG, Marks & Spencer, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Tesco and Vodafone.

It found that the number of graduate jobs will increase by 9.4 per cent in 2011 compared with 2010, when 15,563 students took up positions. But the survey warned that recruitment levels were still far short of job numbers offered in 2007 – before the recession hit.

As record numbers of students prepare to graduate from university this year, most organisations reported a rise in applications for skilled jobs.

Despite the recession, the average graduate salary will be set at £29,000 this year. Average pay at investment banks will rocket by 10 per cent in 2011, with new employees being offered basic packages of up to £50,000.

Outside the City, the biggest salaries are being offered by the supermarket chain Aldi which pays trainee area managers a first year salary of £40,000.


NE: Bill would let teachers carry guns in schools

A Nebraska lawmaker has introduced a bill to allow school administrators, teachers and security staff to carry concealed handguns in schools.

Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial introduced the bill two weeks after a 17-year-old killed his vice principal and shot his principal before killing himself.

Christensen says he has always opposed a ban on handguns in schools, but he had no plans to introduce his bill until the shootings on Jan. 5.

He says many schools don't even let security officers carry guns, leaving students and school employees "helpless in the face of a shooter."

The National Conference of State Legislatures says 42 states and the District of Columbia have banned guns in schools, but it could not say whether any states allow them.


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