Monday, April 11, 2011

British School leavers unfit for work: 'Firms forced to spend billions on remedial training for victims of education failure'

Firms are spending billions on remedial training for school leavers who are not capable of work, a business leader said yesterday. In a scathing attack on Labour’s legacy, he said the youngsters are the victims of an ‘education failure’, and called for the urgent return of grammar schools.

The comments by David Frost, the outgoing director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, came on the day teachers at one secondary school went on strike in protest over their uncontrollable pupils. At another, a headmistress exasperated with slovenly standards of behaviour and continual fiddling with electronic gadgets, handed out more than 700 detentions in four days. Both cases highlight a crisis in discipline which many believe has contributed to a drop in attainment by many children.

Mr Frost, who speaks for more than 100,000 British businesses, told the BCC annual conference in London: ‘Despite the billions that have been spent over the last decade, business relentlessly bemoans the lack of skills available. ‘What they are really describing is a failure of the education system. ‘A system where half of all kids fail to get five decent GCSEs simply means that five years later we spend billions offering them remedial training to make them work-ready.’

Mr Frost made an unashamed call for the return of grammars to improve social mobility by giving youngsters from poorer backgrounds greater opportunities. Earlier this week, ministers led by Nick Clegg published their strategy to close the gap between rich and poor, but there was no mention of expanding selective education.

Mr Frost suggested this was a mistake, although he backed the Government’s creation of more technical schools. He said: ‘If we really want to focus on social mobility rather than just internships why not re-introduce grammar schools? ‘They provided the escape route for bright working class children. I appear to be a lone voice on this subject, and find little support. ‘But high quality state academic education coupled with high quality vocational education would, I believe, make a major contribution to the future economic performance of the UK.’

Mr Frost joins the growing ranks of business leaders to attack Labour’s record on education. Former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy described school standards as ‘woeful’ in 2009. His comments were echoed in the same year by former Marks & Spencer chief Sir Stuart Rose, who said many school leavers were not ‘fit for work’.

Despite a doubling of spending on education since 2000, from £35.8billion to £71billion, Britain has plummeted down world rankings, according to the respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

During this period the UK slipped from eighth to 28th in maths, from seventh to 25th in reading and from fourth to 16th in science. It is now behind relatively poor nations such as Estonia, Poland and Slovakia. Disturbingly, the study found that a fifth of 15-year-olds are ‘functionally illiterate’.

Under Labour there was a 3,800 per cent increase in uptake of non-academic GCSE-equivalent courses. In 2005 15,000 were taken. This soared to 575,000 last year.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has signalled that he will scrap the most pointless vocational courses and is encouraging schools to concentrate on the teaching of core subjects including English, maths, science, modern languages, history and geography.


British headmistress who gave out 717 detentions in four days evokes fury of parents who say 'it's not a prison'

A headmistress who introduced a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ to improve standards in her school has handed out 717 detentions in four days. Catherine Jenkinson-Dix has won the support of many parents after deciding to punish misdemeanours including smoking, chewing gum, eating between lessons, carrying mobile phones, applying excessive make-up and insubordination.

A strict uniform policy was also announced under which individualistic touches such as odd socks or wearing hoodies in class would be banned. Anyone breaking the rules would be sent immediately to the school hall for five hours where they would have to read a booklet about good behaviour.

On Monday, the first day of the policy, 236 children – a fifth of pupils at City of Ely Community College in Cambridgeshire – were punished. On Tuesday the figure was 186, on Wednesday it was 180 and yesterday it was 115.

Supporters of the regime say the diminishing figures prove it is working. But the crackdown has divided parents, with some calling it draconian and others saying that old-fashioned discipline will be reflected in academic achievement.

Sophie Martin, 38, backed the school despite her son Jack, 14, being given a detention on Monday for talking when he was meant to be reading a book. She said: ‘He learned not to do it again and he hasn’t been back since. ‘The number of children in the hall has been going down every day so it proves it is working. ‘Teenagers need guidelines and they always push the boundaries. If they know what the guidelines are they behave themselves.’

A parent of a 15-year-old boy said: ‘There are plenty who agree with what the school is doing. ‘Yes, the children that get detentions miss classes, but my son said that after several hours bored out of their skulls with nothing to do most of them actually want to be back in class. I think it’s a stroke of genius.’

However, florist Amanda King, 34, took her children, Ben, 12, and Shannon, 14, out of classes on Wednesday and is now looking for a new school. She said her son had been given a detention for arriving late to a French lesson. ‘I’m absolutely appalled. They are wrecking pupils’ education and turning it into a prison,’ she said. ‘Staff are nit-picking over everything – for behaviour, for what they wear.’

Ruth Hanslip, 47, has stopped sending her daughter Karris, 13, to the school after she was punished on three consecutive days for laughing, wearing a bracelet and carrying a mobile phone. She said: ‘We’d both had enough. They don’t give them any work to do and my daughter is now missing out on her school work.’ Karris said: ‘They gave me a little book to read but the rest of the time I was just sat staring at the wall.’

A letter to parents announcing the 14-point zero-tolerance policy said that any pupil who misbehaved would have to sit in the hall and read a booklet called Right To Teach, Right To Learn, which lists the rules. Those who played up in detention would be moved to an ‘isolation unit’, a room away from other children. The rules were drafted after a ‘minority’ of pupils failed to meet ‘basic expectations’.

Mrs Jenkinson-Dix, who was appointed in 2009, said: ‘Low-level issues, such as using mobile phones, affect staff’s ability to teach pupils and also affect those pupils who are trying to learn. If we can eradicate these, all students will be able to receive the best possible education. I am pleased to say I have the support of the majority of parents. ‘Any pupil who is removed from class is removed for a good reason and this is fundamental in preparing pupils for their future careers.’

Governor Ben Gibbs said: ‘Teachers are saying they are getting through their lesson plans quicker and we have feedback from students effectively saying how much better the lessons are.’


CA: “Inclusive” textboook bill closer to passage

The California Legislature could soon pass a bill that would require school textbooks and teachers to incorporate information on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans into their curriculum.

The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Education Act, or SB48, which mimics a bill previously vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, made it one step closer to becoming law Tuesday after being approved by the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Mark Leno, could have a nationwide impact if passed because California is such a big buyer of textbooks that publishers often incorporate the state’s standards into books distributed to other states.

Supporters say that’s a good thing because it will help prevent gay students from being harassed or bullied by their classmates.

But critics say SB48 is just an attempt to brainwash students into becoming pro-gay political activists and ensure that government, not parents, has the final word on teaching kids about moral values.

“Most textbooks don’t include any historical information about the LGBT movement, which has great significance to both California and U.S. history,” Leno said in a statement. “Our collective silence on this issue perpetuates negative stereotypes of LGBT people and leads to increased bullying of young people.”

Leno told that California school districts that have included the historical contributions of LGBT people and the LGBT movement in their curriculum have seen reduced rates of bullying and violence among students.

He said the bill aspires to achieve the same results statewide by adding LGBT to the existing list of underrepresented cultural and ethnic groups, which are covered by current law related to inclusion in textbooks and other instructional materials in schools.

“Furthermore, SB 48 will reduce bullying by ensuring that discriminatory bias and negative stereotypes based on sexual orientation are prohibited in school activities, instruction and classroom materials,” Carolyn Laub, executive director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network, which helped draft the bill, said in a statement.

Critics object to the bill on several accounts, saying it undermines parental authority, promotes gender confusion and experimentation, inappropriately classifies LGBT as a cultural ethnic group, and aims to brainwash children into adopting the LGBT community’s political agenda.

“This is teaching children from kindergarten on up that the homosexual, bisexual, transsexual lifestyle is something to admire and consider for themselves,” Randy Thomasson, president of, a group advocating against the bill, told

Thomasson said teachers should teach about homosexuals’ historical accomplishments but should not be forced to mention their sexual orientation. “Teach them about the good behavior, the noble things that people have done, but you don’t have to go into what they do sexually… True history focuses on the accomplishments of people; it doesn’t talk about what they did in the bedroom.”

Thomasson also complained that the bill does not allow for teachers to discuss the opposition to the LGBT movement or warn against “the negative consequences, that male homosexuality is the largest transmitter of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.” “So this isn’t even about history, this is about, ‘Hey, join the movement now. We need more children to become soldiers in the fight against religious freedom, parental rights, marriage for a man and a woman, the boy scouts, you name it.’”

Jim Carroll, President of Equality California, which also helped draft the bill, denied that it aims to recruit students into the LGBT movement. “And I don’t believe that by teaching about the black panthers for instance, that any school teacher could be accused of recruiting for that radical organization,” Carroll told

Carroll admitted that teachers would not be allowed to say things like “some believe homosexuality is an unhealthy lifestyle, the same way that you couldn’t talk about the civil rights movement but then say something discriminatory about African Americans.” But he said that people’s sexual orientation would be used only as a way of identifying them.

“It would be difficult to teach about the women’s movement without mentioning that Susan B. Anthony was a woman, it would be difficult to teach about the black civil rights movement without talking about Martin Luther King Jr. being black, it would be impossible to talk about the LGBT movement without saying Harvey Milk was gay or Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were lesbians,” Carroll said. “… We’re not asking people to talk about what they did in the bedroom, but their sexuality is relevant in terms of why you would discuss them in an educational environment.”

Leno added that the State Department would work with local school districts and the public to determine what changes should be made “and then, only at the next printing of the textbook, will this change, along with probably many others, be incorporated into the textbook, so no additional cost to the state.”

Opposing groups like and Concerned Parents United have launched letter-writing campaigns, asking critics to garner more opposition from their neighbors, religious leaders, local PTAs and lawmakers in hopes of persuading the governor and other lawmakers to oppose the bill.

Leno said the SB48 “will get to the floor of the Senate by late May; we hope that it will make its way to the assembly for similar review and to the governor’s desk by late summer.”


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