Thursday, July 14, 2011

British "health & safety" regulations badly burn schoolgirl

A ten-year-old girl was badly sunburned during a sports day practice after the school banned sun cream in case other children were allergic to it.

Parents Andrew and Victoria Bowen were furious when their daughter Aimee returned home bright red and covered in blisters. Blonde and fair-skinned Aimee had been taking part in a practice for the upcoming sportsday at Pennard Primary School, near Swansea, South Wales.

Mr and Mrs Bowen said they had raised the issue of sun cream with the school beforehand and were told pupils were not allowed to bring it in with them in case any children had an allergic reaction. The school said it followed guidelines on sun safety.

But Mr Bowen, 44, said: 'We always send her with sun cream on but it needs to be reapplied. 'I can understand the situation where teachers cannot apply sun cream to children but for a child not be able to bring their own in when they are ten years old seems to me to be totally ludicrous. 'We are told about the increase in skin cancer and how it is becoming more common in young people and then this happens.

'I picked her up from school and her shoulders were very, very red. Aimee said it didn't hurt at the time but when she woke up the following day the burns were very raw.

Mrs Bowen said: 'Aimee was feeling sick the following day and I thought she had sun stroke. 'We have raised the issue many times before and we have asked the governors about it and we have been told the children are not allowed to take sun cream to school. 'Aimee is ten now and is perfectly capable of applying sun cream herself.'

Head teacher of Pennard Primary School, Sharon Freeguard, said: 'We follow guidelines issued in 2006 which are for the children to cover up, wear a hat and put cream on before they come to school. 'Parents are welcome at lunch-time to come to school and reapply cream if they feel it is necessary. 'It would not be appropriate for the staff to put cream on 200 children.'

Bevis Man, from the British Skin Foundation said: 'When it comes to children, we need to be extra vigilant when it comes to protecting them from the harmful effects of the sun. 'Children should never be allowed to burn in the sun.

'By their very nature, children will spend a huge amount of time playing outdoors, so we need to make sure they don't burn during this time outdoors, whether it's at school playtime or at home in the garden. 'Sunscreen ought to be used to cover the areas that aren't covered by clothing, along with a hat to protect the ears and the back of the neck.'

A Swansea Council spokesman said: 'We are available to offer general advice on sun safety for schoolchildren during summer months, but day-to-day issues such as this are a matter for the schools themselves.'


Violent crime rife in British schools as police record 65 serious assaults EVERY DAY

Violent crime is rife in schools as police record 65 cases of grievous or actual bodily harm every single school day, figures reveal.

Shocking data disclosed under Freedom of Information laws shows 12,688 acts of extreme violence – either GBH or ABH – were recorded in schools across England last year. The record level does not include playground scuffles, assault without injury, attempted assault or assault recorded as a public order offence.

One in ten cases of GBH or ABH – 1,280 – were carried out by pupils younger than 12 – equivalent to one pupil in every 13 primary schools. The remaining 11,420 violent crimes took place in the 3,127 secondary schools in England – a rate of nearly four per school.

A youngster under the age of 14 at one school in Leicestershire was convicted of carrying a gun.

The level of violence, for 2010, is believed to be a record high and has increased since 2008, when some 11,405 violent crimes were recorded. The true level of violence could be much higher as many bullied victims fear revealing the identity of their attacker.

It follows yesterday’s disclosure in the Daily Mail that nearly 1,000 pupils are suspended or expelled from school for abuse or assault every school day.

The number of incidents discredits claims that behaviour is not a problem in some of our schools. It also shows that the last Labour government failed to tackle violence. Fifteen children aged between four and six are excluded from school for attacking their teacher every school day. And a record 5,200 schools have signed up to a scheme which places a police officer on their grounds. Some 29 out of 43 police forces now put officers in schools.

The Coalition’s behaviour tsar Charlie Taylor, admitted violence is still a problem. He said: ‘Behaviour is good at most schools but these figures demonstrate concerning levels of violence that exist in a small number. It is a major factor in deterring good people from becoming teachers and is a common reason for experienced teachers to leave the profession.’

The Coalition is seeking to combat bad behaviour in schools by giving teachers more powers to search pupils and the ability to impose no-notice detention. At present they must give 24 hours’ warning. Ministers are also strengthening guidance on the use of force so that teachers are more confident with dealing with violence.

They are also changing the current exclusions system so that pupils who have committed a serious offence cannot be re-instated by an appeal panel.


The punch in the face that taught me giving pupils rights is turning schools into war zones

Muttering profanities and puffing out his chest, the teenage pupil squared up to me as I asked him to leave the classroom. Striding forward, his temper evidently out of control, he swung a fist that struck me across the face. This thug then marched out of the room, leaving me shaken and smarting.

Had this unprovoked attack taken place on the High Street, it would have been a criminal assault which would have been handled by the police. But since I’m a teacher working in one of our state secondary schools, this abuse is more or less regarded as par for the course. In our modern climate of leniency, it usually goes unpunished.

Don’t believe me? Well, nothing happened to the pupil who hit me. He was taken to the headteacher’s office, but was given only a lecture. Effectively, he got away with this attack scot-free.

As a science and maths teacher in a major northern city, I’m sorry to say that I’m used to this sort of violence. I know from experience that aggression, brutality and disrespect are integral parts of life in the classroom today.

A combustible atmosphere of tension now prevails among pupils who have ben taught neither manners nor boundaries of behaviour.

The news, revealed in today’s Mail, that police record 26 cases of Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) or Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) in our schools every day will come as a shock to many — but not to those working in schools.

Other figures published by the Government this week revealed the true depths of this crisis in our schools. Almost 1,000 pupils are excluded for abuse or assault every single school day, more than double the rate of last year. Serious attacks on teaching staff are at their highest level for five years. Astonishingly, 44 teachers were hospitalised in classroom assaults in 2010.

A tidal wave of ill-discipline continues to sweep across our schools. Behaviour that once would have been regarded as outrageous is now common.

In another incident I experienced, I was walking out of the school gates at lunchtime when I passed a gang of pupils with whom I’d had a run-in during my class that morning. As the gang passed me, one of the boys shoved me right into the brick wall. ‘Sorry,’ he said with a mocking sneer, as the rest of the gang laughed.

I reported the incident to the police, but because I hadn’t suffered serious injury, they showed no interest in pursuing the matter. They said that if they took action, it might be construed by the boy’s family as harassment. That just shows how far the balance of power has swung against the teaching profession and in favour of even the most recalcitrant pupils.

There is no doubt that part of the blame for this trend lies with some pupils’ parents, who set no boundaries for their child but treat them as spoilt little emperors.

It is also a problem that has been exacerbated by modern technology, for as soon as a pupil is punished — by, for instance, being told that he will have to do detention — he is calling home on his mobile, pouring out his tale of woe. Often, the seething parent will then turn up at the school, furious at the treatment of his offspring.

I once kept back a boy who had been causing trouble in my class earlier in the day. As I was supervising his detention and marking schoolbooks in the classroom, his father suddenly turned up, threatening me and telling me I had ‘no right’ to take any action against his son. It was quite an intimidating situation, but not as serious as the experience a colleague of mine endured when he ended up in a scuffle with the father of a child he tried to discipline.

Parents are partly responsible for the creation of the narcissistic ‘me-me’ mentality among pupils that has caused such damaged to schools.

But a host of other factors are involved. One is the fashionable emphasis on children’s rights, which makes it so difficult to enforce any discipline and can put teachers in the middle of a legal minefield.

As the Government report showed this week, a quarter of all teachers have been subjected to false allegations of assault or inappropriate conduct. While teachers’ rights are ignored, even the most frivolous charge from pupils can lead to a suspension.

This happened to one of my fellow teachers, a superb science master with 25 years’ experience. During one lesson in the lab, he instructed pupils to push their stools under their desks to create more space.

Some of them were, predictably, being a little slow about this so he went round the room, shoving in the stools himself, only for one female pupil later to make a complaint that he had touched her bottom. We all thought it ridiculous, yet he was suspended. With the parents of the girl also threatening him with prosecution through the courts, my colleague could not cope with the stress — and resigned.

What made this incident all the more sickening is that the girl later admitted there was no truth to her complaint. Thanks to this culture of ‘children’s rights’, her malicious prank brought an honourable career to an untimely end.

Just as damaging to our schools is the ideology of so-called ‘child-centric learning’ which is promoted by teacher-training colleges and by the official inspection body Ofsted. Child-centric learning holds that teachers should be nothing more than ‘facilitators’ of learning, and that pupils should be allowed to study at their own pace.

Not only does this creed disastrously weaken the authority of the teacher, but it also means that pupils inhabit an environment where they are rarely challenged or stretched.

I have always preferred teaching a class where the pupils are seated in rows alphabetically, facing the front, because that way it is easier to keep an eye on them.

But the teaching establishment, through its fixation with ‘child-centred’ methods, prefers group work, where pupils sit around tables, with half of them not even facing the teacher and all too often chatting among themselves. It is a recipe for chaos, not learning.

Also of concern is the growing absence of men from the teaching profession, a situation which has worrying consequences for the millions of young boys growing up without fathers at home. Endemic family breakdown means that nearly half of children born today will be living in broken homes by the age of 16 — most residing with their mothers — a situation which is far worse in deprived areas.

It is vital that these children have male teachers, both to act as role models and to provide discipline for young men who are often tough and troubled.

But new figures revealed last week that a quarter of all primary schools don’t have a single male teacher. With just 25,500 men teaching children, compared with 139,500 women, the profession is becoming almost exclusively female. Even in secondaries, the vast majority of professionals are women.

So is there a solution to the explosion in misbehaviour we are seeing in our classrooms? My view is that you have to start with the little things if you are going to curb the major acts of violence and disobedience.

As things stand, a lack of disciplinary rigour extends right through the schools system. Minor misdemeanours, such as swearing at a teacher or refusing to obey an instruction, continually go unpunished, helping to create an atmosphere of indiscipline.

Such laxity is partly because schools cannot be bothered to reprimand pupils, yet they should pay heed to the famous ‘broken window’ theory from 1980s America, which revolutionised crime prevention.

The ‘broken window’ approach held that if petty vandalism goes unpunished, then far worse crime will follow in a neighbourhood. But if minor crimes — such as smashing a window — are dealt with rigorously, then the criminal justice system demonstrates its robustness and the overall crime rate starts to fall.

That is what happened in New York under Mayor Rudolf Giuliani, where crime fell to levels not seen since the 1940s. That is precisely the approach we need in our schools today.

Teachers must be allowed to have a measure of control in schools — and it’s promising that measures being introduced in September will scrap the ‘no-touch’ rule and thus allow them to restrain or eject pupils. Otherwise the anarchy, the bullying and violence will continue to spiral out of control. The teacher must once again be a figure of authority, not a totem of contempt.


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