Thursday, December 15, 2011

Australia: PC police strike Christmas at Inner Sydney Montessori School

'Merry Christmas' replaced with 'Happy Holidays'. I think the father who objected to this has his kid in the wrong school. Montessori schools have always been "progressive" -- though whether it's "progress" to be doing the same thing for over 100 years is an interesting question. Most of the other parents probably agreed with the school and see Christmas as just a quaint folk custom of no particular importance

A SCHOOL is accused of stealing Christmas after removing all references to Santa, carols and Christianity in end-of-year celebrations.

Three to six-year-olds at the Inner Sydney Montessori School replaced the festive lyrics "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" with "We Wish You A Happy Holidays".

One angry parent said he would withdraw his daughter from the Balmain school next year, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The dad, who did not wish to be identified, said: "There were about five songs and not one of them mentioned Christmas. There was no Santa or Christmas decorations or a Christmas tree or any reference to Jesus. "Is this politically correct? I don't understand."

He said some of the children were so confused they blurted out the word Christmas while singing: "They should not force this on young kids. Christmas is meant to be all about Santa and presents."

The Inner Sydney Montessori School said it offers an "inclusive co-educational, non-denominational" education for children from diverse backgrounds from birth to age 12. Principal Cathy Swan said the complaining parent had misinterpreted what went on at the school.

"This is the first complaint I have received about this ... I am sorry this parent felt that way. We have Christmas activities going on all over the building," she said.

"Our policy is that we give children keys to the world and we show them many celebrations including Christmas. We look at all cultures and the particular ways that people celebrate such as Easter, Christmas and Chanukah." Ms Swan said the end-of-year songs without Christmas references may have been an "attempt by one teacher to address the fact that she had Hindus and Jewish children in the classroom".

"Chanukah is happening at this time of year as well. Our parents are multicultural but so are my staff ... we do celebrate Christmas," she said.

Montessori Australia Foundation office manager Sandra Allen said each school was independently owned and operated and had its own policy. "It is a secular education system so no particular religion is taught," she said. "Some schools may choose to celebrate holidays such as Chinese New Year or Chanukah or look at these events from a cultural point of view.

"I have had an email from a concerned member of the public and I pointed them to our website. "It is one school only that I've heard of - it (complaints) are not widespread."

Australia has 190 Montessori schools and 25,000 in 120 countries around the world.


"Studio schools" to open to cut teenage unemployment rate in Britain

Thousands of teenagers will be able to transfer to a new wave of “studio schools” at the age of 14 to boost their chances of finding a job, it is revealed today.

Ministers will announce the creation of a dozen new-style schools that are designed to act as a bridge to the workplace and cut the number of NEETs – young people not in education, employment or training. Under plans, schools will operate longer days and work outside standard academic terms.

Each pupil will be expected to spend between four hours and two days a week on work placements with businesses linked to the school and teenagers will be assigned a personal coach to act as an academic “line manager”.

The reforms come amid fears that too many teenagers are currently finishing full-time education lacking the skills needed to succeed in the workplace.

According to a recent report from the Confederation of British Industry, more than two-thirds of employers believe school and college leavers lack vital “employability skills” such as customer awareness, while 55 per cent say they are unable to manage their time or daily routine.

Last month, it emerged that the number of NEETs had hit a record high, with almost one-in-five young people – 1.16m – being left without a job or training place.

But the latest move is likely to be criticised by teaching unions who claim it risks creating a “two-tier” system, with brighter children remaining in mainstream schools and colleges while others transfer.

Today, the Department for Education will announce the establishment of 12 studio schools – catering for around 3,600 teenagers – in areas such as Liverpool, Stevenage, Stoke-on-Trent and Fulham, west London.

Each one, opening in 2012, will be linked to a series of local employers, with the Fulham school partnered with the BBC and Fulham FC. Six are already open in Luton, Huddersfield, Durham, Manchester, Maidstone and Coalville in Leicestershire.

Under plans, pupils will be able to transfer out of ordinary schools to attend them between the age of 14 and 19.

The Government said all subjects would be taught “through projects, often designed with employers” – with disciplines such as science being linked directly to local engineering firms or hospitals.

Schools will operate a longer day to give pupils a better understanding of the demands of the workplace.

Along with their studies, pupils will carry out work placements for four hours a week, rising to two days a week of paid work for those aged 16 to 19. They will also get the chance to take vocational qualifications linked directly to the needs of local employers.

Ministers have already announced plans for dozens of University Technical Colleges – similar schools for 14- to 19-year-olds in which pupils spend roughly 40 per cent of the week learning a trade such as engineering, manufacturing, fashion and information technology.

But the National Union of Teachers has already claimed that the new schools could effectively lead to a two-tier system with weaker pupils pushed onto vocational courses while the brightest are encouraged to take A-levels.


Struggling British schools 'being let down by poor teaching'

More than a third of schools inspected under a tough new Ofsted regime have been branded not good enough amid continuing concerns over poor teaching.

Some 35 per cent of primaries and secondaries visited in July and September were rated no better than satisfactory, it emerged.

Ofsted said fewer than one-in-seven of the 873 schools subjected to recent inspections were awarded its highest mark of outstanding. It was down sharply on the fifth of all schools falling into the category but an improvement on judgments made during the last academic year.

The disclosure comes just weeks after the watchdog warned in its annual report that too many state schools were being let down by “variable” standards of teaching.

It found that underperforming schools relied too heavily on worksheets and a narrow range of textbooks during lessons, while teachers spent too long talking and set “low-level” tasks that failed to develop pupils’ knowledge.

In a report published today, the watchdog said there was a “strong relationship” between the overall judgement made on schools and the quality of teaching, with the same mark “being made on 90 per cent of inspections in this period”.

The move comes after a speech by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, in which he suggested hundreds of schools did not deserve the “outstanding” accolade because their teaching was not up to scratch.

“It is a worry to me that so many schools that are still judged as ‘outstanding’ overall when they have not achieved an outstanding [in] teaching and learning”, he said.

Ofsted currently rate schools on a four-point scale – inadequate, satisfactory, good and outstanding.

Since 2009, inspections have been more closely focused on the worst schools, with those previously given higher marks left for longer and weak establishments given more regular visits.

According to figures, some 20 per cent of schools are currently judged outstanding based on their last inspection, with 50 per cent rated good, 28 per cent satisfactory and just two per cent inadequate.

Based on inspections carried out in July and September this year alone, just 13 per cent were judged outstanding and 52 per cent were good – suggesting they are finding it much harder to win the very top rating.

A further 33 per cent of schools were merely satisfactory and two per cent were given the lowest mark.

However, the figures were a significant improvement on inspections of schools carried out under the new Ofsted system throughout the 2010/11 academic year, when just 11 per cent were outstanding and 44 per cent were given the two lowest marks.

From next year, inspections will be subjected to further reform, with Ofsted rating schools on four key areas: teaching, pupil achievement, behaviour and leadership.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We’re driving up standards across the board – recruiting the brightest graduates and giving them outstanding training.

"The tough new inspection regime coming into force next month will root out weak teaching. There is compelling evidence shows that poor teaching has a critical link with bad behaviour – it’s right take a hard line on this.”


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