Saturday, July 16, 2011

Oregon Professor to File Suit for Being Fired for Snapping at Student to Stop Talking Or He’ll Shoot

A deaf, sign language professor is planning to sue to get his job back at the University of Oregon after he was fired for a sarcastic comment he made about shooting a student in the head for speaking out in class.

On May 4, Peter Quint, who teaches American Sign Language, started a lecture by telling a story about a dangerous situation he faced in Pakistan when a tribesman pointed a gun at him. According to Tyree Harris, a student in the class, Quint described how he was threatened by a terrorist group and smoked "some marijuana as proof that he was not in Pakistan to be drug competition."

Harris wrote in the school paper the Oregon Daily Emerald that Quint tried to use the story as an example of how he ensured his safety because he could communicate that he wasn't a risk to the group, which was believed to be in the drug trade.

But later when a student began to interrupt Quint's story, the professor's communication skills evidently faltered. "Do you want me to take a gun out and shoot you in the head so you understand what I am talking about? I had to practice being respectful in Pakistan otherwise I would have been shot. Can you practice the same respect here?" Quint responded.

The same day, university officials received a complaint from a student about Quint's comment.

Robert Shibley, senior vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a non-profit organization that works to uphold free speech on college campuses, said Michael Bullis, dean of the College of Education, notified Quint by e-mail that he had been suspended from teaching. A few days later, Bullis sent Quint another e-mail saying that he would remain on paid leave until June 15 and would not be re-appointed to teach future courses.

Quint was ordered not to "visit the college or contact faculty, staff, or students," said Shibley, who added that he was not aware of any other reported complaints about Quint's teaching performance.

Quint "was talking about the need to communicate across barriers and show respect in a foreign environment," said Shibley, whose group is working on Quint's case. He noted that the class had a history of being disruptive and the student's interjection was against class policy.

Shibley said Quint, who was finishing his second year of teaching as an adjunct professor at the university, sent an e-mail to students in the class apologizing for his remarks.

But Harris wrote in the school paper that the termination was appropriate. "Quint was fired because of his poor class management skills and his crude, inappropriate examples that made students uncomfortable all year," wrote his former student.

Korrin Bishop, another student in Quint's class, disagrees. Also writing in the school paper before Quint's termination, Bishop told a different story. "I believe Quint's best attribute is his incredible sense of passion. He has an understanding of students and maintains a positive attitude through both highs and lows," Bishop wrote.

Earlier this month, FIRE sent a letter to the University of Oregon's President Richard Lariviere, asking him to retract Quint's termination. "Professors need to have a lot of freedom to be able to pursue their scholarly interest and teach their students," said Shibley.

But Roger Hennagin, an attorney in Lake Oswego, Ore., said he thinks the academic freedom argument may be "stretching it." "Academic freedom in my view is directed more to matters that are related to what one is teaching and being able to take a controversial or unpopular position without fear of retaliation," Hennigan said. contacted university officials, who would not comment on the pending litigation. However, the university did release a statement. "The University of Oregon conducted a thorough investigation into the incident that occurred in Mr. Quint's classroom prior to taking action," the statement reads. The Oregon University system also said it has procedures for formal proceedings when dealing with matters such as Quint's.

"The charges or a notice accompanying the charges shall inform the academic staff member of the right to a formal hearing on the charges and of the academic staff member's duty to notify the president within 10 days after the charges have been delivered or sent whether such hearing is desired," read the procedures.

Quint declined requests for comment after consulting with his lawyer, Kevin Tillson. Tillson did tell that the university terminated Quint mid-term without due process and violated Quint's free speech and his rights under the Americans With Disability Act for failure to provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

Shibley added that under the due process claim, "he got no hearing, he got no preparation for any kind of statement of the facts and no written finding talking about why he should get the suspension and later why he shouldn't be re-appointed."

But Hennagin said adjunct teachers like Quint don't enjoy the same privileges as tenured professors, and so he has a higher burden of proof in the courtroom. "If you're on a year-to-year contract, my understanding of the law is that you've got to prove to the court that there were automatic renewals every year," he said.

"There is not a written promise of reappointment for adjuncts, but that it is customary unless something goes wrong," said Shibley.


Higher Education Loan Bubble

Instapundit has had a number of posts regarding the supposed higher education bubble. However, to me, the most disconcerting part is the massive amount of student loan debt that exists (it exceeds total credit card debt now) and the onerous terms that are attached to that debt as shown by the graphic below.

A whole generation has mortgaged their future (literally). Where are tomorrow's entrepreneurs going to come from if nobody can afford to take risks?

I have two kids nearing college age; one is a HS senior, the other a junior. Both are doing well, the senior in particular (7th in a class of 200). She continually gets all sorts of shameless come-hither letters from every elite — and horrendously expensive — college you can name.

She understands — both because she is smart and I told her so — that a college education is an investment, and that her parents are going to pay very close attention to the return. So, instead of, for example, Dartmouth, she is (likely) going to Oregon State.

It is very likely that there is a Higher Ed bubble, and it is there for the same reasons as the real estate bubble: irreconcilable goals.

Ownership and affordability on the one hand, and Credentials and affordability on the other.

Regarding higher education, societally we are not comfortable with the notion that the lack of luck (or sins) of the parents get to circumscribe the prospects of the children. So, the government sets up means to wish the affordability problem away, which, in turn, overheats the higher ed market, until such time as enough people decide they can’t flip the cost of a college degree into sufficiently high earnings.

Inflating the demand also inflates the proxy effect of a college degree. By that I mean that the possession of a college degree is a proxy for qualities that are not specific to the knowledge gained: some level of intelligence and self-discipline primary among them. (Indeed, the proxy effect is largely what keeps the elite college brands going. Someone with a Dartmouth degree on the wall must be smart because only smart people get into Dartmouth in the first place.)

For example, my occupation really doesn’t require a four year degree, but it is nearly impossible to land a job at a major airline without one. Why? Because they feel that there is a significant correlation between having earned a degree and possessing the qualities that are important to avoiding expensive failure.

For most people, and most occupations, something much more akin to a trade school would be far more appropriate; unfortunately, what started as good intentions have created a self-reinforcing cycle of government fueled demand on the one hand, and a self-licking ice cream cone industry on the other.


The rod has been spared for far too long

Allowing British teachers even the lightest touch of physical force will improve discipline

Shockingly, nearly 1,000 pupils in England are suspended for serious disorder every school day. Bad behaviour in schools is a problem that has never been tackled. Now, at last, the Government is trying to do something about it, by giving teachers more powers to use “reasonable force” to control unruly pupils.

Even the most knowledgeable teacher in the world is useless if he or she cannot control classes. All that expertise is wasted if pupils aren’t listening; or worse, if they are rioting. Yet this seems to be the case in too many schools. Indeed, two-thirds of teachers admit that serious disorder is forcing fellow teachers out of the profession.

Under these new guidelines, teachers, who until now have often felt alone and helpless when faced with the need to restrain out of control pupils, will be able to use sensible physical force to discipline them and help stop fights and injuries in the process.

For example, they will be able to block fights physically by standing between warring pupils; they will also be able to hold badly behaving pupils firmly by the arm to restrain them, preventing them from harming themselves and others. Crucially, they can now use reasonable force to remove disruptive pupils from classes, too.

It’s not all about restraint, either. A more important part of our job is to encourage children – and a small amount of physical contact can play a huge part. Teachers need the right to comfort pupils: a kindly arm around the shoulder works wonders when a child is depressed. A pat on the back to praise a child low on confidence also works well.

Too often, the “no touch” policy, endorsed under Labour, whereby all physical contact is banned, has stopped teachers from doing their jobs properly, afraid of the inevitable accusations. Now at last, this policy too will be ended.

The irony is that the vast majority of children like being in well-ordered, well-structured classrooms, which is exactly what the Government is trying to achieve. Most of them hate disorder, feel uncomfortable with it and while, yes, they’ll play along with the unruly minority, they secretly resent not being able to learn properly.

Reasonable force must, of course, always be a last resort. But at least the would-be yobs will know it can be used. The more powers teachers have in their limited arsenal, the more confident they will be in keeping order, thus meeting the educational needs of the overwhelming majority. They need no longer feel so alone.

I’m lucky enough to be teaching in a supremely well-run school. But in some schools, it’s all too easy to lose control in the classroom, especially when you’re new. New teachers need all the support they can get and these guidelines will give them much more belief in their own ability to do the job well.

As I know from bitter experience, it only takes a few short weeks for a well-drilled class to become riotous. I’ve seen colleagues in the past – well-meaning, kindly souls, who would rather resign than physically hurt a child – come out of their classrooms, at the end of a long day, shell-shocked because they’ve received so much verbal abuse. They may be experts in maths, medieval history or modern languages, but if they cannot keep order they are sunk.

Teenagers, in particular, are quick to sense what teachers can and cannot do. In fact, there has been a trend of children spouting their rights at teachers, even whilst misbehaving, emboldened by the fact that they know Sir or Miss can do very little physically to restrain them, for fear of being suspended (“You can’t touch me, Sir – my dad will be straight on to the head!”). A small minority of parents have been all too ready to criticise and even sue teachers for trying to do their jobs properly.

To my own lasting shame, early in my career I lost control of a class and I would certainly have welcomed these new “reasonable force” guidelines then. The warning signs seem small at first and easy to ignore: questions shouted out in class, constant interruptions, constant chattering to other children. But they can quickly degenerate into a hell-hole, where three or four loudmouths are ruining the education of 20 others. Shrieking yobs rather than studious pupils become the norm.

There’s no doubt in my mind that had I been able to take hold of one of these loudmouths when I was struggling to keep order and physically remove him from my classroom, life would have been so much easier. Without an audience to play to, most louts lose their power. As it was, the worst offender simply refused to budge when he was “sent out”. And with the words of my then head of department ringing in my ears – “Whatever you do, don’t touch them” – I felt powerless.

There will be those who carp and criticise (“What exactly is reasonable force?”), but these latest guidelines on the sensible use of physical restraint to help create structured, ordered classrooms should be welcomed: full marks to the Government for setting out such guidance clearly and concisely.

No one wants a return to the bad old days of canes and beatings, but teachers must have the right to use reasonable restraint as a last resort. The alternative – thousands more suspensions, thousands more failing pupils – is a far more frightening prospect.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Union leader Admits in Email: Teachers Union "Stands Up For Adults"

One Michigan teacher has discovered that being a Michigan Education Association member is like staying at the Hotel California: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Andrew Buikema, a music teacher with Grant Public Schools for the past nine years, is tired of being forced to belong to a union that he says doesn’t “stand up for kids” and “always seem(s) to put adults first.” Buikema expressed his displeasure in a recent email to MEA Secretary-Treasurer Peggy McLellan.

In her response, McLellan wrote, “You’re right that MEA stands up for adults; that’s because it’s the adults who are under attack, not the kids.” McLellan goes on to argue “that MEA does stand up for our members, but it’s because our members’ working conditions are the kids’ learning conditions.”

The email exchange began when Buikema asked union leaders how to resign from the MEA. He was told by both McLellan and another MEA representative that quitting the union was only possible for religious objectors.

Why is Buikema eager to dissolve ties with the MEA? He believes the union takes a needlessly adversarial approach when asked to make concessions to help districts balance their budgets.

Specifically, Buikema believes the union should stop pressuring districts into purchasing pricey, union-owned MESSA health insurance. That would allow districts to purchase less expensive coverage, and use the savings to prevent teacher layoffs.

“The MEA could have an opportunity to make themselves look really good in the state and in all the communities if they would actually look at school finances, along with many other issues, without the blinders on,” Buikema wrote. “The label that is put on us teachers makes us look greedy, self centered and arrogant. All because of the perception that is being put out there from the MEA and local unions,” wrote Buikema. “I just want to teach without having the union label on me,” he concluded.

Buikema represents a growing number of teachers who feel disaffected by the MEA’s agenda that protects the sacred cows of seniority and MESSA at the expense of students and less-senior teachers.

But Buikema isn’t alone. Other teachers around the country are taking a similar stand. Buikema recently shared his views during an appearance on the Fox News Channel.


Public school systems cheating America's youth

Benjamin Franklin said, “Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden, it is forbidden because it is hurtful.”

Someone ought to hang that quote in every doorway of every school and office of the Atlanta Public Schools system.

Last week’s release by GeorgiaGov. Nathan Deal of an investigative report on widespread cheating within APS on the state’s standardized curriculum tests raises more questions than it answers.

How did a school system the size of Atlanta’s establish such pervasive unethical habits? Apparently some 178 educators, including 38 principals, are named as perpetrators of this educational fraud, and more than 80 have confessed to their roles in the scoring scam. Cheating took place in 44 of the 56 schools examined in the investigation.

If cheating by teachers, administrators and even the superintendent of schools is occurring with impunity in a major metropolitan school district, where else is it happening? Officials within APS denied for years that cheating was taking place, even as the students’ scores improved in suspiciously dramatic fashion.

Can parents trust their local school districts’ claims of improvement in educational results? APS Superintendent Beverly Hall became known as a “miracle worker” in supposedly turning around a beleaguered school district. She even became part of the “Atlanta brand.”

Business and civic leaders touted her leadership and the quality of the schools as reasons to bring commerce to the city, yet it appears she may not have actually improved the district at all. There is now little reliable data to make that claim.

Of all the public scandals of the past several years, the APS cheating fiasco is the most egregious in recent memory because it proves that corruption is now standard operating procedure in our civic institutions. Who cares if children are left holding the bag, as long as the powers-that-be get the accolades they seek.

The finger pointing in the wake of this story merely demonstrates how broken our system of public education really is. Teachers blame the reforms instituted in Atlanta several years ago that put the focus on financial incentives for performance rather than teacher tenure.

Administrators blame state and federal governments for tying funding to school performance, which in turn “forces” schools to “teach to the test.” (Proving if there’s a way to blame former President George W. Bush for anything, folks will do so.)

If Atlanta teachers had been “teaching to the test,” however, their rampant cheating would have been unnecessary.

Meanwhile, parents don’t know who to blame, but they’re not likely to hold their children accountable because, well … they hardly ever do, so why start now?

Oddly enough, there’s one party no one ever mentions, but who, in my view, is probably the root cause of the decline (and inevitable demise) of our public schools: Weather Underground founder and former University of Illinois at Chicago professor Bill Ayers.

Not just Mr. Ayers, mind you, but he and his cohort of teacher educators who, in the past 40 years, literally hijacked our nation’s schools for their own progressive purposes.

These days, rather than ensure that rising teachers are masters of their fields (Mr. Ayers has written that subject-matter mastery isn’t necessary for teaching), our schools of education train teachers to engage in “social justice” - and even to teach substantive subjects such as math and science in the context of social consciousness.

When teachers don’t view their role as imparting information, knowledge and skills, but rather as preparing students to be “agents of social change” through “critical thinking,” it’s no wonder the kids aren’t capable of passing standardized tests.

It must be said: We aren’t training our teachers to do the job we say we want done in our classrooms.

Why, then, are we surprised that they stoop to sin and avarice to achieve success in a job for which they are fundamentally unprepared in the first place?


British teachers must 'uphold British values' to work in schools

Teachers face being barred from the classroom for failing to uphold “British values” and proper discipline under rigorous new professional standards for schools. For the first time, staff are told they could be struck off for showing intolerance towards pupils with other faiths and beliefs.

Teachers in England are warned against staging lessons that undermine “fundamental” values such as the rule of law, democracy and individual liberty.

The move is designed to make it easier for heads to sack teachers who are members of the British National Party or those with extremist Islamic beliefs. It follows comments from Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, that membership of far-right groups was incompatible with the duty to “shape young minds”.

Under new guidelines, staff will also be told to take responsibility for promoting “good and courteous behaviour” among children in lessons and around the school.

In a further move, the standards – being introduced in 2012 – place a renewed emphasis on teachers’ subject knowledge, suggesting staff should uphold high standards of “literacy, articulacy and the correct use of standard English” at all times.

It represents an attempt to establish clear boundaries for staff in all state schools and weed out poor teachers failing to achieve basic skill-levels.

The slimmed-down rules focus on just eight key areas of teaching – and one section focusing on personal and professional conduct – as opposed to more than 100 separate standards introduced by Labour.

Mr Gove insisted the previous system placed a premium on “bland statements and platitudes”, covering areas such as communicating with colleagues, promoting wellbeing and establishing a safe learning environment.

The new standards will have “real teeth”, he said, adding: “They set clear expectations about the skills that every teacher in our schools should demonstrate. They will make a significant improvement to teaching by ensuring teachers can focus on the skills that matter most.”

Just 1.5 per cent of student teachers fail to satisfy the current standards during training and fewer than 20 teachers have been struck off in the last decade for incompetence.

New standards – covering just four pages – set out the key skills that each trainee must satisfy to win qualified teacher status and then remain in the classroom.

As part of the new guidelines, staff must set high expectations of pupils, demonstrate good subject knowledge, plan and teach well-structured lessons, promote good progress among pupils, adapt their teaching to children’s different needs, make good use of assessment, manage behaviour and fulfil their wider responsibilities to school life.

Under behaviour, teachers are told to establish “clear rules and routines” and promote “good and courteous” manners among pupils. The section on subject knowledge says staff must have decent standards of written English – whatever the teacher’s subject specialism.

Beyond teaching, the guidance says staff "must not undermine fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs".

It comes after a teacher and BNP member was cleared of religious intolerance last year by the General Teaching Council - the profession's regulatory body - despite using a school laptop to describe some immigrants as "filth" on a website.

The National Association of Head Teachers welcomed the document, saying the standards were “clear, concise and relevant”. But Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said the rules underline “the punitive mind set this Coalition has towards teachers”. “The new standards are vague, poorly drafted, lack clarity, are open to wide interpretation, will breed confusion and uncertainty and will simply serve as a stick with which to beat teachers,” she said.


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.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cleared: the British teacher fired for grabbing disruptive boy's arm

A teacher falsely accused of assaulting a disruptive pupil won his battle to clear his name yesterday. Despite 33 years of unblemished service, Ronnie Lane was sacked after the 15-year-old claimed the arts teacher had seized his arm and left him with scratch marks.

School chiefs rejected Mr Lane’s defence that he simply touched the boy’s arm while asking him to let go of a classmate’s painting. Yesterday an employment tribunal backed Mr Lane’s version of events, ruling he had been unfairly dismissed two years ago.

The 56-year-old produced evidence from a senior retired police officer indicating the boy’s injuries had been self inflicted. His victory follows the publication of shock figures that show one in four school staff has been the subject of false allegations by pupils.

Mr Lane was teaching art to a class of 20 GCSE students at West Derby School in Liverpool when the boy – identified only as Student J – started disrupting the lesson. When J grabbed another pupil’s coursework, Mr Lane told the tribunal he placed his hand on J’s wrist to take it, at which the teenager replied: ‘Get off or I’ll stab your eye out.’

He went to fetch another teacher, but a few minutes later J, who has special needs, alleged that scratch marks on his arm had been left by Mr Lane’s fingernails.

He was suspended, and following a number of hearings, including an unsuccessful appeal, sacked for gross misconduct. But later one pupil came forward to say he saw J injure himself. Giving evidence at the tribunal, the witness said: ‘He was digging his left hand into his right arm and applying pressure to his arm. ‘Mr Lane did touch him but it was just a limp-wristed gesture.’

Yesterday the tribunal upheld the married teacher’s claims for both unfair and wrongful dismissal. Its detailed findings will be published later, and a further hearing will be held to determine compensation.

Geoff Scargill, his Association of Teachers and Lecturers representative, said: ‘Ronnie is, of course, pleased with the judgment and is waiting to read the details.’

Andy Peart, head of legal and member services at the ATL, said: ‘We are delighted that Mr Lane has been vindicated. The employment tribunal judgment was a victory for justice. ‘The school treated Mr Lane grossly unfairly despite a 33-year unblemished record teaching there and have blighted his teaching career. We hope the compensation takes this into account when the employment tribunal meets this later this year.’

In a deprived area of Liverpool, West Derby School has been rated outstanding by Ofsted and praised for its ‘exceptional’ record in ensuring pupils exceed expectations. However it was struck by tragedy last year when a teacher was found dead at her home amid allegations she had been bullied by senior staff.

Janet McCabe, 51, died days after being told she faced suspension over allegations of giving students excessive help before a languages exam. An inquest could not ascertain the cause of her death.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has pledged to tackle bad behaviour blighting schools and driving teachers out of the profession. Measures to be introduced in September include scrapping ‘no touch rules’, for example when teaching pupils a musical instrument.

Pupils who make false allegations will face suspension, expulsion or even criminal proceedings.


Meat cleavers, bayonets and axes: The weapons seized from children as young as six at British schools

Hundreds of deadly weapons are being seized at schools each year from children as young as six, disturbing figures reveal. The shocking arsenal includes a meat cleaver, an axe, a bayonet and a knife found on a Year 1 primary school pupil.

Some 1,145 weapons were confiscated between 2006 and 2010 according to the results of a Freedom of Information request to Britain’s 52 police forces. Only half responded, meaning the official figure is likely to be more than 2,200 – an average of around 440 weapons seizures each year.

Education sources said this represents ‘the thin end of the wedge’ as most blades and other dangerous items are smuggled into schools without being detected. The figures were released in the same week that an official Government report exposed a doubling of violent incidents in schools to almost 1,000 in just a year.

Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘Teachers are telling us on the quiet that pupils have taken control of schools. ‘For a lot of youngsters weapons and violence are becoming normal parts of their lives. ‘Teachers must be more ready to work together to tackle youngsters with weapons, exclude them from schools and call police.’ ‘It shows how badly the situation has deteriorated and why something must be done about it.

‘There are solutions like knife arches or searches but the fact these things are being found shows the vast majority of teachers are aware children could be carrying weapons. ‘These serious weapons youngsters are bringing into school shows how discipline in schools is deteriorating. ‘In general I believe schools are safe but with this sort of behaviour they can be very dangerous.’

The array of weapons includes a six-year-old child caught armed with a knife by Strathclyde Police in 2009. Police in Surrey seized a sword from a 19-year-old in 2010 and a one-foot long bayonet from a 15-year-old in 2008. The figures also show two 10-year-olds carrying knives in Lancashire, a 13-year-old with a meat cleaver in Strathclyde in 2009 and an eight year-old with a knife in Grampian. In Lincolnshire a 15-year-old was caught carrying an axe in 2009 and an 11-year-old was found with a snooker ball in a sock in 2008. A cosh was seized from a 15-year-old by West Mercia Police in 2009 and knives taken from two nine-year-olds in Leicestershire in 2006 and 2009. In Lancashire a 12-year-old was caught carrying a lock knife in 2006 and two 10-year-olds found with knives in 2008.

This week the Government issued new guidance to schools, which reveals that from September teachers can use force on disruptive children ending the 'no touch' policy. The guidance allows teachers to use reasonable force to eject unruly pupils, break up fights and search them for weapons Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said searching pupils at schools risks turning them into ‘airport style security’.

She said: ‘There is a danger that concentrating on the small minority of badly behaved pupils will bring about an unhelpful change in the schools' culture if airport style security measures and frisking are seen as normal. ‘Schools work hard to develop and maintain relationships of trust between pupils and teachers which heavy handed tactics, in response to a problem which is confined to the minority, may not always be the best solution and are more likely to escalate rather than defuse potentially difficult situations.’

Katharine Birbalsingh, the deputy head dismissed after speaking out about pupils’ behaviour at last year’s Tory conference, said the reinstatement of teachers’ powers would help tackle the problem but it would ‘take years’ to replace the authority that had been eroded.

Strathclyde Police seized the most weapons, 373, followed by Kent Police with 125, Lancashire Constabulary 81 and Leicestershire Police 80 Schools in Thames Valley Police area suffered the most crimes - 2,943 - followed by Kent Police with 2,081. Strathclyde Police also made 199 drugs seizures ahead of Durham Constabulary, 158, Humberside, 105, and Surrey, 99.

The DfE also revealed that nearly half a million children play truant for the equivalent of one whole month every school year. Some 430,000 of England’s six million pupils aged five to 16 skip more than 15 per cent of their lessons, while 184,000 miss 20 per cent - the level defined as ‘persistently absent’.

In an effort to tackle the worsening truancy rates the DfE yesterday reduced this level to 15 per cent and will name and shame schools to force head teachers to address the problem.

Charlie Taylor, the Coalition’s behaviour tsar, said: ‘Over time these pupils are lost to the system and can fall into anti-social behaviour and crime.’


Half of Australian high school students don't know they live in a democracy, survey finds

Since Australia is in fact a Constitutional Monarchy and the Royal family get constant coverage in the Australian press, this might not be quite as bad as it seems

HIGH school students will be taught the Australian system of government after a survey revealed more than half have no idea they live in a democracy - or even know what it means. This is despite students learning about our political structure at primary school in Year 6.

The AusCivics program, developed by the Constitution Education Fund Australia and endorsed by the federal and state governments, will be rolled out after the school holidays.

"The Australian Electoral Commission has found that half of young Australians don't know that they live in a democracy or what it actually means," the fund's executive director Kerry Jones said. "Children are taught in primary school but then half of them forget everything they've learned by the time they are 16."

The program has been developed by Ms Jones, a prominent monarchist, with author Thomas Keneally and former New South Wales premier Barrie Unsworth.

Ms Jones said she was disappointed to learn a conference for members of the radical Islamic organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba last weekend repeated its rejection of democracy, calling for Muslims to boycott elections and embrace Sharia law. "That's not the Australian way," she said.

Yet Ms Jones said it was not only radicals that threatened democracy. "There is a lack of engagement among Australians and this is putting our democracy under threat," she said.

"For the last election, 1.4 million Australians, mostly young people, didn't bother to enrol. More than 700,000 Australians voted informally."

The program includes a short film written by Keneally that encourages young Australians to be politically engaged. It features well-known Aussies including Ian Thorpe, Steve Waugh and Georgie Parker. Students will also be encouraged to see the award-winning film Broken Hill.

Federal Education Minister Peter Garrett said the government supported the program as a way to remind young people of the "value of living in a democratic and free country". "The Australian way of life includes fairness, tolerance, respect for parliamentary traditions, recognition of the importance of the right to vote and a willingness to be part of a community," he said.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Huge failure: Why are 60% of children from Britain's poorest homes arriving at secondary school without the three Rs?

Lack of discipline hits kids from feral homes the most

Three in five youngsters from poor homes in failing primary schools do not master educational basics before starting secondary school, a new report has revealed.

New research set to be published today shows growing numbers of children receiving free school meals are unable to read, write or do sums before leaving primaries.

And it is white British pupils who 'seem to pose the biggest challenge', with educational attainment lagging behind youngsters from other ethnic groups.

The findings, published to mark the launch of the Sutton Trust's Education Endowment Fund (EEF), show that the gap between poor and better-off youngsters is widening dramatically.

Quoted by the BBC, Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the EEF and the Sutton Trust, said the research was 'a stark reminder of the inequalities facing poor pupils in this country'.

He added: 'Too little is known about what works in raising the achievement of the poorest pupils and it is incumbent on us... to help address this.'

The research looked at performance among children on free school meals at schools which had failed to meet Government targets for 11-year-olds and GCSE results. It showed the numbers of them reaching minimum standards in SAT exams at age 11 had dropped 13 per cent - from 45 per cent in 2007 to 40 per cent in 2010. This compared to a success rate of 81 per cent among youngsters not eligible for free school meals who attended primaries which were up to Government standards.

The findings come despite billions of pounds being handed to schemes intended to raise educational standards in deprived areas.

The gap widens at secondary school, the report found. Better off youngsters were found to be three times more likely to reach minimum educational standards at GCSE than their poorer peers (61 per cent, compared with 18 per cent).

The majority of the 165,000 pupils covered by the research were white Britons. It found that, as an ethnic group, these pupils were more likely to perform badly.

The report pointed out that poor white British pupils were only half as likely to reach the minimum GCSE target of five passes at grades A-C as Bangladeshi children, and also lagged behind Pakistani, Black African, Caribbean and Asian pupils.

The EEF, launched by educational charity the Sutton Trust tomorrow, will use £215million of government money and and income from other sources to help youngsters in deprived areas. The central aim of the fund is to raise the attainment of individual disadvantaged pupils in underperforming schools.

Organisations including schools, charities and local authorities will be able to apply for funds for projects to help educational achievement of the poorest children in the worst schools.

The Independent quoted Sir Peter as saying: 'The children and young people the EEF aims to benefit deserve better. 'We hope that, by identifying, developing and evaluating projects which are cost-effective and scalable, we can start to have a lasting impact on their lives as well as influencing the way schools spend their billions.'


Bias against whites in British school

White Schoolboy can't have beard but Muslims can

A schoolboy has been banned from class and put into isolation after he refused to shave off his beard. Harrison Cerami’s mum Kerry claims the 15-year-old is unable to shave regularly because of a skin complaint.

But the head teacher at his school in Clitheroe, Lancs, has refused to back down - despite Mrs Cerami's claim that Asian males are allowed beards on religious grounds.

Mrs Cerami, 41, who runs an online children's clothes boutique, is furious about the school's treatment of 6ft 2in Harrison - known as Harry. She said: ‘There are children at that school with earrings, nose rings, eyebrow piercings, yet Harry's being singled out for having a beard. He's hit puberty and is a big lad who looks like a man. He is being penalised for growing up.

‘Before he went back to school after a week's work experience, we took him to a proper barbers to get his beard trimmed and shaped so he looked really smart.

‘There are Asian lads at the school with beards, but Harry is not allowed one because this is not a religion issue. He's just a good looking, hairy lad that wants to have a nice, trimmed beard. ‘He would have to shave every day and it would cause him real problems because he suffers from acne.’

She added: ‘I could perhaps understand the isolation punishment for something more serious, but to be put into a small room for a whole day is disgraceful’ ‘Harry feels like he's in prison. If this carries on, we'll just keep him off school for the last two weeks. ‘Harry was furious. It was such an overreaction.’

Ribblesdale School, in Clitheroe, has told Kerry that Harry must obtain a doctor's note if there is a genuine medical reason preventing him from shaving.

Harry was told to shave on Wednesday and after he attended school with the beard the next day, he was put into isolation. Head teacher Simon Smith said the policy for boys was that they attend clean shaven.

The school's uniform policy does not specifically mention beards but states: ‘Hairstyles must be neat and tidy and avoid extremes of colour and style.’

Kerry received a letter from the head which said: ‘I'm writing to let you know that last week I asked Harrison to come back to school after his week's work experience placement clean shaven.

‘Our policy for boys is that they attend school clean shaven.’ And in an earlier letter to parents sent out in April, Mr Smith outlined his stance on uniform and appearance - and frustration with those who did not abide by the rules. ‘I believe that a smart school uniform sets high standards and expectations for the pupils and is also a very public statement about us, as a school, within the community,’ he explained. ‘It is often the 'small things' which make the biggest impression: make up; jewellery; hairstyle/colour...

‘For pupils who persistently challenge the uniform standards, we will use the full range of sanctions available to us which may also involve parents coming into school to discuss any issues I, or other staff, may have.’

Ribble Valley Council leader Michael Ranson backed the school and said: ‘As far as I am concerned if the school has a rule and that rule is quite clear, then pupils should abide by them.’


Australian schoolboy is taking his fight to play netball in a girls' side to the discrimination watchdog

Interesting to see how the bureaucrats wriggle out of this one -- but wriggle they will

A SCHOOLBOY is taking his fight to play netball in a girls' side to the discrimination watchdog.

Danny Loats, 11, is the only male player in the Banyule District Netball Association and has been picked in their representative sides two years running.

But after enjoying the backing of his Alphington teammates and rivals alike in his own league, their opponents refused to let him line up in a recent junior tournament.

Danny's netball-mad family has enlisted lawyers Maurice Blackburn to take their case to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, with a conference scheduled today.

Danny told the Herald Sun he was the only player of more than 800 not allowed to take part against Diamond Creek Force. "It's sort of sad because everyone else could play but me," he said.

His dad Greg said Danny was the first allowed to try out for state selection in his age group. But there were few alternatives for boys playing at Danny's level except to join girls' teams, he said. "It's all about boys having the same opportunity as girls to play netball," Mr Loats said. "Girls can play AFL and soccer, boys should have the same opportunities."

Netball Victoria has an exemption from VCAT allowing its member associations to declare themselves girls-only in Danny's age group. It's up to the leagues to decide if they want boys to play. Danny's family wants Netball Victoria to change its policy so boys can't be excluded.

But Netball Victoria denies Danny has been unfairly left out, saying the issue was with the law, not the sport. "We're inclusive, we support boys playing netball," a spokeswoman said.

She said Diamond Creek Force followed Netball Victoria's guidelines "to the letter".

Danny's lawyer Natasha Andrew said he just wanted to compete at the top level.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Britain's broken schools: Violent behaviour in classrooms DOUBLES in just one year

Violent behaviour in our classrooms has doubled in just a year. Almost 1,000 pupils – some as young as five – are excluded for abuse or assault every school day, compared to 452 last year. Major assaults on staff have also reached a five-year high, with 44 teachers taken to hospital last year.

The figures, from an official Government report, lay bare the full extent of the mayhem in our classrooms. Astonishingly, one in four teaching staff has been the subject of a false allegation by pupils. These range from sexual abuse to verbal assault. One in six has had a false allegation made against them by a member of a pupil’s family.

The worrying trends have led two-thirds of teachers to consider leaving the profession, according to the Department for Education.

Former deputy head Katharine Birbalsingh – dismissed after criticising behaviour in state schools at last year’s Tory conference – said violence was escalating because the school system was 'broken'. She said: 'Pushing and shoving and worse forms of violence are a huge problem. The problem is the endemic culture of blame in schools – bad behaviour is also attributed to bad teaching. 'Management push this theory, children use it as an excuse, and teachers themselves begin to believe it.

'You have a situation where struggling teachers will not seek help for fear of looking incompetent. And meanwhile children are left to think that they can get away with anything and push the boundaries.' A recent series of attacks – ranging from stabbing to rape – support the report’s findings that violent behaviour is soaring in the classroom.

Experts have blamed soft parenting and teaching for creating a generation unable to respect authority or interact socially without lashing out. They fear parents struggling to juggle the pressures of modern life are unable to spend quality time with their children. Instead many are left unsupervised in front of a TV or computer.

Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education said: 'Adults fail to teach discipline and a respect for authority. 'At a tender age children are told they are the centre of the universe and it makes them too self-centred and totally uncontrollable.'

There were almost 1,000 exclusions every day in England’s schools last year. This compares with 452 per day the previous year – 2008/2009. In addition, one in four children have been bullied at school and one in five have been a victim of bullying outside school.

Charlie Taylor, the Coalition’s 'behaviour tsar', said: 'Behaviour is good at most schools, but these figures demonstrate concerning levels of violence in a small number. 'This kind of behaviour is a serious disruption to teaching and learning. It is a major factor in deterring good people from becoming teachers and is a common reason for experienced teachers to leave the profession.'
dossier of violence

The Department for Education today publishes guidance for teachers on how to deal with bad behaviour.

Ministers want to 'unequivocally restore adult authority to the classroom'. They have axed Labour’s 600 page guidance – which they claim confused teachers – and have replaced it with just 52 pages. The new measures, to be introduced in September, say all schools should scrap existing 'no touch' policies.

At present, teachers are not allowed to touch a child in the course of teaching them a musical instrument or helping them in an accident.

Teachers will also be able to use reasonable force to eject unruly pupils. And heads will be able to search without consent for an extended list of banned items such as alcohol, illegal drugs and stolen property.

Ministers will also place an onus on schools to crack down on bullying. In addition, pupils who make false allegations will face suspension, expulsion, or criminal prosecution.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: 'This new, clear and concise guidance removes the red tape that has stopped teachers from being confident in maintaining discipline in the classroom.'

Disciplinarian Sir Michael Wilshaw, who turned the worst school in England into one of best, has been tipped for the post of chief inspector of schools. Education Secretary Michael Gove has approached the headmaster of Mossbourne Academy, in London, to persuade him to accept the vacant £180,000 post at Ofsted.

Sir Michael takes an uncompromising view towards substandard behaviour. He imposes strict penalties on pupils who do not do their homework and has a zero tolerance approach to disruptive behaviour.


Use 'reasonable force' on classroom yobs, British teachers told

Teachers are being told to use force to physically control unruly pupils under a back-to-basics crackdown on bad behaviour in schools

Staff in England should use “reasonable” measures to remove disruptive children from classrooms, break-up fights and stop pupils attacking other teachers or classmates.

New guidance published today says it “may not always be possible to avoid injuring pupils” while using restraining techniques in the most extreme circumstances.

Some schools currently impose sweeping “no touch” policies to avoid being sued by parents after children are gripped or held by staff. But the new guidance explicitly bans these policies, and even says heads should not automatically suspend teachers accused of using “excessive force” on young people.

The changes come amid Government claims that the balance of power in schools has swung too far towards pupils in recent years. According to figures, major assaults on staff reached a five-year high in 2010, with 44 being rushed to hospital with serious injuries.

Almost 1,000 children are suspended from school for abuse and assault every day and two-thirds of teachers admit bad behaviour is driving professionals out of the classroom.

New guidance is intended to outline the tactics staff can use – and punishments that can be meted out – to control disruptive pupils. The “clear” advice is just 52 pages long compared with the 600 pages of documents on behaviour issued by Labour.

Charlie Taylor, a top head teacher and the Government’s new behaviour tsar, said: "For far too long, teachers have been buried under guidance and reports on how to tackle bad behaviour. The new guidance will help teachers to be able to do their job without lessons being disrupted and schools to feel confident when they address behaviour issues.”

The guidelines are intended to be used by more than 21,000 state schools in England. Under the rules, schools are told to:

* Consider calling in police to prosecute pupils who make serious false allegations against staff;

* Resolve the vast majority of accusations made by pupils within a month and ensure unfounded claims are not included in teachers’ records;

* Punish pupils for misbehaviour and bullying committed outside schools, including at evenings and weekends;

* Search pupils’ clothing, bags and lockers for drugs, alcohol, weapons and stolen goods without their consent;

* Consider forcing all pupils to undergo airport-style screening checks as they enter school even if they are not suspected of carrying weapons;

* Require all parents to sign “home school agreements” and apply to the courts for £50 spot fines or parenting orders if sons or daughters regularly misbehave or skip classes.

Some of the most comprehensive guidance covers the use of “reasonable force” to restrain pupils. This can include standing between pupils or physically blocking their path, guiding children by the arm or holding youngsters to get them under control.

Staff should “always try to avoid acting in a way that might cause injury, but in extreme cases it may not always be possible to avoid injuring the pupil”, the document says.

Physical force can be used to break up fights, stop children attacking classmates or teachers and to remove disruptive children from lessons or school events.

Schools do not need parents’ permission to use force and must not automatically suspend staff who are accused of using excessive force against children, says the guidance.

In a further conclusion, it makes clear that staff can also make physical contact in other circumstances such as holding children’s hands, comforting distressed pupils, patting them on the back or demonstrating sports techniques during PE without fear of being labelled as paedophiles.

The Government also said it was legislating to give accused staff full anonymity – until cases reach court – to ensure false allegations do not stain teachers’ careers. It also wants to remove the legal requirement on schools to give parents 24 hours’ notice of detentions.

Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, said: "This new, clear and concise guidance removes the red tape that has stopped teachers from being confident in maintaining discipline in the classroom. It will also help schools promote good behaviour.

"We know that the majority of pupils are well-behaved and want others to behave well too. The role of the Government is to give schools the freedom and support they need to provide a safe and structured environment in which teachers can teach and children can learn.”


Bring back the cane, say the Australian public

AN overwhelming majority of PerthNow readers believe corporal punishment should be allowed in WA schools.

A poll on PerthNow today is asking readers whether they support the use of corporal punishment in schools. More than 1600 people have had their say already today with more than 80 per cent of respondents voting yes, it should be allowed.

It follows revelations in today’s edition of The Sunday Times that several WA schools are still using the cane to punish students who behave badly.

Nollamara Christian Academy is among three independent schools that have corporal punishment, which was banned in the state's public and Catholic schools in 1986. Mt Helena's Bible Baptist Christian Academy and Bunbury's Grace Christian School are believed to be the other schools.

Despite opposing corporal punishment, Education Minister Liz Constable said she would not stop it. She says it was up to parents if they wanted to send children to "the very few schools" in WA that still used the cane.

Nollamara Christian Academy Pastor Roger Monasmith said a small paddle "like a ping-pong bat" was used as part of a disciplinary approach for the school's 18 students.

Pastor Monasmith said the cane was never used in anger and every parent had to sign an agreement about corporal punishment before enrolling their child. He said four or five students had been punished so far this year to ensure they understood they had not only disobeyed school rules, but also God.

The Department of Education Services regulates the use of the cane in non-government schools in WA. Such schools must notify parents prior to enrolment and keep records of all corporal punishment administered, a spokesman said.

Opposition education spokesman Ben Wyatt said he believed the cane was "past its use-by-date", but parents should have the choice.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

NEA shift on teacher evaluations mimics Massachusetts

The ship is slowly turning around

A new policy from the country’s largest teachers’ union affirming for the first time that student achievement must be a factor in evaluating teachers validates the controversial evaluation criteria approved in Massachusetts last week, local education officials say.

The National Education Association, with more than 3.2 million members, passed its new policy Monday at its annual representative assembly in Chicago. The union’s stance followed a 9-2 vote by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education last week asserting that public schools in the state must incorporate student achievement as a significant element in evaluating teachers and administrators.

“What [the NEA] did at a national level is very consistent with what we did here in Massachusetts," Paul Reville, the state’s secretary of education, said yesterday. “I like to think that Massachusetts may have played a leadership role in the NEA’s policy."

Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said the NEA’s resolution demonstrates that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s decision was in line with sentiments around the country. By approving the policy, he said, the NEA gives credence to the idea that standardized tests can be one of many methods to measure teacher effectiveness.

Segun Eubanks, director of teacher quality for the NEA, said policies of Massachusetts, along with similar policies in other states, were read very carefully by members of a working group who crafted the NEA’s stance over the past six months. “The work being done in Massachusetts definitely informed the work that was done to create this policy statement," Eubanks said.

The NEA’s policy states that quality evaluations of teacher performance must take into account student growth, which “may include . . . high-quality developmentally appropriate standardized tests that provide valid, reliable, timely, and meaningful information regarding student learning and growth."

“This puts on record very clearly and forcefully that teachers’ responsibility for the growth and development of their students ought to be part of the evaluation process," Eubanks said.

Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, said he believes the NEA’s new teacher-evaluation guidelines are part of a regrettable trend. Although he believes that an “amorphous tie-in" between student performance and teacher evaluation is valuable, he worries that this policy will encourage state governments to institute more standardized tests in more subject areas as an easy way of assessing student growth.

“Policies like this promote standardization that isn’t productive for teaching students how to think," Stutman said.

Rob Weil, director of field programs in the educational issues department at the American Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers in Boston, declined to comment specifically on the NEA’s new policy. Generally, he said, those participating in the education debate fail to recognize that standardized testing results cannot be applied in evaluations for the majority of teachers, either because their subject area does not have standardized tests, or because the tests are not administered yearly.

“Sometimes, people blow the value of standardized testing out of proportion," Weil said.

Massachusetts is one of more than a dozen states that have approved policies mandating the use of student achievement measurements in judging teacher quality.

Kate Walsh, the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, said she believes the NEA’s new policy was a step in the right direction but does not give enough credence to the importance of student performance measurements. That, she said, is because of the union’s long-term unwillingness to support standardized testing as a means of assessing teacher quality.

“Rhetorically, it is significant that the NEA has gone this far because it’s light-years ahead of the statement that would have been made two years ago, so this has to be seen as progress," Walsh said. “But there are still holes."

She contended that the NEA’s policy was an attempt to catch up to similar policies that have already been approved by state education commissions around the country, including the new criteria passed in Massachusetts. “To stay in the game, to stay credible, the NEA really doesn’t have much of a choice," Walsh said.

Eubanks disagreed. Though this is the first time the NEA has approved a formal statement affirming that student learning should be used in evaluating teachers, he said, the organization has been active in the discussion about the possibility for years. “We had not been inactive before we had a policy," Eubanks said. “But we felt we needed to have a clear statement."


The murder of a great comprehensive school

Michael Gove has to persuade the Churches to abandon their blind faith in secular dogma

By Damian Thompson

Four independent schools and one sixth-form college send more of their pupils to Oxford and Cambridge than 2,000 comprehensives and state-run colleges, according to a study by the Sutton Trust. This statistic is being reported by the teaching unions and their media supporters in priggish tones that imply that public schools are up to their old Oxbridge string-pulling games. Actually, the report finds nothing of the sort: although ancient colleges are willing to lower the bar slightly for bright children from deprived backgrounds, most comprehensives don’t come close to meeting the A-level requirements of Oxford and Cambridge.

But, more to the point, they don’t show much inclination to do so, such is the poverty of aspiration instilled in students by their chippy teachers and anti-elitist governing bodies.

Admittedly, a few comprehensives achieve the most rigorous standards: when I was at Oxford, I was always bumping into old boys of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in west London – clever lads with stellar A-levels and wits sharpened in the pubs of Hammersmith. But I’d be surprised if the Vaughan is still sending many pupils to Oxford in a few years’ time.

For decades, the Left-wing education department of the Catholic Diocese of Westminster, which controls the Vaughan, has been waging a campaign of intellectual vandalism against the school. In the 1980s it tried but failed to close its sixth form. Now its aim is to stop the oversubscribed all-boys school favouring the children of parents who are actively involved in their local Catholic parishes.

Giving preference to committed believers favours the middle classes, says the diocese. This is untrue – but if the Vaughan’s Catholic ethos is weakened, bang goes the discipline that propelled pupils from working-class families into Oxford and Cambridge.

In order to get its way, the diocese has employed a ham-fisted brutality almost worthy of the Spanish Inquisition. The chairman of governors who opposed the change was sacked; so was his successor. Parent governors who supported the traditional system were replaced by stooges including the diocese’s own Lefty director of education, Paul Barber.

And the new chairman of governors? One John O’Donnell, who holds the same post at a mediocre and undersubscribed Catholic girls school in the diocese. Here is a sample of Mr O’Donnell’s prose, taken from an angry letter to the Catholic Herald: “I leave your readers with the question 'am I lesser Catholic because I chose to be hairdresser than a scholar in an Oxbridge College’.”

The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, inherited this row. He could have defused it. Instead, he has sided with the diocesan vandals, losing the goodwill of countless Catholic parents in the process. His stance hasn’t impressed defenders of Catholic education in Rome, either: that red hat may take a little longer to arrive than he anticipated.

An intriguing aspect of this affair is the reaction of the Coalition. “I thought you Catholics were supposed to be in favour of rigorous education,” a surprised senior minister told me. So appalled is the Government by the diocese’s tactics that it plans to outlaw the politicised packing of governing bodies – though probably too late to stop the dumbing-down of the Vaughan.

This miserable business shows that Michael Gove isn’t just fighting unions and local authorities. He has to persuade the Churches to abandon their blind faith in secular dogma. We do live in strange times, don’t we?


Some Australian schools still use the cane

A WA school, which still uses the cane, has defended the practice, claiming it teaches students right from wrong.

Nollamara Christian Academy is among three independent schools that have corporal punishment, which was banned in the state's public and Catholic schools in 1986.

Mt Helena's Bible Baptist Christian Academy and Bunbury's Grace Christian School are believed to be the other schools.

Despite opposing corporal punishment, Education Minister Liz Constable said she would not stop it. It was up to parents if they wanted to send children to "the very few schools" in WA that still used the cane.

Nollamara Christian Academy Pastor Roger Monasmith said a small paddle "like a ping-pong bat" was used as part of a disciplinary approach for the school's 18 students.

Pastor Monasmith, who has run the school with his wife for almost 29 years, said the cane was never used in anger and every parent had to sign an agreement about corporal punishment before enrolling their child.

He said four or five students had been punished so far this year to ensure they understood they had not only disobeyed school rules, but also God. "We always give them a warning before we use it and we'll give them one swat (on the behind) and then the next time if they do the same thing, they get two swats," he said.

"We try to help these kids as much as we can because there are two things that are very important for kids to learn responsibility and accountability."

He said students faced being caned for fighting, swearing, being disrespectful to teachers or repeatedly failing to complete their work "four or five days in a row".

His comments came as debate about the use of the cane raged around the country. Child-welfare campaigner Alan Corbett has called for it to be banned, warning that research showed corporal punishment could cause long-term harm.

But Pastor Monasmith said people who wanted the cane to be banned had a misguided view that "if you spank their behinds you will warp their character". "It won't warp their character at all - unless you do it wrong," he said. "It can only be done with a balance.

"Like I say, if it doesn't work, we try to use a different way ... they will get either some detention or they have to stay in class and finish their work, just different things we try to help them realise that this isn't the right thing to do."

Pastor Monasmith said the school's academic results spoke for themselves. Students were regularly commended by the community for being "kind and polite".

He said every parent must sign an agreement allowing use of the cane. "This is the way we do it," he said. "It sounds like a dictatorship, but it's not. If you don't sign the agreement to give them the cane, then we cannot let them come in."

The Department of Education Services regulates the use of the cane in non-government schools in WA. Such schools must notify parents prior to enrolment and keep records of all corporal punishment administered, a spokesman said.

Opposition education spokesman Ben Wyatt said he believed the cane was "past its use-by-date", but parents should have the choice.

Mt Helena Christian Academy principal Kyran Sharrin did not want to discuss the school's disciplinary methods because "it's a bit too controversial".