Sunday, October 07, 2012

Teenage girl heckled at British Labour Party conference for saying she enjoys going to a deregulated (charter) school

Britain's "comprehensive" (taxpayer-supported) schools became so bad that  even the last Labour party government set up a deregulated alternative to them  -- the "academy".  But any departure from "all men are equal" still enrages some on the Left

A girl of 15 had to cope with a screaming heckler at the Labour Party conference yesterday after she spoke in praise of her academy school.

Resurrecting Old Labour’s views on education, the heckler sought to shout down Joan al-Assam, a Year 11 pupil from Paddington Academy in West London – even though the school  was a flagship creation of the last Labour government.

Joan, a star pupil at the academy which opened in 2006, sought asylum in Britain at the age of six from Iraq with just the clothes on her back.

But when she made an emotional speech about how the school has helped her, she faced yobbish abuse from a woman believed to be a member of one of the teaching unions.

The heckler shouted support for comprehensive schools as Joan told the conference how she and her fellow pupils benefited from an arts education. The teenager, an A-grade student who was recently chosen to conduct an interview with Cherie Blair when she visited the school, continued unfazed.

Education Secretary Michael Gove last night condemned the ‘disgraceful’ incident and demanded that the heckler be kicked out of the Labour Party.

The intervention was an embarrassment for Ed Miliband and a reminder of the  left-wingers who oppose even the last Labour government’s education reforms.

When the Paddington Academy was set up in September 2006 to replace a failing school, just one in four pupils achieved five GCSEs including English and Maths graded A* to C, the main benchmark for success at age 16.

Last year that figure had soared to 69 per cent, even though three out of four pupils do not speak English as a first language. In 2011 the school also sent its first pupil to Cambridge University.

Teachers turned round the school with a focus on solid academic subjects such as maths, with every pupil measured against personal targets every six weeks, with the results published to encourage competitive improvement.

It also enforces a strict uniform policy and a code that ‘the street stops at the gate’.

The mood turned ugly  yesterday when Joan talked about arts programmes at the school.

‘Some of us explore our creativity through thousands of hours of brushstrokes and hundreds of hours of art. To many of you this may seem extraordinary that an inner city school offers so much, but to us at Paddington this is nothing but normal.’

At this point, the furious heckler yelled: ‘They do that at comprehensives too you know.’  There was a murmur of support from some seated with the heckler, but others booed the interruption and a woman shouted: ‘Leave her alone.’

The reaction to her coming under fire was instant on Twitter, where one viewer, Richard Angell said: ‘Appalled that a #Lab12 delegate heckled a pupil who came to UK as a political asylum seeker 4 championing the Paddington Academy she attends.’ Another called Lefty Lisa said: ‘Bad form. Delegate actually just heckled a year 11 student.’

The first three academies – state-funded schools independent of town hall control – were opened by Labour in 2002. A further 200 had opened by the time the party left office in 2010, mainly replacing under-performing comprehensives. The Coalition expanded the programme and allowed existing schools to gain the status as well. There are now more than 2,300.

Ministers attribute their good  results to greater freedoms enjoyed by heads, including over staff pay, the curriculum and the school calendar.

A Labour spokesman said: ‘No one should be heckled at a party conference, least of all a teenage girl making her first speech.’


'British universities face collapse into global mediocrity': Warning over future of higher education as just 10 UK institutions make it into top 100 list

UK universities face a 'perfect storm' as dropping investment, hostile visa conditions and a 'vacuum' of postgraduate study are contributing to their slump in international rankings.

The higher education institutions have dropped in an international league table, putting the nation’s reputation for higher education at risk, it has been suggested.

While the UK currently still has the second best university system in the world behind the United States, a number of leading institutions have tumbled down the rankings this year.

Top spot was retained for the second time by the California Institute of Technology which excels in science and engineering.
Oxford University is number two in the ranks, producing some of the best graduates in the world

Oxford University is number two in the ranks, producing some of the best graduates in the world. But the UK institutions face competition from Asia, who have been heavily investing in education

In total, just ten UK universities are in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2012/13, compared with 12 last year and 14 in 2010/11.

The table’s authors warned that, beyond the very best institutions, UK universities face 'a collapse in their global position within a generation'.

In the 2012-13 table, the US continues to dominate, but institutions in China, Singapore, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan have begun to rise up through the ranks, the Times Higher Education supplement reported.

Alan Ruby, senior fellow in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, said: Asia's universities 'are rising on a tide of public investment'.

In contrast, many Anglo-American universities in the top 200 have lost their places, but still continue to dominate in terms of numbers.

Meanwhile, the West faces cuts and is struggling to compete for the most talented staff and students, and cannot provide the most advanced facilities.

The latest table shows that the UK has three universities in the top 10, with Oxford taking second place, up from fourth last year.

Cambridge was in seventh place, down one from sixth last year, while Imperial College London took eighth place, the same as in 2011.

The UK has seven universities in total in the top 50, and 31 in the top 200, down one from 32 last year.

The rankings show that leading Russell Group UK universities have slipped down in position compared with last year.

Bristol University, which was 66th in the table last year, is 74th in this year’s table, while Sheffield University has fallen nine places to joint 110th.

Leeds has dropped from 133rd to joint 142nd, Birmingham has fallen 10 places to joint 158th and Newcastle is down to joint 180th from 146th place.

The University of Sussex fell from 99th place in the 2011/12 table to joint 110th place in this year's ranks, while the University of St Andrew's slipped from 85th to 108th.

Cambridge University still attracts the cream of the crop

Cambridge University still attracts the cream of the crop with its ranking of number seven, but experts warn that the UK's institutions are in danger of slipping into 'mediocrity'

But among the risers is York, which has jumped from 121st place last year to 103rd, Nottingham, which has gone from 140th to 120th place, and Warwick, which is joint 124th compared with 157th last year.

Of the UK's 32 representatives in the top 200 in 2011-12 ranks, 20 have fallen.

Several well-known name have suffered, including the University of Bristol which slipped from 66th to 74th and the University of Glasgow which plummeted from 102nd to 139th.

Topping the table again this year was the California Institute of Technology.

Rankings editor Phil Baty said: 'Outside the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge, England’s world-class universities face a collapse into global mediocrity.

'Huge investment in top research universities across Asia is starting to pay off.

'And while the sun rises in the East, England faces a perfect storm: falling public investment in teaching and research; hostile visa conditions discouraging the world’s top academics and students from coming here; and serious uncertainty about where our next generation of scholars will come from, with a policy vacuum surrounding postgraduate study.'

But David Willetts, the UK's universities and science minister, insists that the results are something to be celebrated.

He said: 'The league table shows that our university sector has maintained its world-class standards.
California Institute of Technology

The California Institute of Technology is leading the pack - but those who compiled the table say the West will be edged out of the ranks by Asia unless they can invest more

'Only the US has more institutions in the global top 10, top 50 and top 200. Our closest European rivals, such as Germany, are a long way behind.'

He defended the hike in students fees, saying it helped increase the money available to teach students, said the government had protected research funding.

He also said in the education magazine that the Coalition had invested millions of pound into encouraging UK universities to develop international relationships.

Mr Willetts said the government had to be aware of the treat Asia showed in eclipsing UK institutions because of their rapid advancements and investments.

Thirteen different areas of university work, grouped into five areas, were studied to create the overall rankings.

Experts examined teaching and the learning environment, which is worth 30 per cent of the overall ranking score.

They take into account research, looking at the volume, income and reputation of the institution, which is also worth 30 per cent of the final mark.

They look at citations, worth another 30 per cent, industry income which counts for 2.5 per cent of the mark and international outlook, studying staff, students and research, which makes 7.5 per cent of the mark.


Australian universities do well in world rankings again

Doing much better than Britain on a per head basis.  Australia has only a third the population of Britain

SIX Australian universities have been ranked in the world's top 100 as the power balance in global higher education shifts to the Asia-Pacific region.

Melbourne is the highest ranked Australian university, according to The Times Higher Education 2012-13 World University Rankings, to be released today.

Australia posted the third-biggest improvement in the world, with its eight top 200 institutions rising an average of 15 places. Six Australian universities are now in the top 100, two more than last year.

Melbourne University (ranked 28th) made the top 30 for the first time, widening its lead on the Australian National University, which moved from 38th in 2011-12 to 37. Sydney (62, down from 58), Queensland (65), New South Wales (85), and Monash (99) also made the top 100.

Adelaide University debuted in the top 200 at 176 and Western Australia University rose one spot to 190.

University performance was judged on 13 indicators, including research, teaching, knowledge transfer, and international activity.

Rankings editor Phil Baty said Australia had improved significantly.

"It has great advantages being close to the exciting innovation and research hotspots in Asia," he said. "If it can fully exploit the geographical advantage it has over Europe and North America, there's every reason to believe it can be part of a higher education revolution in Asia-Pacific."

Mr Baty said Australian improvements were based on better scores for research, in scholarly papers per staff and citation impact.

Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson said the results showed the importance of public investment in universities. "This result shows once again that our universities are not only world-class, but world-leading," she said.


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