Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Away in a manger, two crooks stole the bed: How one school decided to change the story of Christmas

A primary school has been criticised after they ditched the traditional Christmas nativity, opting to stage a 'cops and robbers' themed play.

Parents have been left fuming by the school's decision to choose the modernised play, in which their children sing Away in a Manger with a completely different set of lyrics.

The play, which will be performed by 11-year-olds at Canvey Junior School in Essex, gets rid of traditional characters Mary and Joseph, instead focusing on the tale of two violent robbers.

But parents have described the school's decision a 'tasteless' in light of a number of armed robberies in Canvey Island, where the school is based.

Parents have also complained that themes of theft and violence are inappropriate for young children to intake - with one parent reported to have withdrawn their child from the production and complained about the play's content.

One parent, who did not want to be named, said: 'I can't see that this gangster story is going to be better than something from the Bible.  'What are they going to have our children saying? 'Sorry Mary and Joseph, but there is no room in the cells?'

They added: 'I think it is a little tasteless to stage the play with all the recent reports of armed robberies on the island.  'I don't understand why the politically correct brigade has had to get rid of the traditional story anyway?'

The school has defended the decision not to stage the traditional nativity play - a staple in  schools across the UK.

Headteacher Janet Vaughan said the play, which has been previously published and was downloaded from the internet, is 'fun' and 'lighthearted'.

She said: 'The outcome is the robbers are caught and banged to rights and the true meaning of Christmas comes across very strongly with a nativity at the end.'   'It is nice to have a fun element to any sort of Christmas production and we always have a religious basis to it as well.  'It is very, very funny and nothing more than a light-hearted version of events.'

Referring to the updated lyrics to Away in a Manger, she said: 'It's nonsense to say the words are anything other than tongue-in-cheek and the children understand that.'

After receiving a parent's complaint, Mrs Vaughan wrote to all parents saying if they had similar concerns their child could be withdrawn from the play.

However, she said despite one child not taking part, other parents have been supportive of the production.  She added: 'Our productions are always absolutely excellent, the kids get such a lot out of it.'


2,000 British primary pupils ARRESTED for naughtiness

Six primary school children are being arrested every day leading to youngsters being criminalised for behaviour that was once written off as naughtiness, a report claims.

More than 209,000 young people were detained by police in England and Wales last year with 2,117 under the age of 11.

But campaigners claim just a quarter of those children arrested are ever sentenced for a criminal offence, with most being picked up for indulging in pranks and minor mischief.

In one case in Sussex, four youngsters were swooped upon by police after throwing sticks at a horse chestnut tree and in another case in Cheshire an 11-year-old schoolboy was arrested on suspicion of a hate-crime after calling a classmate gay.

While the number of childhood arrests has fallen in recent years, The Howard League for Penal Reform claims childhood arrests can lead to numerous problems later in life with some youngsters struggling to access further education and even find work.

Researchers have also suggested that being introduced to the criminal justice system at a young age can lead to children becoming entrenched in the culture rather than put off following a life of crime.

Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Children who get into trouble are more often than not just being challenging teenagers and how we respond to this nuisance behaviour could make a difference for the rest of their lives.

“An arrest can blight a life and lead to a criminal record for just being naughty. Only a handful of children are involved in more serious incidents and they usually suffer from neglect abuse or mental health issues.”

She added: “Under the last government, police success was measured by the number of arrests and children proved a seductive way to make up the numbers.”

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: “As with adults, detention of children in custody is authorised for a number of reasons, including to further a criminal investigation, to uncover the identity of any suspects or because the disappearance of that person would hinder any prosecution.

"The rules for the detention of suspects are set down in law and on every occasion must be authorised by a custody officer.

"Detentions of both children and adults in police custody are reviewed regularly to ensure that they are being held in accordance with the law and not for any longer than required for police investigations."


New British primary school curriculum 'riddled with errors'

Many of the errors are trivial but there has clearly been a lack of expert consultation

The Coalition has been accused of inserting a host of factual mistakes and misconceptions into its proposed new curriculum for primary school children.

Leading scientists and mathematicians have criticised the Government for allowing errors to be made throughout its draft specifications for pupils aged under 11.

It was claimed that a new science curriculum gets the process of breathing wrong and significantly underestimates the number of stars in our galaxy.

Other howlers include a suggestion that the cheetah is the fastest animal, despite the fact that birds are also animals and some can fly faster than a cheetah can run.

In maths, it was also pointed out that a sentence reminding teachers that pupils should “recognise that tenths arise in dividing an object into tenths” would not be very useful.

The corrections come in a series of responses to the Government’s consultation into its plans to overhaul the science and maths curriculum in England.

Organisations including the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Society of Biology and the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) raised a series of concerns over the proposals.

Some groups claimed the study programmes overemphasised rote learning, the recall of facts and the mechanics of arithmetic at the expense of building a deeper understanding of key subjects.

But the consultation responses also featured a string of corrections to factual mistakes, with almost 200 suggested improvements being made to the draft plans for science alone.

Recommended changes to the maths curriculum outlined by ACME run to 80 pages.

In its response, the organisation said: “Specific mathematical errors in the draft should be corrected and future drafts should be reviewed for mathematical accuracy in advance of publication.”

ACME members had noted “many instances where the mathematical sense and language of statements [within the draft curriculum] are inaccurate”, it said.

The group, which represents maths teachers and academics, criticised a section in the Government document that suggested asking pupils to “compare and classify geometric shapes, including squares, rectangles and triangles”.

ACME said: “Squares are rectangles.”

The Society of Biology took issue with the Government’s description of breathing “as the movements that cause exchange of gases between the body and its surroundings”.

In its response, it said: “This is incorrect: breathing doesn’t cause the exchange of gases – gases move across because of a concentration gradient.”

In physics, the draft curriculum said the star at the centre of our solar system was “one of millions of stars in the galaxy called the Milky Way”.

But the Institute of Physics said: “There are between 200 and 400 billion stars in the Milky Way.”

Ministers are currently part-way through a first consultation on new draft national curriculum “programmes of study” for English, maths and science. A second draft will be published in the New Year, with the curriculum designed to be taught from September 2014.

Other learned bodies criticised the English curriculum.

Organisations such as the English Association and the United Kingdom Literacy Association claimed that ministers were overemphasising rote learning and factual recall at the expense of teaching for deeper understanding, meaning learning standards could fall.

The associations also repeatedly question the coherence and logic of specific parts of the draft curriculum.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We published draft programmes of study so that subject specialists could contribute and help us to create a National Curriculum which matches the best in the world. We will incorporate any comments on accuracy and hold a full public consultation on the revised drafts before they are finalised.”


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