Tuesday, December 11, 2012

MA: High school’s condom fliers prompt review by principal

The principal of a Massachusetts high school is reviewing a school-sanctioned sexual education course after a parent complained that a flier about the class advocated condom use.

According to the Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield High School Principal Tracey Benson received the complaint from parent Bruce Radke, who saw a list of 32 phrases -- described as “Condom Sayings” -- that was passed out to about 15 students, including Radke’s daughter Aleisha, a junior at the school.

The flier reportedly included sayings such as "Practice safe sex -- make love with a Trojan" and "Condoms are easier to change then [sic] diapers."

"It has no finesse at all," Radke said. "It’s too blunt and ignorant."

The educational material is now under review, the paper reports.

The class – which requires parental consent -- is designed to help young girls, ages 15 to 18, avoid pregnancy, while increasing their educational career aspirations.

Sarah Gillooly, an employee of Girls Inc. who holds a sexuality education certificate from Planned Parenthood, said the fliers’ sexually explicit phrases are meant to engage the young women in conversation. Gillooly teaches the sex education class, which is provided at Pittsfield High by Girls Inc.

"It can’t continue the way it is," said Benson, who said he already has met with Gillooly and will review the sex education material before the holiday break, according to the Berkshire Eagle.


Schools should axe citizenship lessons and teach more British history, say MPs as they bid to halt decline in the subject

Schools should axe Labour’s citizenship classes and devote more time to British history studies, MPs will say today.

The idea is one of a string of measures being put forward to reverse the decline in history teaching which has seen the subject all but disappear in state schools in some parts of the country.

Research by the All-Party History Group found that fewer than 30 per cent of 16-year-olds in state schools were entered for the GCSE in 2010, compared with 55 per cent of pupils in grammar schools and 48 per cent in private schools.  In one local authority area – Knowsley, in Merseyside – just four pupils passed the exam.

MPs said schools should be allowed to replace citizenship classes with history. Citizenship was introduced as a compulsory subject a decade ago.  Pupils study topics such as crime, justice and politics, and how to be an ‘active citizen’ by voting and taking part in society.  But critics say it is often poorly taught and of little value.

The group said there was a ‘wide educational divide in this country when it comes to studying history’, with teaching of the subject becoming concentrated in affluent areas.

In more deprived areas the subject is often ‘neglected or ignored’, with some head teachers shunning it because it is seen as difficult.

The cross-party group is calling on Education Secretary Michael Gove to introduce a series of measures to boost history teaching.

Last year Mr Gove expressed his horror at a survey that found that half of English 18 to 24-year-olds did not know that Nelson led the Royal Navy to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, with a similar proportion unaware that the Romans built Hadrian’s Wall.

Today’s report warns that children are taught too narrow a range of history, often learning about the Second World War and the Tudors several times during their school careers.

Even where a broader range of topics is taught, it is often done in a disjointed way, giving children little idea of how events in the past relate to one another. The report calls for the introduction of a new British history qualification at 16, which would look at the subject in chronological order.

MPs heard that making history compulsory to the age of 16 would be difficult because it would require a trebling of the number of history teachers. But they urged ministers to work towards the goal.

Tory MP Chris Skidmore, vice-chairman of the All-Party History Group, said: ‘An understanding of British history is vitally important for our national identity and understanding where we came from and where we are going.

‘I would prefer history to be compulsory to 16, as it is in most western countries, but for the moment, we should ensure that every pupil, regardless of background, gets the chance to study British history across a span of centuries.’


British government on 'war footing' with teaching unions expected to launch industrial action over pay as minister  considers new anti-strike laws

Michael Gove is considering new anti-strike laws as he moves onto a ‘war footing’ with teaching unions who are expected to launch industrial action over the end of national pay deals.

Under the reforms announced last week, teachers’ annual rises of around £2,000 will be scrapped and head teachers given almost complete freedom to dictate salary increases based on performance in the classroom.

The Education Secretary believes the reform, allowing heads to reward the best teachers and freeze the pay of the least effective, would improve state education and make teaching a more attractive career choice for high-fliers.

But union barons have raised the prospect of industrial action, swiftly condemning the move as ‘disastrous’ and ‘unfair’ to long-serving staff.

A senior source at the Department for Education said the measures under consideration include legislation to make it more difficult to call strikes, challenging strikes in the courts possibly including the European Court of Human Rights, and making it easier for academies to sack sub-standard staff.

The source told The Sunday Times: ‘Gove’s team and officials have been working on this for 18 months. He regards giving heads the power to pay good teachers more as one of the fundamental pillars of the new system’.

Mr Gove’s department is said to be moving onto a ‘war footing’ as the minister made it clear internally that ‘he is prepared for the unions to have an all-out strike and that there will be no back-tracking'.

Currently teachers start on a salary of £21,588 and receive a virtually-guaranteed eight per cent pay rise annually in their early years.

The figures are set by national pay bargaining and teachers move up the main pay scale according to length of service in the classroom.

The system has meant that long-serving but under-performing teachers are paid the same as more capable colleagues.

Under proposed reforms, announced by Chancellor George Osborne in last week’s Autumn Statement, head teachers would in theory be able to promote a teacher from a starting salary to the maximum £51,000 in just six months.

The move - which will be put out to consultation - strikes at the heart of national pay bargaining and severely weakens the power of teaching unions.

Detailed national pay scales for teachers will be ripped up and replaced with three broad pay bands - starting at £21,804, £34,523 and £37,836 for teachers outside London.

It follows a report from the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) which recommended more freedom for schools to set pay. National pay arrangements for civil servants, prison officers and NHS staff will continue.

Heads will also be able to withhold the one per cent pay rise due for all public sector workers in 2013/14 and 2014/15. Only those on the lowest salaries will be guaranteed the increase.

The National Union of Teachers claim that the proposals ‘shake our pay arrangements to their foundations’ and will ‘lead to unnecessary conflict between heads and teachers.’

Its leader Christine Blower and Chris Keates of the NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers) are meeting this week to discuss their response to the pay overhaul.

They have mandates for full strikes following ballots of their 430,000 members in England. Miss Blower said strike action ‘remains an option but it will be a last resort.’

The Department for Education source added: ‘A full national strike is regarded as a price worth paying to change the culture and break the destructive power of Keates and Blower. Resources are being moved internally to prepare for strikes. Lawyers are being discreetly spoken to.'


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