Monday, November 25, 2013

Children of 8 are 'racist' if they miss Islam trip: British school's threatening letter to parents is met with outrage

Parents were ordered to send their children to a workshop on Islam or have them labelled  as racist for the rest of their  school career.

They were sent a letter warning that the primary school pupils would have a ‘racial discrimination note’ put on their records if they did not go.

Families were told to pay £5 per child for the Explore Islam trip next Wednesday to Staffordshire University, which would involve Year 4 and Year 6 children being shown Islamic artefacts.

Mothers and fathers were warned: ‘Refusal to allow your child to attend will result in a Racial Discrimination note being attached to your child’s education record, which will remain on this file throughout their school career.

‘All absences on this day will be investigated for their credibility and will only be sanctioned with a GP sick note.’

Yesterday parents at Littleton Green Community School in Huntington, Staffordshire, said the threat to the pupils aged between eight and 11 was ‘ludicrous’. Gillian Claridge, 55, said: ‘How dare they threaten to brand the children racist at such a young age? It’s going to make them feel like little criminals.

‘The very nature of religion is all about choice. On this occasion they were not being given any choice at all. It was a draconian move and it’s left a lot of parents fuming.’

Stacy Waldron, 26, whose eight-year-old daughter is a pupil, said: ‘I feel my child will be [seen as] racist if I don’t allow her to go. This is my choice, not hers, and she shouldn’t have to pay for it.’

South Staffordshire MP Gavin  Williamson described the threat  as ‘bonkers’ and ‘a very heavy-handed approach’.

He added: ‘The idea of attaching a “racial discrimination note” to children’s education records saying it will remain on their file for the duration for their school career seems unfair, particularly when it is not the child’s decision whether or not he or she attends.’

According to the letter sent last Wednesday, the visit is part of  the National Curriculum for religious education and also reflects ‘the multi-cultural community in which we live’.  It went on: ‘It is a statutory requirement for primary school children to experience and learn about different cultures.

'The workshop will give your child the opportunity to explore other religions.  ‘Children will be looking at religious artefacts similar to those that would be on display in a museum. They will not be partaking in any religious practices.

‘If you would like to discuss this further, please contact our RE  co-ordinator, Mrs Edmonds.’

However, the school backtracked just one day later after council officers intervened.

A revised letter sent out on  Thursday apologised for ‘inaccuracies’ and told parents: ‘On  reflection, disregard a section from the earlier letter.’

Headmistress Lynn Small said:  ‘We are a mainly Christian school, but we have to cover at least one other religion as part of the National Curriculum. This visit is part of that.

‘They would not be taking part in any religious practices. We have had similar workshops on a variety of religions in the past, including one on Islam, with no problems at all and the children have absolutely loved it.

‘We have pupils and teachers who belong to the Islam faith and it is right for the children to understand and appreciate their faith as well as their own.’

A spokesman for Staffordshire County Council said it was important for children to learn about  different cultures but that parents had the right to withdraw their children if they wished.

‘Clearly it is not appropriate for comments about racial discrimination to be made in these circumstances,’ he added.

An Ofsted report this year concluded that the school, which has 341 pupils, ‘required improvement’.


How to Control Exploding Federal Subsidies for College

A new CBO report exposes the explosion in Pell grant subsidies for college students over the last seven years and options to rein in the substantially-higher spending. From 2006 to 2011, Pell grant spending increased by 158% and eligibility for the program rose by 80%. While one of the reasons for increased spending is because more low-income students became eligible due to the recession, the Obama Administration also undertook a general eligibility expansion.

900,000 additional students received Pell grant eligibility as a result of expansion implemented in the last decade than would have otherwise. This massive expansion tracks with President Obama's explicit goal to send as many Americans to college as possible - no matter what the cost or consequences:

    In President Obama's first speech to a joint session of Congress in 2009 outlined his administration's ambitious higher education agenda, saying that "by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world." As Peter Wood wrote at the Chronicle of Higher Education, "that would mean more than doubling the number of domestic students attending the nation's colleges and universities."

This ignores that not every college education is a good investment. But President Obama has pushed a massive expansion of college subsidies, and we're seeing this in the numbers released in the CBO's recent report.

Luckily, there are easy ways to rein in these costs. The CBO also outlines potential solutions. A mere $700 cut in the maximum Pell grant award would save $68 billion - and that would have come after the maximum Pell grant increased by $1500 in the last few years, so that would represent a return to a level higher than we'd seen before Pell expansion.

The Obama Administration's push for a massive expansion of college attendance will bring benefits to many students, but does not come without downsides. The CBO has outlined ways that the federal government can constrain the costs. Hopefully the Obama Administration will pay attention.


British schools  inspector tells Cumbrian teacher working in Berkshire school to sound 'more southern' and makes changing her accent an official target

A young teacher has been advised to sound ‘more southern’ by senior staff after an Ofsted inspector said she should lose her northern accent, it was claimed today.

The woman, who works at an unidentified secondary school in Berkshire, has been told ‘sounding less Cumbrian’ is now one of her official targets, following the advice given by an Ofsted inspector.

The order by school bosses to take the comment seriously has been confirmed by a teaching union representative, who described it as the ‘most extreme and bizarre objective’ he had ever heard.

The teacher did not make an official complaint to the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), but raised the issue when mentioning her school targets.

Paul Watkins, NASUWT national executive member for the west Berkshire area, said the school has a number of other issues which the union is challenging, including it potentially becoming an academy.

He said: ‘Apparently the beginning of this was Ofsted, who made a comment about her accent. She was told she needed to make her northern Cumbrian accent sound more southern.

‘We are very disturbed by this issue - it is victimisation and I think this is the most extreme and bizarre objective I have ever heard of.’

He described the accent target as ‘outrageous in the extreme’, adding: ‘It could initially have been seen as humorous, but the more you talk about it, the more annoyed and outraged you become.

‘It is the most extreme form of discrimination and bullying in a country where we are supposed to be celebrating diversity. It is the most bizarre thing I have ever heard of in my career - and I’ve been doing this for a long time.’

Louise Green, editor of the Lakeland Dialect Society, said that Cumbria’s accent and dialect is the ‘most wonderful thing’ about the county, adding: ‘To try and remove it is like trying to remove Beefeaters.’

She said: ‘We should be celebrating our different regional ways of speech and promoting and protecting them.

'I love to hear the Cumbrian accent and dialect, and I just wish more people appreciated it. Often people don’t understand the value of an accent until somebody tries to ban it.’

An Ofsted spokesman told MailOnline: 'We would be happy to look into this matter if we are told the name of the school. Inspectors comment on the standard of teaching at schools.

'Negative comments about the suitability of regional accents are clearly inappropriate, and should form no part of our assessment of a school's or teacher’s performance.'

Last week, MailOnline reported how children at a primary school in Halesowen, West Midlands, were told to speak proper English instead of the Black Country dialect to halt a ‘decline in standards’.



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