Monday, March 24, 2014

I'm just an ordinary boy who wants more homework... from teachers who turn up to class on time: Pupil who went on strike at school speaks out for the first time

As maths problems go, it’s not a tricky one.  One despairing schoolboy minus one full-time maths teacher plus two flunked GCSE options exams equals a classroom crisis.

When Aaron Parfitt, 14, called a wildcat walkout of pupils to protest about poor standards in maths teaching at his Blackpool high school, he caused a national debate about the prospects for pupils at the 416 British schools in special measures.

Now, in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, he reveals that he felt he had to take a stand after he scored just 16 out of a possible 95 in a double maths exam designed to help him choose his GCSE options.

He called the strike because he actually wanted extra help with his maths, felt he needed more homework to help him get on, and was fed up with the endless run of supply teachers who failed to turn up on time.

‘I am a normal schoolboy, in the middle set for most things and definitely not very good at maths,’ Aaron says. ‘But I have to have a maths pass at GCSE.

This is a pivotal point, you have to knuckle down and get on. I do not want to amble out of school at 16 without decent qualifications.

‘The strike wasn’t about being famous for a few minutes or about making trouble for my school, which I love.

It is about my prospects and the success I want to have in life after I have left.

I do not want to move schools because that defeats the object of the exercise which is to make my school better for everyone. I will move if I have to, but what about the other children there? How does that help them?’

The schoolyard strike at Bispham High in Blackpool on March 12 made Aaron a teen folk hero and garnered headlines around the world.

It also saw him excluded for two days and facing a critical reception from some older pupils when he returned last Tuesday.

But he does not regret his actions – even though they further embarrassed a school where, according to Ofsted in January 2013 ‘standards are low and have declined’.

On Friday, a third interim report concluded it must stay in special measures.

This comes as no surprise to Aaron, whose Year Nine maths lessons lost any rigour when his maths teacher left at Christmas.

‘The teacher who took over from her lasted a fortnight, if that, and then left,’ he says. ‘And that’s when it started to go downhill.  'We were left to do what we wanted; people were eating and drinking in lessons, chatting to friends, not concentrating, just not learning.’

There followed, Aaron estimates, a carousel of six or seven different teachers, some supply, some staff maths teachers drafted in from other classes, before a new teacher was appointed three weeks ago.

Some taught him just once, meaning he rarely got the help, or the homework, he needed.

He lavishly praises the teacher who left. Asked why, he says: ‘She taught us. She was always in class on time, she helped us, acknowledged our effort, she set us homework and marked our books.’

As a result of the shambles, Aaron complained. He approached a staff maths teacher as well as his own head of year and then saw Bispham’s acting head, Deborah Hanlon-Catlow.

When he did not feel he was being taken seriously, he emailed Blackpool Borough Council and Ofsted.

And then, at 12.15pm on March 12, he organised a demonstration outside classroom DO1, his old maths class.

He had invited 20 like-minded pupils, but soon the numbers doubled and Aaron had to direct the crowd out to the school field where they sang We Shall Not Be Moved.

Teachers came running, believing a fight was in progress.

Aaron was ready. ‘I admitted everything. I  had a piece of paper with two bullet points on it. The first point said grades and the second said teaching.

'I didn’t have a plan or a script apart from that – I’d only thought  of it the night before and I hadn’t even confided in my mum.

‘I got the idea of a strike after watching walkouts on the TV. I told my teachers I was sorry but at least I’d got their attention. They said it wasn’t a good kind of attention, that it wasn’t respectful, but I didn’t care. I was glad I finally had some.’

Aaron loves his school, rates  many of his teachers and admires Mrs Hanlon-Catlow, who he says is ‘all about education, very approachable and can get things done’.

Yet he, rather than the creaking superstructure of Bispham High, was blamed for the mutiny and excluded for two days.

‘I was shocked,’ he says. ‘I thought I might get detention but I’m not a serial offender, I don’t fight or cause trouble. I have been criticised by kids who are not in my year but my friends are supportive.’  As are his parents, Janet Monkman, 52, who works in a sandwich shop, and taxi driver Philip Monkman, 64.

Aaron comes from an ordinary family – two hard-working parents who live in a semi and whose budget stretches no further than an annual break in a British holiday camp.

Janet says: ‘Aaron is a lovely boy; he’s kind, well behaved and responsible.  'He is stubborn but in a good way. He won’t back down if  he believes in something. He has achieved what he set out to and we are proud of him for that.’

If you were to give marks for resourcefulness, Aaron would get  an A+. He got himself a role as an extra in Coronation Street last year and works as a reporter for the children’s pages of his local paper.

As for the school, it can’t comment on Aaron, but Mrs Hanlon-Catlow said: ‘This is undoubtedly a challenging time. However, we continue to try to improve teaching standards.’

Bispham’s motto is The Best For All, The Best From All, but despite those bold words, its end-of-term report is still going to read: ‘Could  do better.’


Victory: Stanford Reverses Ruling, Will Fund Conference on Traditional Marriage

Sarah wrote Monday about how Stanford's Graduate Student Council had denied funding to a conference hosted by the school's Anscombe Society, claiming that the conference was "hate speech." The Anscombe Society is a group that supports traditional marriage and sexual integrity. Now, in a victory for free speech and traditional values, the Graduate Student Council has "found" the sufficient funds to pay for the conference and the conference will go on as planned.

In a press release shared on the Love and Fidelity Network's website, the leaders of the Anscombe Society said they were "delighted" by this update and now plan to expand the conference.

"The Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS) is pleased to report that the administration has “found” sufficient funds to subsidize the full cost of security at our upcoming Communicating Values conference."

The news came less than 24 hours after the Stanford Anscombe Society’s submission of a letter to Provost John W. Etchemendy in which the SAS requested that the security fee be removed since it imposed a tax on free speech. Nanci Howe, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Activities and Leadership (SAL), emailed the Anscombe student leaders with the news: “Hi everyone. Found more funds to subsidize the full cost of the security.”

“We are delighted that Stanford University has demonstrated its continuing commitment to free speech by providing appropriate security for our event, rather than forcing us to pay for our own safety on campus,” said Judy Romea, SAS co-president.

“Since we no longer face this financial burden which had forced us to scale back the conference and cancel some speakers’ sessions, we are considering whether and how to revise the schedule so we can host the conference as originally planned and even open up certain sessions to the entire Stanford community. We are really grateful for the administration’s continuing support as we move forward,” continued Romea.

Let's put this one in the "victory on campus" column.


Suburban Detroit teacher contract gives hiring preference to non-Christians

Quite a find yesterday by Michigan Capitol Confidential, which is a publication of the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy. In Ferndale, Michigan, which is directly north of Detroit, the contract between the school district and the teachers union contains a clause that gives hiring preference to members of certain groups - mostly ethnic minorities. But the Ferndale school officials and their union have an interesting way of defining a minority, and if you're a Christian, you might want to look elsewhere for a teaching job:

Should there be two (2) or more of these applicants with equal qualifications for the position and one (1) or more of these applicants with equal qualifications is a current employee, the current employee with the greatest seniority shall be assigned. Special consideration shall be given to women and/or minority defined as: Native American, Asian American, Latino, African American and those of the non-Christian faith. However, in all appointments to vacant positions, the Board's decision shall be final.

As you might expect, neither the school superintendent, nor the board president nor the union leader responded to questions from Michigan CapCon reporter Tom Gantert. The language has been in the contract for quite a few years, and it was recently renewed through 2017 - which is in part a move designed to exempt the contract from Michigan's newly established status as a right-to-work state. Why no one ever noticed the language until now - or at least ever thought it was worthy of being reported on - I have no idea.

(Over on my site today, I take a look at this from a less political and more theological perspective, and what I have to say might surprise you at first but I'm confident that Scripture backs me up.)

Here's what I can tell you about Ferndale. I hail from Royal Oak, which is the next suburb over to the north and these days is known for its proliferation of leather shops and those gay rainbow flags, as well as its association with favorite sons like the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian. With that in mind, Ferndale is where we think the freaks are.

As egregious as this is, it's not hard to imagine the left-wing rationalizations for it. Why, policies banning religious discrimination are really put in place to protect non-Christians, they will insist, since Christians are the "majority" (at least in terms of self-identification, if not necessarily in terms of people's real spiritual condition), and as such they don't need protection. This means that to give hiring preference to non-Christians is exactly the same as having racial hiring quotas. And that, of course, is totally in line with stated anti-discrimination policies because the left wants it to be.

Of course, the law clearly states that it's illegal for school districts to ask job applicants about their religion, meaning this is so egregious on its face - well, it's no wonder Ferndale school officials won't return Gantert's calls. There is nothing they can possibly say to defend this. They're just plain busted.

Michigan CapCon is a well-known Michigan publication but it is hardly the mainstream media. I'm going to be watching today to see if the state's MSM picks this up. You'd think such an egregious violation of the law would get their attention, but they might regard it as a mere "right-wing talking point" and thus not really newsworthy.

In a larger sense, this is the latest evidence that the left has become increasingly shameless in its assault on Christians and on God Himself. Maybe someone should tell them what happens to those foolish enough to start fights with God. But in all likelihood, they won't listen any more than he did.


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