Sunday, November 23, 2014

UK: Six more independent schools in East London 'probed over links to Islamic extremism' after CoE institution put in special measures

Six more independent Muslim schools are being probed after a Church of England institution was put in special measures - amid claims that pupils have been exposed to Islamic extremism.

Inspectors visiting Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Redcoat Church of England Secondary School in Stepney, east London, discovered girls and boys were being segregated in the playground.

They also found an Islamic society set up by sixth formers had posted links on its Facebook page to hardline Islamist preachers. A YouTube channel created by the society was not checked by staff.

Tomorrow, inspection reports into six other independent faith schools in Tower Hamlets - all reported to be linked to the Muslim faith - will also be published.

And the Sir John Cass school will be criticised in an inspection report by the watchdog for failing to safeguard pupils from extremism.

The full report, which was partly leaked to a newspaper, will be published by Ofsted tomorrow alongside an advisory note to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan detailing the inspectors’ concerns.

The school, which has failed its inspection, is the first institution outside Birmingham to fail on such a safeguarding issue since the so-called Trojan Horse plot was uncovered.
Content uploaded by the Sir John Cass Islamic Society

There, 21 schools were inspected amid fears hardline Islamists were taking over. As a result, five of the city’s schools were placed in special measures and another told it must improve.

The latest Ofsted report which was leaked to the Independent newspaper, will show that six other independent Muslim schools facing safeguarding issues.

The revelations raise concerns over how Islamic societies, a growing feature in state schools, should be policed.

Sir John’s headmaster Haydn Evans, who was awarded a CBE this year, is said to have been ‘shell-shocked’ by the developments.

Previous Ofsted reports have ranked the school as ‘outstanding’. Despite its Church of England status, 80 per cent of pupils at the school are Bengali Muslim. Only 18 per cent of places are kept for CofE pupils.

Yesterday, Mr Evans was receiving an honorary degree from the University of East London after taking the school from one of the worst performing in Britain to outstanding status.

Last night, sources said Ofsted had over-reacted and was ‘taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut’.  A local headteacher, who would not be named, said: ‘This is in no way “Trojan Horse mark two”.

‘This is very, very, very different to Birmingham. There are no governors wanting to take over the school and introduce hardline Islamic practices.’

Defenders of the school said that children had long been segregated in the playground – even when the school was awarded the outstanding rating.

Robert McCulloch-Graham, of Tower Hamlets, the local education authority, told The Independent : ‘What we can say is that where any issues in our maintained schools do occur, we have a strong track record of intervening swiftly and successfully to address them.

'As is common practice, we will work with the leadership of this school to address any issues identified by Ofsted.'

Tony Mullee, chief executive of school trustee Sir John Cass’s Foundation, added: ‘We are greatly concerned by the report. ‘We remain committed to addressing the safeguarding issues and will be assessing the necessary action to return the school to an outstanding rating.’

In 2008, Ofsted estimated 93 per cent of the school’s intake was from ethnic minority groups, with two-thirds from Bangladeshi backgrounds. About 80 per cent of students were classed as bilingual.


UK: Schoolboy, 15, who made £14k from tuck-shop to pay Oxbridge fees threatened with suspension

An entrepreneurial schoolboy who made £14,000 towards his university fees by selling sweets from a “black market” tuck-shop has been threatened with suspension unless he stops the enterprise.

Tommie Rose, 15, buys chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks in bulk from discount stores and sells them to fellow pupils at a competitive mark-up.

For three years, he has been putting his £60 to £70 daily earnings into a trust fund to pay the £9,000-a-year tuition fees for university, and has his eye on studying business at Oxford or Cambridge.

However, teachers at Buile Hill High School in Salford, Greater Manchester, have threatened the teenager with suspension if he does not shut down the unofficial tuck-shop, which they say breaches healthy-eating guidelines.

Tommie, who lives on the Ordsall estate in Salford, was suspended from his previous school, Oasis Academy, for 10 days for running a similar tuck-shop, which he said was inspired by television shows such as Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice.

Last night, leading figures in the business world, including Deborah Meaden of Dragons’ Den, leapt to the young entrepreneur’s defence.

Dave Fishwick, the Burnley businessman behind Bank of Dave, said: “If this lad is showing entrepreneurial spirit so young, then what we should be doing is, rather than dampen it, find some way of encouraging it in the right way and bringing that within the school as a way of getting other kids fired up.”

Miss Meaden wrote on Twitter: “He doesn’t need a degree in business … He’s a natural.”

Tommie opened his first tuck-shop three years ago and has been so successful that he pays two friends £5.50 per day to help run his business. His parents, Gary, 33, an office worker, and Tracy, also 33, a gym manager, said they would struggle to support their son through university on their own.

“He’s a typical teenage boy who saw what he wanted and worked hard for it,” said Mr Rose.

“He realised that if you want to get ahead in business and in life, you have to start at a young age.

“I could only dream of making that sort of money at his age.” James Inman, the head teacher at Buile Hill school, said: “We admire this pupil’s entrepreneurship but school is not the place to set up a black market of fizzy drinks, sweets and chocolates.

“We have extremely high standards and with our healthy-eating policy we don’t allow isotonic [sports] drinks, fizzy drinks and large amounts of sweets for the good of our children.”

David Fox, the co-founder of the Tampopo restaurant chain, praised Tommie but said he understood the school’s stance.

“Napoleon referred to us as a nation of shopkeepers and I admire the young fellows entrepreneurship,” he said.

“I do, however, see the tension between his actions and the responsibility of the school.”

He added: “You go to school to learn about many things of which entrepreneurship is only one.

“It is completely acceptable for the school to have policies on healthy eating agreed by [governors] voted in by parents of that school.

“I would congratulate him on his sense of enterprise which he should pursue out of the school gates.”


Clinging to Common Core? Expect Chaos

Last week, an ed pundit and a mom faced off to debate whether repealing Common Core had plunged Oklahoma into “chaos,” as pundit Michael Petrilli had asserted on Twitter. This week, new information suggests states clinging to Common Core are in for even more chaos than those that exit into a more productive course. From Politico’s Morning Education newsletter Tuesday:

"… hiring people to read all that student writing [on PARCC Common Core tests] is expensive. So Pearson’s four-year contract to administer the exams bases the pricing on a phase-in of automated scoring. All student writing will be scored by real people this coming spring. The following year, the plan calls for two-thirds to be scored by computer. The year after that, all the writing is scheduled to be robo-graded, with humans giving a small sampling a second read as quality control.

The contract required Pearson to submit a proof-of-concept study demonstrating the validity of automated grading by mid-October. … So where’s the Pearson study? PARCC spokesman David Connerty-Marin told Morning Education it’s being revised – but he declined to say who had asked for the revisions or what they entail. Pearson wouldn’t answer any questions on the subject, referring them all to PARCC. … Connerty-Marin wouldn’t answer questions about whether a vote has already taken place or will be held in the future."

Ahh, look at all that transparency in government! Oh, wait … Common Core testing organizations aren’t technically government agencies, just federally funded and monitored. So your tax dollars are paying for psychometricians to muck about with students and not release the studies and votes that result. So we have no idea if these Common Core tests can even be graded accurately, or at what cost. Government of the people, by the people, for the people, right?

PARCC is not the only Common Core test in trouble. The other federally backed testing consortia, Smarter Balanced, won’t be ready for true tests this coming spring, says psychometrician Doug McRae, who reviewed test items recently:

"The odds are that if a student uses a random marking strategy, he or she will get a proficient score quite often. This circumstance would result in many random (or invalid and unreliable) scores from the test, and reduce the overall credibility of the entire testing program. …

California plans to use the cut scores recommended by the panels that met in October for disseminating millions of test scores in spring 2015. These plans are faced with the prospect that those scores will have to be “recalled” and replaced with true or valid scores just months after incorrect scores are disseminated. This is not a pretty picture for any large-scale statewide assessment program."

He says the 2015 tests, the first “real” Common Core tests nationwide that will replace state tests, cannot offer valid data and really will only provide the information necessary for getting real tests in 2016. This would eliminate, for four to five years, the ability to know how students are doing nationally in grades 3 and 5–8 (since NAEP will still test grades 4, 8, and 12). In short, further evidence indicates withdrawing from Common Core could create less chaos for children, teachers, and taxpayers than remaining in its clutches.


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