Friday, December 05, 2014

Ferguson Schools Let Students Leave to Protest in Streets--Without Notifying Parents

Hundreds of students were allowed to leave several high schools in Ferguson, Mo., Tuesday morning to protest in the city’s streets--a decision the school district made without notifying the children’s parents before or during the protest.
Teachers and administrators also walked with the students as they blocked traffic and clogged congested intersections.

The students, primarily from McCluer, McCluer North and McCluer South-Berkley high schools, crowded into the streets of Ferguson in the early morning hours and stretching into the afternoon, an extenuation of months of protests that have taken place in the St. Louis suburb following the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, on August 9.

With chants of “hands up, don’t shoot” and “pissed off, fight back,” the young protesters marched past rows of buildings boarded up with hand-painted plywood, the scars from riots and looting that occurred after a grand jury last Monday decided not to bring any charges against Wilson in Brown’s death.

Ferguson police walked and drove SUVs beside the teenagers, trying to keep the group from spilling into the street and obstructing traffic. At several points, traffic was halted as groups of students weaved through cars or stood in intersections to block the passage of vehicles.

Jana Shortt, the communications director for Ferguson Public Schools, said the protests were “entirely student-led,” and parents were not notified beforehand.

“It was not that they were released, necessarily, it’s more that the district didn’t prevent the students from leaving the campus,” she said.

In a phone interview, asked Shortt: “At no point were parents notified that their kids were out and about, protesting?”

“No…they, well, no. I mean, as the student protest kind of went on, we were responding to that and sending administrators to stay with them,” Shortt responded.

“So the information for parents is going out,” Shortt said. “We, uh, we talked to anybody as they called in, you know, we were sharing that with them. But yeah.”

One mother, who stood by as teenagers marched down the road near her house, said she had just gotten a call from her daughter, who attends one of the participating high schools.

“She called me and said, ‘Mommy, the teachers are letting us out to protest!” the mother recalled. “And I was just thinking, I hadn’t heard anything about that.”

The school district released a letter to students’ families well after the protests had wrapped up, letting them know that their child may have participated. According to the letter, the protests began around 8:15 a.m. when between as many as 600 students walked out of two area high schools.

At around 11:15 a.m., another group of nearly 200 students left a third school.

Although parents were not notified that their children were protesting, the letter did state that local police were notified and “stood by as the students demonstrated.”

“Once we could see that there were, you know, hundreds of students and each school that were leaving the building, our staff, instead of physically trying to stop that large group of students, what we did was school staff, administrators and teachers, accompanied the students on the walk. And then we dispatched transportation, school busses, to go and get those students from where they had ended up,” said Shortt.

Shortt said students were picked up from various places, including a nearby Walgreens, and brought back to school.

Another group of students could be seen leaving a local Dollar General, some with shopping bags in hand.

The letter also stated that “the majority of students who participated in the demonstration re-entered the school” after the protesting.

Despite allowing students to leave campus, sending school officials to accompany the students as they protested, and not notifying parents as demonstrations were taking place, the school district’s letter to Ferguson parents admonishes families to “discuss with your children the risks associated with leaving school grounds where we cannot assure their safety or know their whereabouts.”

"We understand our students’ desire to speak out on the issues raised by recent events in the city of Ferguson, and have prepared our principals and teachers to facilitate productive classroom discussions on these topics if needed," the letter continued.  "However, students are not permitted to leave school grounds during the day."


'Revolutionary' £10,000 student loans for 'young' postgraduates announced by Britain's Treasurer

Student loans worth up to £10,000 a year will be offered to "young" postgraduates for first time ever, George Osborne has announced.  People under 30 pursuing masters degrees will be able to apply for financial support from the Government for the 2016/17 academic year onwards.

Around 40,000 students are expected to benefit from the move, while a further 10,000 people who struggled to afford the fees will now be able to take up courses.

While the loans will have to be paid back in full once the recipient begins earning they will be offered at significant lower interest rates than banks.

The Chancellor said poor students will be able to enter the professions thanks to the new state loans, saying the measure will "change lots of people’s lives".

The move was hailed as a "great step forward" in bringing down the financial barriers to further study by education experts but triggered new calls for Government action in other areas of higher education.

"A year ago, I abolished the arbitrary cap on the total number of undergraduates at our universities. Today, I am going to revolutionise the support for our postgraduate students too," Mr Osborne told the Commons.

"Until now there has been almost no financial support available, and the upfront costs of postgraduate degrees deters bright students from poorer backgrounds."

"So today, across all disciplines, we will make government-backed student loans of up to £10,000 available, for the first time ever, to all young people undertaking postgraduate masters degrees."

He later added: "In almost all the reports one reads on social mobility, including the one from Alan Milburn, this has been identified as a barrier to entry for people from low income backgrounds into the professions. It's a really important step forward."

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said: "The new postgraduate loans deserve two-and-a-half cheers, which is as good as it gets in austere times."

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said: "Postgraduates are critically important to the economy and society as a whole and the Chancellor is right to help ensure there are no barriers to participation in postgraduate taught study.

"We welcome the government’s reassurance that this significant investment in postgraduate support will not create additional regulation, restrictions or costs in the future or divert funds from existing budgets for research and teaching. We are also pleased that the loans are not restricted to certain subjects and that the system is clear and simple to understand so that most students considering postgraduate study can be sure they will receive financial help."


International Baccalaureate becoming popular in Britain

Exam reforms seem to come along with alarming frequency, but throughout decades of upheaval one qualification has remained the same. While A-level students will be grappling with a dual system of old and new courses over the next few years, their peers taking the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma can remain confident that theirs will stay constant.

“I can’t tell you how relieved we are at not having to adapt to these changes,” says Pauline Bullen, deputy head at Tonbridge Grammar School in Kent. “There is a lot of stability in the diploma and it has not been subject to the grade inflation that we have seen happening with A-levels.”

The average A-level score has been climbing over the past three decades, with the number of students getting the top grade increasing apart from a brief reversal in 2012 and 2013. But over the same period the average IB diploma score has remained broadly the same.

Two years ago, Tonbridge Grammar became exclusively an IB school. “We felt that the diploma had so many additional advantages,” says Bullen, who is chairman of the IB Schools and Colleges Association (IBSCA).

“It has a far broader subject space and we felt very strongly that for 16-year-olds to be narrowing to three subjects was not going to equip them for the kinds of flexible career and life pathways they’re going to be having.”

While students take three or four subjects at A-level, on the IB they take six, three at standard level and three at higher. These must include maths, English, a foreign language, a science and a humanities subject.

This was another of the reasons behind Tonbridge Grammar’s decision to focus on the IB. “We felt that any young person not doing maths after 16 was at a particular disadvantage,” says Bullen.

Differences between the A-level and IB will be enhanced by the A-level reforms, says David Shaw, IB coordinator at Bilborough Sixth Form in Nottingham. For students enrolling on the new A-levels from September, their AS result will no longer contribute towards their final grade. Students will be less likely to take AS levels if they do not count, so narrowing their subject choices even more.

“There is going to be a much starker contrast between the A-level and IB,” says Shaw. “We think it will make the IB more appealing for students who think three subjects are not enough.”

Bilborough offers both pathways and Shaw says the IB is ideal for students who want to retain some breadth in their studies and for those who have not yet made up their mind what to study at university.

IB subjects also have some advantages over their A-level counterparts, he says. While the new English A-level will be assessed through a written exam, for example, the IB English course involves a presentation and an interview with the teacher.

“There is a lot of emphasis on speaking and listening skills, which we know employers and students want,” Shaw says.

If students are not taking AS‑levels, they will no longer get a grade at the end of their first year of sixth form. This puts A-level students back on level terms with their IB counterparts, says Guy Essex, programme team leader for IB at Truro and Penwith College in Cornwall.

“One of the things universities sometimes say about the IB is that halfway through the course they don’t have an externally awarded grade, which is what AS provided,” he says. “Now nobody is going to have that.”

While A-level students can expect a number of free periods, the different elements of the IB mean those taking it can expect a full timetable. As well as their six subjects, IB students also complete a 4,000-word extended essay, take a course in theory of knowledge, and complete a creativity, action, service (CAS) programme, involving artistic, sporting and voluntary endeavours.

“It is attractive for people who enjoy the busyness of the course,” says Essex. “They’re never short of anything to put on their university applications.”

But more teaching time means the IB diploma is more expensive for schools. With budgets getting tighter, state schools in particular are finding it difficult to deliver the IB, according to Sandra Morton, IBSCA chief executive.

“Where schools have had to abandon the diploma it is not because they don’t value the programme, it is because they don’t have the funding,” she says.

A minimum of four staff at schools wanting to switch to the diploma – including the head teacher – are required to undergo training in the IB, adding to the cost.

“Schools wanting to deliver the diploma are doing so on the understanding that it is more costly,” says Morton. IBSCA is lobbying the Government to increase the funding provided to schools that offer the IB, she adds. But some private schools, such as Marlborough College, have joined state schools in dropping the IB.

One of the aims of the A-level reforms is to make them harder, but lack of rigour is not an accusation that can be levelled at the IB, says Stephen Elphick, head of Bexley Grammar in south-east London.

Bexley Grammar offers both A-levels and IB, but from 2017 will switch to all-IB. “What we’re getting with A-levels is a mimicking of the stretch of the IB but if that’s the case why not have the original?” he says.

The IB may be a lagoon of calm compared with the choppy seas of A-levels, but he says there is plenty more to recommend it, including the fact that the CAS programme is an integral part of the diploma.

“So many students are doing these things but to get credit for it and a recognition that it is part of learning is fantastic,” he says. “This way you are saying 'We value the fact that you’re going swimming’ or whatever it happens to be, and it fits what good students are doing as a matter of course.”

The past few years have also seen a greater awareness of the strengths of the IB among university admission tutors, says Peter Gray, IB coordinator at Malvern College in Worcestershire.

“We have seen a big change and it is a lot more familiar to universities now,” he says. “They’re well up on what it involves and we find the offers our students get are very reasonable.”

Admissions tutors look favourably on IB students after seeing how they handle the step up to higher education, says Peter Fidczuk, UK development and recognition officer for the International Baccalaureate Organisation. “When it comes to the things universities look for, a range of broad and balanced skills, IB students are well equipped,” he says.

Malvern also offers A-levels, with about half of its sixth-formers on each programme, and there may be some students more suited to A-levels, says head Antony Clark.

“They tend to fall into two categories: those who are very set on a particular course, and those who perceive themselves to be absolutely hopeless at maths or whatever,” he says. “But the IB keeps your options open and prepares you very well for handling the step up for university. It gives you a roundedness, which you don’t get with A-level.”


Thursday, December 04, 2014

How the Grassroots are Toppling Common Core

All over the country, grassroots pressure is driving states to ditch the increasingly unpopular Common Core education standards. Politicians are hurriedly backing away from their previous support, and next year’s incoming class of legislators are enthusiastic about reform.

As of this writing, six states have withdrawn from Common Core: Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah. Ohio is currently considering a bill to withdraw, and earlier this month Tennessee introduced similar legislation. Lawmakers in Wisconsin and West Virginia have said that Common Core reform is high on the agenda for next year.

Former supporters of the standards, like Gov. Mike Huckabee and Gov. Bobby Jindal, have since changed their positions and now oppose them. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has also rescinded his previous support, now openly calling for repeal.

All this is in spite of big money ad buys in support of Common Core, and threats by the federal government to deny states No Child Left Behind waivers if they opt out of the standards.

Why is all this happening? Politicians don’t change their positions for no reason. Lucrative special interest programs funded by the likes of Bill Gates are not abandoned on a whim.

It’s simple really. When the American people speak loudly enough and with enough unity, government has no choice but to listen. From a public relations standpoint, Common Core has been an unmitigated disaster. Parents hate them. Teachers hate them. Children hate them. Even some of the country’s biggest unions hate them. Pretty much the only people who actually like the standards are those who have never seen the inside of a classroom.

And the response has been a vocal one. Comedian Louis CK effectively captured the mood of the nation in his condemnation of Common Core on Twitter, a story whose popularity was boosted by its resonance with other American parents. Glenn Beck partnered with FreedomWorks to host “We Will Not Conform,” a live strategy sessions broadcast in theaters across the country that offered practical alternatives to Common Core and provided education to individuals on what they could do to fight back.

The retreat of Common Core has been very much driven from the bottom up, with individual dissatisfaction bubbling over into collective action that has resulted in real policy change. In North Carolina, parents have increasingly turned towards alternative education strategies like homeschooling out of frustration with the standards. Such behavioral shifts are hard to ignore for politicians who want to win reelection, and who are aware that parents vote.

None of the progress that has been made on Common Core would have been possible without the political activism of the grassroots. The fact that pressure from ordinary people has resulted in a cultural and political shift that now looks likely to consign Common Core to the dustbin of history should serve as inspiration for anyone who has ever felt too small to make a difference.


Christmas: no room at the inn for baby Jesus in school nativities

Christianity is being banished from school nativity plays as the annual performance of the Christmas story is replaced with bland “winter celebrations”, research among parents suggests.

Even in schools which retain religious themes, most now opt for a modernised version of the nativity story, often featuring elaborate twists and children dressed as unlikely additions such as punk fairies, aliens, Elvis, lobsters, spacemen and even recycling bins.

Examples cited in the survey conducted by Netmums, the parenting website, even included a retelling of the story modelled on The Apprentice. Others told of children dressed as ingredients in a Christmas lunch including carrots, sprouts and – confusingly – pumpkins.

Only a third of schools now stage a full traditional nativity complete with Mary and Joseph, inn-keepers, shepherds and magi, according to the survey.

Meanwhile one in eight had said their children’s school had dropped the Christmas story altogether for a modern alternative without religious references.

One in 14 said the school now opts for a fully secular event with neutral titles such as “Winter Celebration” or “Seasonal Play”.

A handful of those polled also said they had seen pan-religious school Christmas plays incorporating references to the Muslim festival Eid, the Jewish Hanukkah or Hindu Diwali.

The survey of more than 2,000 parents also showed that a significant minority now openly admit feeling aggrieved that their child had not been cast as a major character such as Mary or Joseph and many spoke of other parents attempting to pressurise teachers to give their child a bigger part.

It also showed that the image of children wrapped in household sheets and towels in a loose approximation of dress in 1st Century AD Judea as becoming a thing of the past thanks to supermarkets and online retailers offering cheap, mass-produced nativity costumes.

Overall just over nine out of 10 respondents said their children’s school stage some form of Christmas performance with contemporary versions of the nativity, mixing modern and Biblical characters, the most common Christmas celebration, performed at almost half of cases.

Only just over a third said their children still sing traditional carols and hymns as part of the performance while a quarter said they are feature festive pop hits.

Siobhan Freegard co-founder of Netmums, said: “Do they know it’s Christmas? At some schools, it seems not.

“While the UK is a diverse and multicultural society and it’s right children learn about all religions and cultures, many parents feel the traditional nativity is being pushed aside.

“It seems wrong to bombard kids with commercial messages about presents and Santa without them realising the true meaning of the celebration.

“This study shows many parents who aren’t religious look to the nativity as a comforting part of the Christmas celebrations and want their school to embrace and celebrate it, rather than make up a version with perhaps less resonance for kids.

“Christmas is about peace, acceptance and tolerance, so let's see more schools accept back this tradition.”

The study also highlights fresh concern that fears about safety and privacy are invading Christmas celebrations.

Only a minority (38 per cent) said the school allows parents to take pictures of the play freely, with one in six banning cameras altogether and one in seven restricting images to an official video which they have to pay for.

Significantly, one in three said the schools now ask parents to sign forms stating they will not share the pictures on social media.

Half of parents said they had provide a costume but most now buy with supermarkets the most popular option, while sites such as eBay and Amazon were also common sources.

Meanwhile almost one in 10 parents said their child’s schools now also stage a celebration for Diwali, while one in 20 cited Eid and Thanksgiving and three per cent of had Hanukkah performances.

Just one per cent said those celebrations were actively combined with Christmas nativity plays.


UK: Pupils to learn about immigration in new High School history course

Teenagers will be able to learn about the impact of immigration on Britain over the last 2,000 years under plans for a new history GCSE, it was announced today.

For the first time, a history module will be introduced covering new arrivals to the UK from the Romans up to modern day migrants such as those from Syria and eastern Europe.

The proposals – drawn up by one of the country’s leading exam boards – will assess the reasons for immigration, the experience of new entrants and the impact on the indigenous population.

The OCR board insisted pupils would find large numbers of parallels to the modern day, saying they would be “surprised to learn” that the black population of London may have numbered up to 15,000 in the 1750s and that at least 10 languages were used across medieval England.

Under plans, “Migration into Britain” will be included as part of an optional extended study theme, which will make up around 20 per cent of a new GCSE course being introduced in 2016.

OCR’s GCSE in history is currently the most popular version in the country, with more than 93,000 teenagers sitting it last year, the exam board said.

It is hoped the move will “reinvigorate interest in GCSE history” following claims from historical experts that rising numbers of schools were barring pupils from taking the subject beyond the age of 14.

The move is made as immigration continues to dominate the political agenda in the run up to the election. Last week, David Cameron promised the introduction of tough new rules on access to welfare benefits for migrants entering Britain from the EU.

But the government has insisted that the number of pupils sitting GCSEs in history had increased in recent years, with almost four-in-10 teenagers taking an exam in the subject in 2014.

Mike Goddard, the exam board’s head of history, said: “Migration is an ideal history topic for GCSE students to study, allowing them to consider fundamental historical concepts such as continuity, change and significance, rooted in the major events of England’s history.

“Doing this through the lens of the movement of diverse groups of people has the added benefit of contemporary relevance and will make for a rigorous, stimulating and enjoyable course.”

He said it would require pupils to explore and understand “the constant shifts in the British population”. This included the impact of invaders such as the Romans and the Vikings, the effect of the Empire on India and the West Indies and people coming to Britain to flee persecution including the Huguenots, Jews and, more recently, the Syrians.

The Government has already set out proposals to overhaul GCSEs will more rigorous subject content and a greater emphasis on exams as opposed to coursework.

Under the changes, new history exams require pupils to study a wider range of historical periods, a greater emphasis on British history and at least one extended project.

OCR is currently developing two new GCSEs in response to the reforms. One will focus on the “modern world” and the second will put more emphasis on a range of historical periods. As part of the courses, pupils will have the option of taking a dissertation-style project in the monarch, war and society or immigration.

The proposed new GCSEs will be submitted to the government next year and will be taught from 2016, subject to approval from Ofqual, the exams regulator.

Mr Goddard said: “Migration has been a constant and, in many important ways, a defining feature of our history. Tracking it thematically over time makes for a complex and fascinating study, will build on recent academic research, and will reveal many new and enlightening aspects of our past.”


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

A Better Reason to Ditch E-rate Subsidies

It seems even Republicans on the Federal Communications Commission can’t think of good reasons why the agency shouldn’t hike everyone’s phone taxes to expand a wasteful federal program that lines the pockets of business cronies in the name of getting poor kids broadband access and laptops at school.

The E-Rate program tax hike, which the commissioners can impose with no act of Congress, has been pending for years as an integral part of President Barack Obama’s push for further embedding technophilia within education. The current proposal will hike this particular tax on everyone’s bills by 16 cents per month, or $1.92 per year. Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said this will “impos[e] a greater burden on families struggling to make ends meet.” Seriously, dude. When a tax increase is less than $2 a year, it’s time to get better arguments than “you’re squeezing the people to death!”

Much better arguments abound. In the first place, E-Rate is a straight-up redistribution scheme. Everyone with a long-distance phone line (which includes cell phones) pays into the E-Rate fund with every phone bill. Only a select few can access this money pot. Criteria for schools and libraries that get E-Rate money include poverty, so E-Rate is essentially a convoluted welfare program.

It’s also a horribly wasteful welfare program that empowers cronyism and price-jacking. Because the people using the money aren’t the ones providing it, companies that provide E-Rate services such as broadband Internet or iPads often jack up their prices, congressional oversight committees have found.

Let’s just assume we want yet another redistributionary welfare program. E-Rate is an especially wasteful one, considering just 42 cents of each dollar skimmed from phone users into E-Rate ever makes it into schools. It’s also an insidious program that grows the size of government, because the cumulative take from each phone user is $30 per year, or approximately $2.50 per month. Like the guys in “Office Space” found, skimming financial odds and ends from hundreds of millions of people every month can make the benefactors very comfortable indeed.

Taxpayers deserve to know the full cost of educating children, in easy-to-understand formats, so they can judge whether it’s appropriate. Byzantine funding streams like E-Rate reduce taxpayer control over their own government’s actions with their own money. If local schools want jingly technology, they should pay for it, and justify the purchase to voters directly, not sneak around with a purloined honey pot.

E-Rate originated as an initiative to get every school connected to the Internet (gee, so glad the Constitution authorizes such things). Now that essentially every school is connected to the Internet, the program hasn’t gone away. Instead, it’s turned into a slush fund for schools’ and consultants’ technology fantasies. This is called entropy, a law of nature that says things always degrade, always tend towards disorder. It’s a process government seems to accelerate. Given that unfailing tendency, this program is only getting worse. It’s time to end this amorphous, wasteful, extralegal, parasitic government blob.


Privately educated pupils can harm society with their 'bullish and charmless' over-confidence, leading headmaster warns

A man who is not happy in his job, it seems

Privately educated pupils can harm society with their 'bullish and charmless' over-confidence, a leading headmaster has admitted.  Andrew Halls, head of fee-paying King’s College School in Wimbledon, warned that an independent education can lead to former pupils 'asphyxiating the society they move in'.

He said that the 'prefect and house' system taught students that influence matters.

Mr Halls told The Times: 'Some independent school children can asphyxiate the society they move in because their confidence is so bullish and charmless.  'There are downsides to overconfidence; people can feel a bit repelled by it.

The comments come after Homeland actor Damian Lewis revealed that going to Eton was the perfect training for his upcoming role as Henry VIII.  The 43-year-old, who has become one of Britain’s biggest acting exports after making his name with roles in Homeland and Band Of Brothers, Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said: ‘I think there is no question that it helps having had the kind of schooling I’ve had to play a king.

‘It’s not such a leap oddly – even though the thought of being a monarch of any nation is mind-boggling and not something I could imagine easily at all.  ‘But, yes, there’s just the sort of court structure, hierarchies and the way they are set up which is something I understand.’

His comments came after he compared his OBE, which he received on Wednesday afternoon, to being made a school prefect, as he felt it put him under pressure to be extremely responsible and to prove himself.  'I remember when I heard I was being awarded it, it was a little bit like "now you've got to prove it",' he said.  'It was a bit like being asked to be a prefect, now I have to be extremely responsible.'

Mr Halls clarified his comments to the MailOnline. He said: 'They (independent schools) obviously do a fantastic job with most kids, who have a real joy taking part in society.

'What I mean to say, is that we as schools have a responsibility to the children to make sure they do not leave with an excessive sense of entitlement. 'It is important that independent schools ensure that students leave with a sense of debt, not to us, but to society.

'Many, not all, have had very fortunate upbringings.  'So many good things, for all of us in the rich west, can make us complacent in the real world.'

He said First World War hero Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse  - was an inspirational example of a privately educated man who gave back to society.  Educated at Magdalene College School in Oxford, Chevasse is one of only three people to be awarded a Victoria Cross twice.

He said: 'He had a fantastic education, but he was not a great charmer or a conformist. He was actually quite a difficult man, stubbornly dedicated to the health, wealth and welfare of his men and an incredibly brave captain who saved hundreds of lives. '

At Kings, Mr Halls said students do not have lessons on a Friday afternoon and instead do activities with 27 local state schools as part of a partnership programme.  He said: 'That to me is what we should be doing more of. We should be out there playing our part in a world which is there to be improved and made healthier.

'I'm not trying to show off about Kings, and I must sound very hypocritical, but that's my job and I have to try and help these fortunate and good men and women feel commitment to improving circumstances. 'And they do have that commitment and love for doing good things.'

He has also warned recently that private schools were in danger of becoming the preserve of wealthy oligarchs as fee hikes price out middle-class families.

He warned that many parents in traditionally well-paid careers as accountancy and law were no longer able to afford a private education for their children.

The most expensive private schools were becoming little more than ‘finishing schools for the children of oligarchs’, he said. Some schools had become so reliant on pupils from overseas they were at risk of suffering a banking-style crash. Fifty private schools in recent years had closed, merged with another school or joined the state system, he said.


Why Did This Teachers Union Ban Coca-Cola?

American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers unions in the United States, passed a resolution last week to ban Coca-Cola from its facilities and events.

The teachers union stated its decision was based on human rights violations, which have been detailed in three books published several years ago.  But why now, and why is this important to a teachers union?

Because AFT is a labor organization, it will stand in solidarity with other labor organizations that have taken a stance against Coca-Cola, AFT spokesman Michael Heenan said.

Coca-Cola said AFT’s claims were based on “outdated and erroneous allegations that we have repeatedly addressed.”

This may be more about the union resenting the beverage company’s practice of subcontracting instead of hiring permanent employees, which is cited in the AFT resolution, said Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.  “Obviously [Coca-Cola was] not using unionized workers,” Sand said.

This was probably to avoid having to deal with the costs associated with unionized employees, he added.

Sand is skeptical of the unions’ ability to ban all Coca-Cola products.  “Look at what else Coca-Cola makes: Minute Maid, Nestea,” he said. “They’re going to have to go after all these products.”


Tuesday, December 02, 2014

£244MILLION - That's the staggering sum taxpayers pay each year to help children in British schools who cannot speak English

Teaching children who come from immigrant families to speak English is costing the taxpayer more than £244 million a year.

The extraordinary level of funding allocated to deal with the language problem in schools emerged just days after immigration from the European Union was revealed to have reached a record high.

Department for Education figures for the current school year suggest the costs have risen by about £40 million in just three years – up from £204 million in 2011.

The money is currently allocated to schools by local authorities on the basis of the number of pupils they have with English ‘as an additional language’, with primaries in England getting £190 million in 2014-15 and secondaries £54 million.

Most of the Government’s vast expenditure goes on teachers who specialise in teaching English to foreign children, bilingual teaching assistants – and even interpreters for parents’ evenings. And increasing numbers of teachers are enrolling on courses to learn how to teach English as a foreign language, often at their own expense.

Some schools are having to offer separate classes for children who have recently arrived from abroad, which they have to attend in order to gain essential skills in oral and written English. Only later will they join classes containing fluent English-speaking pupils.

However, native English-speaking pupils are often losing out, with more time and resources allocated to pupils from immigrant families in the classroom.

Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘The teaching of English to pupils from abroad is taking up a large chunk of money at a time when expenditure on education is severely constrained, placing extra stress on our schools.’

He added: ‘This is of great concern to parents.  ‘I know of parents who are so concerned about the impact of large numbers of pupils from abroad on the education of their own children that they have taken steps to move them to schools where they can concentrate on their studies without the distraction of non-native speakers.’

Recent figures revealed that the number of schoolchildren with English as a second language has leapt by a third in just five years, with more than 1.1 million now using another language in the home.

And last year there were 240 schools where 90 per cent or more of pupils did not have English as their native tongue. There were also five schools where not a single child grew up learning English as their first language.

The fastest-growing languages spoken by foreign-born pupils are those from Eastern Europe. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of Eastern European pupils in England who do not speak English at home almost tripled from just over 44,000 to more than 123,000.

The Romanian language recorded the fastest growth – 527 per cent over five years. Latvian was second, with a rise of 414 per cent, followed by Hungarian with an increase of 359 per cent and Bulgarian with a 255 per cent rise.

Polish increased by 136 per cent, but had the greatest number of speakers at 63,275. School census figures from the Department of Education show that the number of white pupils who are not British, Irish or Roma – a group who are thought to consist largely of Eastern Europeans – has risen by 72,000 between 2010 and this year, when the figure was 313,130.

Schools are already struggling to cope with the demand for places fuelled by a rising birth rate, with many having to teach their pupils in temporary classrooms or build costly extensions.

Official estimates suggest that an extra one million school places will be needed over the next decade.

The Government is already having to spend £5 billion by 2015 on increasing places to help ease the crisis.

As well as the number of families migrating to Britain, further pressure is created by the high birth rate among those families once they have moved, the Office for National Statistics has revealed.

Romanian women on average will have 2.93 children here, compared with British women who have 1.84 children on average.

A Department for Education spokesman explained that because of a change in the funding formula two years ago, money for teaching non-native English speakers is no longer strictly ring-fenced, so councils have more choice about how they are going to spend it.

But experts said that some schools had been forced to find additional money from their own budgets to cope with spiralling demands, even helping children born in Britain whose migrant families do not speak English at home.

Teaching unions said it was crucial that new arrivals in Britain learned English as quickly as possible.

A National Association of Head Teachers spokesman said: ‘Gaining a rapid understanding of English is vital to help those children integrate in the classroom so that they can learn along with their peers.

‘Children who do have English as their first language are also well served by this approach because it means that their learning isn’t compromised by classmates who are struggling long-term with the language barrier.’

Earlier this month, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said that the character of Britain’s schools was being altered by the influx of migrant children who did not speak English.

During a radio interview, Mr Duncan Smith said that the new arrivals in many communities ‘literally change the schooling because so many people arrive not speaking English’.


The moral crusade against pro-life students

Free speech on UK university campuses is not under attack – it’s on life support. Layer upon layer of university and student-union policymaking has, effectively, declared open season on anyone who dares stray from the ever-shrinking terrain of respectable ideas. Building on the legacy of the National Union of Students’ (NUS) anti-racist No Platform policy that has held tenure on student-union statutes for over three decades, a raft of new policies has taken censorship to its next logical step – the policing of anything deemed to be that little bit offensive. It’s in this climate that campus censorship has become, well, kinda silly. The harsh words once reserved for the far right are now aimed at rugby lads, pop singers and comedians whose supposedly corrosive – see un-PC – means of expressing themselves is deemed a direct threat to student safety.

The recent flurry of campus bans on Page 3, ‘Blurred Lines’, greetings cards, Dapper Laughs, UKIP, Julie Bindel, spaghetti monsters and Jesus & Mo has certainly made calling out censorship easier. But it has also made it harder to convince those outside the student-politics bubble – both students themselves and the public at large – of the seriousness of what’s going on. While one may forthrightly make the case that any form of censorship on campus diminishes students and undermines the university as a unique place in which one can say the unsayable and think the unthinkable, it’s often shrugged off and ignored by the wider student community. Let student politicos eat gluten-free cake, posture against Robin Thicke and get on with it, they say: students’ unions have gotten so cartoonishly estranged from reality that we should leave them to it and enjoy the odd laugh at their expense.

However, news from Cardiff University this week shows the cost of such complacency. Tomorrow, at Cardiff University Students’ Union’s annual general meeting (AGM), the union will vote on adopting a pro-choice policy that would in essence outlaw pro-life organisations on campus. In one of those dry union meetings no one ever goes to – presumably because it’s full of the sort of bureaucrats now attracted to SU office – a political viewpoint, held by a significant portion of the campus, could be all-but outlawed.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the pro-life view has faced intolerance and censorship on campus. Last week, a discussion on abortion at Oxford, involving spiked editor Brendan O’Neill and Telegraph writer Tim Stanley, was cancelled after student campaigners threatened to disrupt it. The shock and outrage sparked on Twitter and among the commentariat was vital, but a little overdue. Because while the sillier end of censorship has continued to grab the headlines, a growing campaign against pro-life students has been bubbling away on campuses across the country.

In September, the Dundee University Students’ Association (DUSA) banned the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) from the union’s freshers’ fair, despite SPUC having had a stall at the fair for the previous eight years. In June, the Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSA) banned the pro-life charity LIFE from advertising in the union. University College London Students’ Union (UCLU) mandated in 2012 that any pro-life event must feature a pro-choice speaker. And the list goes on…

Each of these flagrant acts of censorship were met with resistance from the far more moderate pro-life and religious groups who operate on campus – all strongly arguing for their right to free speech on campus. However, up to now, these groups have found it difficult to galvanise support from those who aren’t pro-life.

However, in Cardiff, this seems to be changing. A coalition of students, including members of pro-life, Christian, Islamic, LGBT and atheist groups, have joined together under the banner of Keep Cardiff Uni Free to campaign against the pro-choice motion. Madeleine Page, talking to spiked on behalf of the group, insists this is not about protecting the rights of pro-life students only, but of all students. ‘We believe that students should have the right to express their sincerely held beliefs, within the law. This motion demonstrably violates that principle’, she says.

The history of this motion is a textbook example of how belligerent and anti-democratic students’ unions have become. The motion was first put before the Cardiff student senate in April, but it failed to pass because the attendance to the meeting was not sufficient to meet quorum. In the four-hour meeting that followed, officials of the student senate twice tried to block the motion from going to an AGM, and thus an open student vote.

Now, it’s back on the agenda, and the stipulations of it are deeply troubling. Not only would it prevent SU-affiliated societies from taking part in ‘anti-choice protests outside of abortion clinics and under the banner of the students’ unions’, but it insists that any literature disseminated on campus concerning abortion and contraception must be ‘unbiased’, ‘not shame those who choose to have abortions’, and, stranger still, be ‘academically referenced’. (So, while SU politicos will still be free to churn out their shrill, incoherent ideas as much as they like, their opponents in pro-life societies will have to come armed with footnotes.)

But beneath the woolly wording is a veritable blank cheque to regulate pro-life students out of existence. And, thankfully, this is an affront to liberty that, Page tells me, much of the campus has recognised: ‘From the conversations we’ve all had around campus, the majority student opinion is against this motion on the grounds that it is a clear violation of free speech. We just hope that the audience at the AGM will reflect that!’

She continues: ‘Free speech is vital to any healthy society. But university is the place where students are exposed, often for the first time, to a whole new world of ideas and opportunities. We believe we should respect their right to listen to the arguments and decide for themselves what they think on abortion.’

Herein lies the crucial point. Campus censorship, aside from being an affront to the freedom and resilience of students, holds back the real discussions that need to be had – in this case, on women’s rights with regards to abortion. spiked is firmly pro-choice, and for those who reckon they have the sufficient mental resilience to find out why, you can read the speech Brendan O’Neill was due to give at Oxford here. But, as a pro-choice magazine, we want to explain why we believe we’re right, in the hopes of pushing the conversation forward.

So, to the students of Cardiff, whether you’re pro-life, pro-choice, or undecided, make sure you attend tomorrow’s AGM and vote down this motion. It’s time students everywhere brought an end to censorship – both the silly and the serious – and got on with talking about and tackling the big questions.


Time to give British school inspectorate the boot

If you want proof that Ofsted has no educational credibility, then look no further than its recent reports on the Sir John Cass secondary school in East London and the Middle Rasen primary school in Lincolnshire. In both cases, Ofsted showed itself to be illogical, illiberal and worse than useless for teachers.

In the case of Sir John Cass, the fact that the school has been rated ‘outstanding’ in its past two inspections, and is generally acknowledged to be one of the most improved inner-city schools in England, counts for little in the safeguarding-obsessed eyes of Ofsted. The school officially failed to meet certain ‘leadership and management’ criteria. In fact, it failed because it allowed sixth formers to set up an Islamic Society and a related YouTube channel. I would have thought that this was an example of students showing initiative and developing wider interests. Not according to Ofsted. Sir John Cass was accused of failing to monitor its own pupils. As a result, the school is to be placed in special measures.

Local headteachers are on record as saying Ofsted’s judgement is too harsh. This is probably a generous assessment, but it certainly beats the response of Tower Hamlets director of education, Robert McCulloch-Graham: ‘As is common practice, we will work with the leadership of this school to address any issues identified by Ofsted.’

Really? Even if these issues are not education-related? Even if Ofsted’s decision is likely to engender mistrust among staff, pupils and parents? Is this man a director of education or an Ofsted apparatchik?

While Sir John Cass has been punished for not promoting British values enough, Middle Rasen primary school in Lincolnshire has been denied outstanding status for being too British. The Ofsted report’s main complaint is that the school fails ‘to extend pupils’ understanding of the cultural diversity of modern British society by creating opportunities for them to have firsthand interaction with their counterparts from different backgrounds beyond the immediate vicinity’. As if to exemplify this confusion, Ofsted demands Middle Rasen teach ‘British values’ in the very same breath as it criticises the school for reflecting the social make-up of the British community within which it is located.

It is outrageous that an institution as defunct and irrational as Ofsted should be judging education in this way. The only real issue the Sir John Cass and Middle Rasen reports raise is why Ofsted still exists. In its Middle Rasen report, Ofsted writes: ‘All schools must teach pupils about fundamental British values, including mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. That way they will be prepared for the future wherever they go.’

In this, Ofsted reveals itself to be thoroughly disingenuous. There is no social consensus over British values. So what is there to teach students other than some arbitrary, ill-defined values dreamt up by academics and politicians? When it comes to values, Ofsted has no legitimate authority to say what schools ‘must’ teach. Parents, not teachers, are best placed to judge whether the values of a school are acceptable for their children.

In urging schools to focus on values and aims rather than providing a curriculum based on knowledge, Ofsted reveals that it prefers indoctrination to education. It’s time to pass our judgement on Ofsted: it’s beyond special measures; it’s time to shut it down.


Monday, December 01, 2014

Crony Capitalism in Common Core -- Surprised?

Follow the money. It all ends up in the hands of a very few. Pearson Foundation is getting the contracts because of its partnership with the Bill Gates Foundation. Greed, secrecy, deceptions, and lies …. and to think Democrats accuse Republicans of the very things, while Democrats are the ones using government to get richer. The deceptions run very deep. It’s time for exposure.

The saga begins on one summer day in 2008, when Gene Wilhoit, director of a national group of state school chiefs, and David Coleman (known as the architect of Common Core), knowing they needed tens of millions of dollars and a champion to overcome the politics that had thwarted previous attempts to institute national standards, approached Bill Gates at his headquarters near Seattle, to convince Gates and his wife to sign on to their idea.  Gates, upon asking if states were serious about common educational standards, was assured that they were. Gates signed on and the remarkable shift in education policy know as Common Core was born.

The Gates Foundation has spent over $170 million to manipulate the U.S. Department of Education to impose the CSSS, knowing it would realize a return on this investment as school districts and parents rush to buy the technology products they’ve been convinced are vital to improving education.  Bill Gates’ Microsoft will make a fortune form the sale of new technology products.  According to the Gates Foundation, CCSS is seen as a “step to greater excellence in education.”

On April 27, 2011 the Gates Foundation joined forces with the Pearson Foundation, a British multi-national conglomerate, representing the largest private business maneuvering for U.S. education dollars. Pearson executives saw the potential to secure lucrative contracts in testing, textbooks and software worth tens of millions of dollars.

Its partnership with the Gates Foundation was to support America’s teachers by creating a full series of digital instructional resources. Online courses in Math and Reading/English Language Arts would offer a coherent and systemic approach to teaching the new Common Core State Standard. The aim: To create an online curriculum for those standards in mathematics and English language arts that span nearly every year of a child’s pre-collegiate education. This aim has already been realized and is in practice in Common Core states.

The Pearson and Gates foundations also fund the Education Development Center (EDC) based in Waltham, Massachusetts. It is a global nonprofit organization that designs teacher evaluation policy.  Both stand to benefit from EDC recommendations. The center is involved in curriculum and materials development, research and evaluation, publication and distribution, online learning, professional development, and public policy development.

Its alignment with the Gates Foundation and Common Core, Pearson dominates the education testing and is raking in profits as school districts are pushed to replace paper textbooks with digital technology.  For example, the Los Angeles school system with 651 students, spent over $1 billion in 2013 to purchase iPads from Pearson.  Additionally, The Los Angeles school purchased Pearson’s Common Core Systems of Courses to provide all the primary instructional material for math and English/language arts for K-12, even though the material were incomplete in 2013.

Pearson’s profits will continue to increase as it has billions of dollars in long-term contracts with education department in a number of states and municipalities to introduce both testing software and the teacher training software and textbooks it claims are necessary to prepare for the tests. For example, Illinois has paid Pearson $138 million to produce standardized tests; Texas, $50 million; and New York, $32 million.

Pearson is really raking in the dough now that Pearson VUE, the assessment services wing of Pearson, has acquired examination software development company Exam Design.  CTS/McGraw-Hill is Pearson’s main competitor in the rise of standardized testing.

Corporations finding they can profit from turning students into unimaginative machines, are newly discovering they can likewise profit from standardizing teachers as well. Starting in May 2014, Pearson Education will take over teacher certification in New York State as a way of fulfilling the state’s promised “reforms” in its application for federal Race to the Top money. The evaluation system known as the Teacher Performance assessment or TPA was developed at Stanford University with support from Pearson, but it will be solely administered and prospective teachers will be entirely evaluated by Pearson and its agents.

A small cloud did fall over the Pearson Foundation (the nonprofit arm of educational publishing giant Pearson Inc) in December of 2013, when a $7.7 million fine was levied for using its charitable work to promote and develop course materials and software to benefit its corporate profit making.  After the investigation begun, Pearson Foundation sold the courses to Pearson for $15.1 million.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman determined that the foundation had created Common Core products to generate “tens of millions of dollars” for its corporate sister. According to the settlement: “Pearson used its nonprofit foundation to develop Common Core product in order to win an endorsement from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped fund the creation of the Common Core standards, having announced in 2011 that it would work with the Pearson foundation to write reading and math courses aligned with the new standard.”

Since Pearson is the world largest education company and book publisher, with profits of more than $9 billion annually, the $7.7 million fine was not a hardship. Pearson, wasn’t always so big.  As a British multinational corporation Pearson was just starting out in the early 2000’s. Pearson started to grow when it embraced No Child Left Behind as its business plan and began rapidly buying up U.S. companies.

On June 10 of this year, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced its support for a two-year moratorium on tying results from assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards to teacher evaluations or student promotions to the next grade level.

Although the Gates Foundation’s director of college-ready programs stated how Common Core was having a very positive impact on education, teachers do need more time to adjust.

The moratorium was enacted when on June 9, Diane Ravitch, research professor of education at New York University and author of “Reign of Error,” sounded the alarm over the implementation of Common Core and called for a congressional investigation, noting, “The idea that the richest man in [the U.S.] can purchase and — working closely with the U.S. Department of Education — impose new and untested academic standards on the nation’s public schools is a national scandal.”

It would be folly to suggest that either Bill Gates or Pearson, despite the temporary tactical retreat by Gates will not keep pushing for Common Core with its required educational technology. This nation spends over $500 billion annually on K-12 education.  When colleges and career-training programs are included, the education sector represents almost 9 percent of the U.S. gross domestic production.  Companies like Pearson and Microsoft stand to greatly profit as they develop and administer the tests and sell the teacher-training material.

It is not unreasonable to suspect that companies like Pearson stand to gain when tests designed to measure Common Core State Standards make most public schools look bad.  Counting on widespread failure of the Common Core State Standards, school districts and parents will be pushed to purchase even more training technology, teachers in low-ranked schools will be fired, and school will be turned over to private management.

As a text book manufacturer, Pearson Education buckled to the activists demands in Texas and replaced the scientific understanding of climate change with the politically driven claim that humans are causing climate change.    Because Texas is a large state, it does have influence on the national textbook market.

Might Common Core State Standards be the latest in the grand corporate scheme to profit from privatized public education?  In the interim, Bill Gates’ Microsoft and Pearson reap big CCSS profits.  Certainly neither teachers nor students are benefiting.


Head of £22,500-a-year private girls' school blasts pushy parents for leaving their children unable to deal with failure

A top girls' private school headteacher has said pressure from parents is leaving pupils unable to deal with failure.

St Paul's Girls' School head Clarissa Farr said many parents refused to accept their children coming in second place - and were frightened of how this would reflect on themselves.

She described the fathers and mothers of some children 'snowplough parents' who were overprotective and would clear the way in front of their children so nothing would go wrong.

They also treated school like a 'bespoke, commercial service' and had a Darwinian approach to life and anything less than 11A*s was an 'utter disaster'.

Speaking at the Girls' Schools Association conference this week, she said that parents were guilty of 'affluent neglect' by not showing enough attention to their children in the evenings.

'Their children will succeed above all and they're not at all on board with the idea of school as a community, learning to come second or that learning to give ground is an important part of education.'

She added: 'Parents have very high aspirations — they have a kind of ticking, frenetic anxiety — even the ones who are delightful to deal with are on edge because they haven't really got enough time to have the conversation they're trying to have with you.

'Anything that might result in success not happening for their son or daughter, in however small an arena, they're very frightened of.'

Mrs Farr's West London independent school charges parents up to £22,500 a year.

Its decorated alumni include broadcaster Susanna Reid, Alexandra Shulman, the editor-in-chief of Vogue and Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

The head, known as the 'High Mistress' at the school, said parents made things as easy as possible for their children which left them over-protected and unable to cope with failure, The Times reported last night.

She added: 'Again at the more extreme ends I've certainly noticed an increase in the expectation among parents that what is arranged for their daughter will be specific and bespoke.

'If she happens to speak a language that you don't offer, it will be expected that you provide appropriate tuition.

'Something that shocked me quite a lot, and I've seen it more in the last few years, is the naked impatience with the idea of putting other people first that you see coming from parents.

'I think that's a growing trend among city parents who have a sort of Darwinian attitude to their children's education.'

Teachers at city schools also had to be trained how to deal with high-achieving people used to getting what they wanted, The Times reported.

Mrs Farr added: 'They are over-protected. Snowplough parents is a great description: clearing everything away in front of the child so that nothing can go wrong, self-esteem valued above all other attributes, anything that might threaten self-esteem must be moved to the side.

'Protection from failure: not being selected for a play or the first lacrosse team etc or having the utter disaster of getting only 10 A*s instead of 11.

'A lack of perseverance — when they do come up against some failure or difficulty they don't have the equipment to deal with it be-cause parents have prevented this.'

But the head praised some of her pupils for their awareness of current affairs and said many were doing community work.

She said: 'There's a lot to be proud of. They've seen these cataclysmic, economic environmental and political events playing out in their world, in a context where accessibility of information means it's right up in your face. That's changed the way they look at life.'


British schools told to crack down on teaching of Sharia law

Schools must crack down on the teaching of Islamic Sharia law and promote English criminal law as part of a ‘British values’ drive.

New ‘strengthened’ government guidance, published yesterday, demands that pupils are ‘made aware of the difference between the law of the land and religious law’.

The Department for Education document on ‘actively promoting’ British values in state schools stresses the need for action within lessons as well as extracurricular activities.

It came as it emerged that a second rural school has been marked down after effectively being judged too English.

St Lawrence School in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, was criticised by Ofsted for failing to promote British values in the wake of the Trojan Horse scandal – an alleged Islamist plot to take over schools in Birmingham.

This is in addition to the six private Muslim schools that were warned by the education watchdog last week that they were at risk of closure because their pupils could be vulnerable to radicalisation.

Pupils at one school in the East London borough of Tower Hamlets were unable to tell the difference between Sharia and English law and told inspectors that a woman’s job was to ‘stay at home and clean and look after the children’ and ‘cook and pray’.

The latest DfE guidance says that pupils ‘must be encouraged to regard people of all faiths, races and cultures with respect and tolerance’.

It adds: ‘It is expected that pupils should understand that while different people may hold different views about what is “right” and “wrong”, all people living in England are subject to its law. The school’s ethos and teaching, which schools should make parents aware of, should support the rule of English civil and criminal law and schools should not teach anything that undermines it.

‘If schools teach about religious law, particular care should be taken to explore the relationship between state and religious law. Pupils should be made aware of the difference between the law of the land and religious law.’

Since September, private and maintained schools have been expected to ‘actively promote’ British values as part of a drive by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. The new guidance for state schools says pupils must be able to ‘distinguish right from wrong and to respect the civil and criminal law of England’.

Examples of actions schools could take to promote British values include considering ‘the role of extracurricular activity, including any run by pupils’.

Revised guidance for independent schools was also published simultaneously by the DfE.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

British teachers ‘scared to teach about Jesus’: Fear of offending other faiths prevents children learning true meaning of Christmas, BBC presenter claims

Fear of ‘offending’ different faiths means pupils are not being taught the true meaning of Christmas in schools, according to a BBC presenter.  Roger Bolton, of Radio 4’s Feedback programme, said that some secular teachers are also ‘unsympathetic to religious education’.

As a result, many pupils are not learning the crucial fact that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus.

A lack of understanding of Christianity is also preventing youngsters from gaining a proper understanding of religious imagery in literature and drama as well as European art.

This ‘ignorance’ in schools is being compounded by broadcasters’ reluctance to tackle ‘faith issues’ in children’s programmes.

Mr Bolton, who previously presented Sunday, Radio 4’s main programme for religious news and current affairs, condemned the trend in a ‘viewpoint’ piece written for this weeks Radio Times.

He said the Band Aid single, Do They Know It’s Christmas? would be better renamed for school children as ‘Do They Know What Christmas Is?’

He said: ‘Older readers might think this is a redundant question, but I’m afraid it’s not.

‘In some schools in this country, little is taught about the true meaning of Christmas, possibly because secular staff are unsympathetic to religious education or because of the fear of offending those of other faiths.

‘And broadcasters aren’t doing much to remedy this ignorance. It is difficult to find any children’s programmes that regularly deal with faith issues.’

Mr Bolton said there were ‘exceptions’ such as On Angel’s Wings, a BBC1 animation this Christmas, which is based on War Horse author, Michael Morpurgo’ s picture book.

It tells the Christmas story from the point of view of a young shepherd boy.

‘But there is little else in prospect, and the consequences of this lack of coverage are becoming evident,’ he said.

The presenter pointed to a Bible Society survey published earlier this year that claimed a quarter of children had ‘never read, seen or heard of Noah’s Ark’.

A similar proportion was ignorant of the Nativity; 43 per cent had never heard of the Crucifixion, and 53 per cent had ‘never read, seen or heard’ of Joseph and his coat of many colours.

Mr Bolton wrote: ‘Does this matter? I think it does, for both cultural and communal reasons.

‘The United Kingdom cannot be understood without appreciating the role Christian culture has played in its development, from the introduction of the parish system to the replacement of a monarch (James II) because he was a Roman Catholic.

‘In the time of Henry VIII what one believed about the doctrine of ‘transubstantiation’ was literally a matter of life and death.

‘Our 17th-century Civil War was fought in large part over the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings.

‘Without a knowledge of Christianity, what will our schoolchildren make of much of our finest literature and drama, filled as it is with Christian imagery? Or much of the finest European art?’

He added: ‘It is also vital that children of other faiths learn about Christmas. How can they begin to integrate into our country if they know little of the faith still at its heart?

‘Of course, the reverse applies, too. How can they feel welcome in this country if we make no real effort to understand what is often the most important thing to them and their families – their faiths?’

A better understanding of faith ‘would also do politicians no harm when they come to debate whether or not to intervene in parts of the world where religion is still a matter of life and death’.

Mr Bolton is trustee of the Sandford St Martin Trust Awards, which are given to encourage better coverage of religious and ethical issues in broadcasting.

Due to concerns about a lack of understanding of Christianity, it is introducing a new category in 2015 for children’s programmes.

The trust has previously given awards to programmes made about Jewish and Islamic subjects, and to programmes made by atheists.

Mr Bolton added: ‘Our roots, however, are in Christianity, like the UK as a whole, and while I will certainly buy the new Band Aid 30 single, Do They Know It’s Christmas? I also want all our children to know what Christmas really means.


Senior Tory MPs to tell PM to clear path for new grammar [selective] schools

Senior Conservative MPs will next week challenge David Cameron to clear the way for a new generation of grammar schools.

The chairman of the influential 1922 committee, Graham Brady, and former leadership contender David Davis are among those supporting the campaign, the Daily Mail has learned.

At present, the law forbids new grammar schools, whose intake is based on selection according to academic ability - only allowing existing institutions to open ‘satellites’ in new locations.

Theresa May, the home secretary, and Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, have broken ranks to back plans for new satellite grammar school campuses in their constituencies.

The option is being attempted by Conservative councillors in Kent, where Weald of Kent girls’ grammar school in Tonbridge has applied to open a site nine miles away in Sevenoaks.

But a poll this week showed that 54 per cent of voters say that they would support entirely new grammar schools in areas where there was evidence parents wanted them, such as petitions in support.

Don Porter, founder of Conservative Voice, the party pressure group which is behind the new campaign, said: ‘We want to ensure that in the Conservative Party manifesto there is a clear commitment to reverse the legislation preventing the creation of new grammar schools.

‘Our followers are strongly of the opinion that new grammar schools will both enhance social mobility and present parents with choice, both of which lie at the heart of the Conservative Party’s values.’

Mr Brady, a former frontbencher, said the closure of selective grammars ‘is one of the things which is building a less cohesive society’.

Mr Davis, the former shadow home secretary, said: ‘They [grammar schools] are still a motor for social mobility but nothing like as good as it used to be. That is all down to, I am afraid, a massive failure in public policy, a massive failure in confidence in high quality education for bright kids.’

Esher and Walton MP Dominic Raab, a member of the Commons education select committee, said: ‘There’s no silver bullet to reviving stagnant social mobility in Britain. But grammar schools are a key piece of the policy jigsaw, creating a ladder of opportunity for talented and hard-working youngsters from council estates and rural backwaters.’

Research for Conservative Voice found 84 per cent of people said that grammar schools are a valuable asset to the British education system. Some 80 per cent believe that grammar schools make the education system fairer.

Two thirds of parents say they would enter their child for an 11+ exam and send them to a grammar school if they passed.

David Cameron has long resisted calls to pledge to expand selective schooling in the Tory manifesto. The architects of the coalition’s school reforms hoped that controversy over grammar schools in the party could be put to rest by focusing on all-ability academies and free schools.

In the 1970s, Margaret Thatcher - herself a grammar school girl - allowed local councils to decide themselves whether their schools should remain selective grammars when she was the education secretary.

It proved to be a political misjudgment, since many councils took the opportunity to end selective state education.

There are now around 160 grammar schools left in England – mostly in the home counties.


The UVA Rapists Should Not Have Been Expelled, They Should Have Gone to Jail

It’s difficult to imagine a more callous, wholly inadequate response to a culture of seemingly rampant sexual assault at the University of Virginia (UVA) than the one its administrators practiced year after year, according to a horrifying account finally publicized by Rolling Stone last week. But that’s precisely what happens when an entity equipped only to deal with academic misbehavior is instead pushed to do something about sexual assault: it finds itself putting the university’s brand name first and the victims second.

The lesson of the UVA assault, then, is that efforts undertaken by state governments and federal agencies to beef up university adjudication of sex crimes—including the increasing popular “yes means yes” bills—are doomed to failure. Students will never see justice so long as colleges, rather than the police, are expected to intervene in rape cases.

Rolling Stone’s expose, which quickly went viral, details the unbelievable ordeal of an 18-year-old freshman, "Jackie," in the fall of 2012. The crime took place at Phi Kappa Psi, where Jackie was attending her first fraternity party with a date, a Phi Psi junior, who eventually lured her to an upstairs bedroom. Jackie then endured three hours of agonizing violence at the hands of seven students, who held her down while they raped her. One male, whom she recognized, brutalized her with a beer can instead. Hours later she fled the frat house battered and bloody.

Little could have been worse than that ordeal. But the quiet indifference of the people in whom Jackie confided came close. Her friends dissuaded her from going to the hospital or calling the police. Jackie recalled one saying, "She's gonna be the girl who cried 'rape,' and we'll never be allowed into any frat party again," as if the potential loss of social status was the real crime here.

Worse still, university administrators did nothing to correct the notion that keeping quiet was the best policy. A few months later, after finally working up the courage to go to the administration, Jackie told Nicole Eramo, head of UVA’s Sexual Misconduct Board, about her assault. Eramo gave her four options: file a police report, file a formal complaint with the university, file an "informal" complaint, or do nothing. The informal complaint process would have obligated the accused to face Jackie in Eramo’s presence, and the administrator would have suggested some kind of resolution. The formal complaint process offers the possibility of an academic punishment, like suspension or expulsion. Eramo didn’t express a preference for one option or the other; Jackie ultimately did nothing, and that was just fine from the university’s perspective.

Only after Rolling Stone publicized Jackie’s story—including the fact that multiple other rape accusations went unreported, including at least two more accusations of gang rape at Phi Psi—did UVA express any interest in doing something.

People are outraged, and they should be. It’s a travesty that such a terrible culture of sexual violence endures at perhaps the quintessential American public university, founded by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.

Yet much of that outrage is misdirected. One of the most common reactions to the Rolling Stone story seems to be this curious question: why weren’t the rapists expelled? Indeed, much of the broader coverage has focused on the fact that no student has ever been expelled for rape at UVA. BuzzFeed’s report on the issue led with the headline, "You Can Admit to Raping Someone at UVA and Not Be Expelled." Jezebel, zoning in on Eramo’s assertion that even if a rapist admitted guilt during an informal resolution he wouldn’t be expelled, wrote: "UVA Dean Admits School Doesn’t Expel People Who Have Admitted to Rape." Many news outlets ran similar headlines.

The mother of a UVA student who reported her rape summarized this position thusly: "In what world do you get kicked out for cheating, but if you rape someone, you can stay?"

That sentiment makes for a great outrage quote, but it’s entirely wrong. Cheating and raping are not related things. The former is in academic infraction deserving an academic punishment, like expulsion; the latter is a violent crime deserving a rigorous police investigation. Students who are confessed rapists shouldn’t be expelled, they should be put in jail.

Merely ejecting rapists from a campus community would be a terrible approach. Rapists, experts tell us, are serial predators. They are public health hazards. Shuffling them from community to community, rather than confronting their misdeeds in a criminal setting, would allow them to claim additional victims. Do the bureaucrats at the Department of Education—who are now mandating that universities at least consider expelling rapists—really sleep any better at night with the knowledge that they have made it more difficult for violent criminals to earn degrees?

Treating rape as akin to plagiarism, or copying off someone else’s test, trivializes violence against women. What UVA administrators did, in listening to students’ accusations and failing to report them to police time and time again, is worse than trivializing: it’s an outright cover-up. Eramo reportedly justified UVA’s policy of burying rape accusations when she told Jackie, "Nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school." That stunning moment of honesty should disabuse everyone of the notion that sexual assault adjudication belongs in the hands of university administrators.

Indeed, when colleges do intervene in rape cases, the result is fewer freedoms for everyone, but still no justice. Just look at UVA’s latest response to the controversy: administrators, eager to look like they are doing something, have now suspended all campus fraternity activities. But that’s legally dubious—students enjoy broad First Amendment protections and have the constitutional right to join clubs and plan activities. Similarly, when universities do take formal disciplinary actions against accused rapists, they typically violate those students’ due process rights by denying them adequate representation and convicting them under tragically low evidence standards. There is no justice here: Innocent students have their rights violated and their lives ruined, while actual rapists get off far too lightly—they don’t go to jail.

If the government and the colleges were truly interested in addressing the campus rape epidemic, there is one big thing they could do: work together to come up with a saner drinking age. Older students, who enjoy legal access to booze, are the distributors of alcohol on campus; underage students who want to drink have to hit the frats and house-party scenes and accept mystery drinks from people they don’t know. One way to curb the abuses of fraternity parties and campus binge-drinking culture is to give 18-year-olds legal access to bars, something a repeal of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act would accomplish.

Absent that proactive step, the best way to confront campus rape is to treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves and make violent crime the business of the normal criminal justice system. UVA's cowardly, PR-wary cover-up of its own rape problem should serve as a lesson to anyone who thinks otherwise.