Sunday, February 01, 2015

School forced to apologise after hundreds of pupils were shown slide that listed Ukip alongside BNP and the National Front as a racist group

UKIP is a conservative British political party that wants to get the UK out of the EU.  They are also critical of existing British immigration policies

A school have been forced to apologise after an 'exemplar' slide which listed Ukip as a racist group alongside Neo Nazis and compared the party's beliefs to Hitler's was shown to hundreds of pupils.

The UK Independence Party was named alongside far-right groups the British National Party and English Defence League as part of a 'thought for the week' session surrounding the Holocaust.

Bridge Learning Campus in Bristol sent out the presentation to all tutor groups within the secondary school, which caters for 660 pupils aged 11 to 16, to form the basis for a discussion.

This comes days after headteacher Keziah Featherstone was accused of double standards after a pupil was allegedly expelled following a row about his hairstyle - despite having dyed hair herself.

The slide, headed The Rise of Racist Groups, said: 'You have the right to believe what you want - but if you have racist ideas and discriminate against a group of people – then you are a racist.'

It was written by one teacher who is currently being investigated and is said to be 'mortified' by the blunder.

The presentation which also claimed parties were trying to 'sound reasonable by hiding their racism' has prompted a furious response among Ukip representatives.

Michael Frost, who is Bristol's first Ukip councillor, representing Hengrove, said: 'At that young age, pupils have got knowledge-thirsty minds and something like this could give them a false impression of a legitimate mainstream party, showing them to be something they are not.

'The teacher has a serious responsibility in the education of our young people. Whether deliberate or naive, this is serious.'
Bristol chairman of UKIP Steve Wood on Bridge Learnig Campus

The slide, shown to pupils on Wednesday, said: 'Some group rise up and spout racist ideas – they want to discriminate against a group of people but want to sound respectable – they want to sound reasonable and hide their racism by trying to give reasons for their anger hate and violence.

'But listen carefully and you will hear they are not so different from Hitler – and that is what is scary.'

John Langley, UKIP's Bristol spokesman, said: 'This is outrageous and highly inflammatory given that some students may live in Hengrove where we have an elected councillor who is very much anti-racist.

'It is a dangerous attempt to defame UKIP as we head towards another election, and leaves Bridge Learning Campus in an untenable position of showing inappropriate political bias contrary to law.'

He said the teaching material was in breach of the 1996 Education Act, which states that bias should be avoided when teaching political issues.

The matter has been referred to HM Inspectorate of Education and Ofsted.

Keziah Featherstone, headteacher of the Bristol school, said the slide was a 'genuine error' from one individual who has been at the school for several years.

'It was sent out as part of 'thought for the week' which centered around the Holocaust. It was to be used to form a discussion at tutor time,' she said.

'One teacher usually produces an exemplar slide and it is then sent round to all the form group tutors who can use it to form the basis of a discussion.

'The nature of a school means there is not enough time for everything to be thoroughly checked.

'The teacher in question is currently being investigated. It was a genuine mistake and the teacher is mortified.' 

Ms Featherstone hit the headlines earlier this week after it was reported that a pupil was expelled after posting a picture of her with dyed hair on his Facebook with the caption: 'This is not an example to set to other students'.

Jordan Ford, 14, was upset after the headteacher told him his red Mohawk hair style was unacceptable.

So he found a picture of Ms Featherstone in which she also appears to have dyed purple hair and posted it on social media - attracting 50 comments which made reference to her looks and weight.

The school's 'racist groups' presentation has also sparked a furious response on social media.

Marilyn Laurence said: 'I would like to register a complaint that Bridge Learning Campus are teaching pupils that UKIP are racist - please explain.'

Danny Carroll tweeted saying: 'Hope @UKIP will reporting #bridgelearningcampus for slander.'

Mark Davies, chief executive of the school, said: 'The slide was used in a class discussion about community relationships and tolerance, and was designed to stimulate debate among our pupils.

'It was a mistake for UKIP to have been listed along with the other groups, and I have apologised to the party for its inclusion.

'The reference has been removed from the slide and the teacher concerned has apologised and we have taken steps to ensure it will not reappear in future.'

A school governors' chairman was forced to quit his post after joining Ukip because they political party's policies are 'against it's ethos' in November last year.

Mike Ward claims he was asked to step down from his role as Head of Governors at Eskdale School in Whitby, North Yorkshire after he became a member of Ukip.


South Dakota bill would allow teachers to question evolution and climate change

Lawmakers in South Dakota are pushing a bill that would allow teachers to address the supposed “weaknesses” in the scientific theories of evolution and global warming.

The bill, which is described as academic freedom legislation, would free up teachers from interference by state or local education officials, reported the Argus Leader.

Similar measures have been proposed in Colorado, Indiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma, and Tennessee passed an academic freedom law in 2012.

The legislation is based on suggestions by the Discovery Institute, which promotes intelligent design instead of evolution.

The measure proposed in South Dakota does not advance intelligent design or creationism, but it would allow teachers to question accepted scientific theories.

“It provides cover, for, as you might say, rogue teachers,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education. “We know most teachers won’t do this, but we know that there are some.”

Sen. Jeff Monroe (R-Pierre), who co-authored the bill, said teachers would be permitted to address intelligent design or creationism only if local officials approved those topics.

“It’s purely local control,” Monroe said. “It just offers the possibility that there will be complete, open discourse.”

A spokesman for the Discovery Institute denied the organization supported teaching or promoting intelligent design in public schools, and he said the bill would not protect teachers who present creationism to students.

He said the group’s model legislation simply offers a shield for teachers who question the science of evolution or climate change.

“Schools should teach the evidence for and against evolution,” Casey Luskin, research coordinator for the organization.

A science teacher from Mitchell, South Dakota, said she can’t imagine a debate on the basic principles of biological science.

“I don’t know what their arguments would be,” said Julie Olson, president of the South Dakota Science teachers Association. “What’s the proof?”


Australia: School funding mess no surprise

The key findings of the latest OECD report Education Policy Outlook 2015 - that school funding in Australia is a mess and school performance is stagnant or declining - will be surprising to precisely no-one.

The report says that school funding in Australia "lacks transparency and coherence", and it is difficult to determine how individual schools are funded. This is despite a "comprehensive and independent" review of school funding which led to the development of a new federal funding model embedded in a new education act, and detailed funding agreements with the states.

It is possible, at least, to now work out how schools are funded if you have sufficient time and interest - but it is not easy. And since the current federal government has decided it will not implement the funding model in full, things will change again from 2017.

A certain amount of complexity in school funding is the inevitable result of having two levels of government providing funding to three distinct school sectors in eight states and territories. It is difficult to envisage how it would be possible to make funding more uniform and consistent in any kind of incremental way that tries to appease all interests. A more coherent school funding system will come about only through a brave and radical change to a student-centred voucher system, in which all children are allocated an individual educational entitlement they can use at any school.

Fortunately, improving the literacy levels of Australian students does not depend on funding reform. It requires one thing only - for teachers to use proven, evidence-based reading instruction in the early years of school and to provide effective interventions for struggling readers. Regular readers of ideas@thecentre will be familiar with this argument.

However, one of the most striking things about the OECD report is how strongly Australia features. Australian governments have been very busy with educational policy reform over the last eight years or so, and their efforts have largely been focused on the right things, from the OECD's perspective at least, things like increasing school autonomy, improving teacher quality and developing school leadership.

Whether or not Australia's initiatives to achieve these goals will be effective are, as yet, not known and possibly never will be,  since another key finding of the OECD report is that trillions of dollars have been spent internationally on education reform without rigorous evaluation to determine whether they have worked.  Australia is no exception.


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