Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A liberal education in the 21st century

We haven't arrived there quite yet but it's getting close

British mother of six jailed for letting her children go to school when they felt like it because she thought they would learn more at the beach or woods

A mother jailed for allowing her children to ‘pick and choose’ when they went to school because she thought they would learn ‘more on a beach than in a hot stuffy classroom’ now admits [Or was bullied into saying] she was wrong.

Claudia Ward, 42, said prison was the wake-up call she needed and that her children all now had 100 per cent attendance records. Miss Ward said she initially wanted her six children to have ‘an amount of choice themselves’. She admitted that if her two older children were up late and ‘didn’t fancy’ going to school she would let them stay off.  On other occasions she said she had ‘just wanted some company’.

But their schools and her local education authority disagreed with her flexible approach and she was prosecuted five times before being jailed for five months.

Miss Ward admitted: ‘When I spent my first night in the cell, the enormity of what I had done hit home.  'I felt so guilty; my stubbornness had meant I was on a prison wing in Gloucester, miles away from my young and vulnerable children.

‘I accepted that my views on education were not correct and everyone must adhere to the same rules, or there would be anarchy. It was the wake-up call I needed.’

Miss Ward, who is single, has six children: Jack, 24, Amos, 21, Rudy 17, Annie, 16, Nia, nine, and Riley, six. They have four different fathers.

She was prosecuted in 2008 and then again in 2011 and 2012. But the court heard her children’s ‘attendance issues’ dated back to 2002.

‘If it was a sunny day and I thought one of my children would have been bored and sat staring out the window of the classroom wishing they were at the beach – I could not see the merit of them not being on the beach looking at rock pools,’ said Miss Ward, a freelance creative writer from Falmouth, Cornwall.

‘I thought they would gain far more from that. I thought they would be far better actually there experiencing it rather than sat in a stuffy classroom.

‘My ideas for education were always more outside the box and free-thinking,’ she added. ‘I was all about the children having an amount of choice themselves.

'This didn’t tally well with the national curriculum. It got to the point where there was no room for dialogue with the school and it was conflict all the way.’

During the 2012 court hearing – which Miss Ward failed to attend – magistrates were told that three of the children’s education was suffering through their absences and one had missed a GCSE exam.

Liz Mozeley, education welfare officer, told Truro Magistrates’ Court: ‘She felt they could pick and choose when they go.’

On that occasion, after a warrant was issued for her arrest, she was given a 12-week prison sentence suspended for 24 months.  But the truanting continued and she was jailed for 20 weeks in February 2013.

Cornwall Council said it has been working with her for a decade at a cost of about £15,000 and prosecution was a ‘last resort’.  Education welfare officer John Heath told the court: ‘Claudia is a capable woman but has a very odd outlook as far as education is concerned.’

The court heard that three of the children; Annie, Nia and Riley, missed more than a third of sessions between September and December 2012 – equalling 73 whole days.

Miss Ward served ten weeks of her 20-week jail term. She was released in April 2013. Her children were looked after by other family members.

She said: ‘I was shocked and did not for one second did I think they would give me a five-month sentence.’  She said she used her time inside to re-evaluate her principles.


Australia: Higher education reform is not simply all about universities
The drive to improve equity and choice in higher education must continue        

The Council of Private Higher Education (COPHE) has applauded the Federal Government's continued pursuit of higher education reforms despite the second rejection of the Bill in the Senate.

COPHE CEO Adrian McComb said although the defeat of the bill was disappointing, it is clear from Education Minister Christopher Pyne that it was not all over.

"For the sake of all Australian students, the process of reform must continue. Reform is vital to ensuring Australia's higher education system is well placed to face the avalanche of change facing the sector globally," he said. "Maintaining the status quo takes us nowhere and frankly no one opposed has proposed any workable alternative."

The reforms announced in the Budget last year promised equitable treatment of students in the private sector. Under the current arrangements, students at private institutions are penalised.

"We applaud Minister Pyne for his tenacity in declaring he will continue to pursue the reforms. The sector needs to overcome the misleading scare campaign around $100,000 degrees," Mr McComb said. "And as we noted in our Senate submissions, the CEOs of our member institutions have indicated that they would pass on Commonwealth support received to their students. That and the removal of the 25% loan administration fee would make a big difference to non-university higher education students’ debt."

"Capping prices without any means of capping costs can only exacerbate decline in universities. Deregulation can deliver a top quality, resilient higher education system which better meets the needs of students," he said. "An independent oversight body can curb excesses."

The independent and minor party Senators that make up the cross benches have expressed continuing concerns in a deregulated environment about the possibility of universities charging excessive student fees for cross-subsidy of activity that is unrelated to teaching. Further policy approaches that would mitigate this have emerged and need to be considered in the revised legislation.

Senators have expressed concern about the process followed in introducing the reforms. We believe that a deregulated environment in the sector was always going to be difficult to pull off and 20/20 hindsight is easy.

“It is also disheartening to see that measures that would help the disadvantaged are now set aside particularly the higher education initiative that would have provided 80,000 CGS funded places for sub-degrees and pathways diplomas,” Mr McComb said. There is solid evidence that students with poorer school results, or those who are returning to study some years after school, who would struggle in their first year of a bachelor degree, can still achieve progression on par with students with much higher ATARS, if they have access to such pathways diplomas into the second year of bachelor degrees.

"There is too much at stake for this to be the end of any chance of change," Mr McComb said.

Press release

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