Friday, May 08, 2015

Survey finds more than half of Britain's 18 to 25-year-olds do not know what VE day celebrates

It marked the end of years of blood, sweat and tears – but most young people have no idea what VE Day is.

With two days until the 70th anniversary, a survey found 54 per cent of Britons aged 18 to 25 did not know that Friday's VE Day celebrates the end of the Second World War in Europe.

And 38 per cent could not identify Winston Churchill as the prime minister who declared victory in Europe on May 8, 1945.  Seven per cent believed it was former US president John F Kennedy, another 7 per cent said Margaret Thatcher and 4 per cent thought it was Tony Blair.

The Onepoll survey, commissioned by SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association), the Armed Forces charity, questioned 1,000 young people about VE Day and the Second World War.

Asked which country's invasion by Germany led Britain to declare war in 1939, 55 per cent were unable to identify Poland – and 4.5 per cent said it was the invasion of England.

David Murray, chief executive of SSAFA, said: 'It is a real shame that so many of our young people do not have a basic level of knowledge of the Second World War.

'Many of them probably have not-too-distant relatives who fought in what was by far the biggest world war we have seen, in terms of lives lost.'

More than a third believed the first moon landing, Britain's entry into the European Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall had all happened before VE Day. And nearly three-quarters drastically underestimated the death toll, unaware that 60 million died.

Overall, women knew more than men on the details of the war and the poll revealed Scots to be most knowledgeable, while Londoners performed worst.

Mr Murray, who served for more than 30 years in the RAF, said: 'The nostalgic memory of VE Day is being played out across Britain and so it should be. As a nation we have a strong tradition of celebrating our Forces and we have much to be proud of.'

Three days of commemorations will begin on Friday, when party leaders, royals, and veterans will gather for a day of remembrance at the Cenotaph in London.

At 3pm – the moment in 1945 that Churchill declared an end to war in Europe – there will be a two-minute silence across the country. Schools are being encouraged to hold events and observe the silence.

At a service in Westminster Abbey on Sunday, the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will be joined by veterans and their families, members of the Armed Forces and representatives of Allied nations.

A parade will go from the abbey past the balcony of the Treasury building, where Churchill made his historic VE Day speech.


All state secondaries should allow boarders, says public school head: Sir Anthony Seldon believes adding facilities would create 'civilising' atmosphere

Every state secondary in the country should become a boarding school because it would create a ‘civilising’ atmosphere, according to a leading head master.

Sir Anthony Seldon called for boarding facilities to be built to cater for at least 10 per cent of pupils at all schools and said it could even work at tough inner-city comprehensives.

He said having boarders at a school could help reduce issues like knife crime because pupils would feel the buildings were ‘somebody’s home’.

He said life at boarding schools had changed in the last few decades and were now and were now enriching places where pupils could enjoy comradery and extracurricular activities.

Boarding could particularly benefit those from poor backgrounds who might not have access to arts and sporting clubs at home, he added.

He said: ‘The boarding life has changed unimaginably in the last 15 years and it is something that many children would benefit from in Britain, regardless of social class, and whoever wins the next election there should be a huge drive to get many to offer boarding in many more state schools.

‘I also think it would help civilise those schools and ground them. If there are some residents there – if people are having breakfast there, and staying overnight and there’s activities all the time, it changes the atmosphere of the school.

‘If you stay with friends, you get more engrossed and more involved in a place. My experience in [state] boarding schools like Wellington Academy is that it subtlety changes the nature of the school. It makes it more homely.’

He said that while fifty years ago, boarding schools had a ‘brutal’ image which had been propagated by films and books, most had changed beyond recognition.

While there are only 38 state schools with boarding facilities, he called on the next government to push for more of the 3,000 in England and Wales to adopt them.

Currently, the existing schools receive funding for the government for lessons but parents pay for the boarding fees, which can range from £9,000 to £12,000 – with some places subsidised.

He suggested that places could be means-tested, with those who could afford to paying for accommodation and others funded by the state.

He added: ‘I think it can absolutely work in an inner city school. ‘Very few young people in those schools are involved in knife crime. I think it can actually help if people felt this was somebody’s home they were coming into.

‘I would love to see inner city comprehensives that had boarding attached to them, maybe 10 per cent of the children at that school were residents at that institution and this could be people having difficulties at home, of any number of kinds, or both parents working or one parent working, and there is nobody at home to supervise homework.’

He said the long-term benefits for society as a whole would counteract the cost to the taxpayer as it would turn out more well-rounded individuals.

‘Boarding can provide a real stability in young people’s lives that some young people lack in their home life,’ he said. ‘You’ve got those kind of children and the ones that are in homes which are not like that but where parents working and it just happens to suit them better.’

Irfan Latif, head master of Sexey’s state boarding school in Somerset, welcomed the suggestion.  He said: ‘You would have weekly boarding, you would have full boarding, to allow for those families which have chaotic lifestyles, where both parents are working, to allow these children the opportunity for extended education.’

He said boarding schools were no longer seen as places with ‘cold showers’ and overcrowded dormitories and were able to provide arts, drama and sport activities which ordinary state schools may not have the facilities for.

He added: ‘We would like to see the funding come from the state – for the state to take a real grip of this, to allow boarding to be available to all children.’

Sir Anthony, whose school sponsors the state boarding school Wellington Academy in Wilshire, is due to start as Vice Chancellor or the University of Buckingham from September.


Flashback: Education Secretary Hails Baltimore Schools for Steep Drop in Suspensions

Sixteen month ago, Education Secretary Arne Duncan went to a high school in inner-city Baltimore to talk about "the need to rethink and redesign school discipline practices." He said too many schools resort to suspensions and expulsions, even for minor misbehavior.

And he hailed Baltimore schools for achieving "a modern-day low" in the number of student suspensions.

"Schools should remove students from the classroom as a last resort, and only for appropriately serious infractions, like endangering the safety of other students, teachers, or themselves," Duncan said in his January 8, 2014 speech at Frederick Douglass High School.

The school is right across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where -- according to the Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake -- last week's chaos in Baltimore first erupted:

"A lot of this started with high school kids," the Baltimore mayor told CNN's Wolf Blitzer last Tuesday. She described the rioting and looting as "an evolving situation that started with a lot of kids after they got out of school."

That's the same Frederick Douglass High School where Duncan announced the Obama administration's first-of-its-kind guidance on easing school discipline, especially for minority students.

"Racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem today," Duncan said at the time. (This was months before the nation's attention was focused on alleged racial discrimination in police practices.)

"Exclusionary discipline is applied disproportionately to children of color and students with disabilites," Duncan said. He added that as many as 95 percent of suspensions nationwide are for nonviolent misbehavior, such as being disruptive, acting disrespectfully, tardiness, profanity, and dress code violations.

Duncan also talked about Baltimore City Schools specifically:

"A decade ago, in 2004, principals and educators routinely suspended students for minor infractions in Baltimore City Schools. In a school system with about 88,000 students, school officials handed out more than 26,000 suspensions."

Ducan explained that a new CEO for the school district changed the rules, placing mental health professionals in middle schools, handing more discipline problems with mediation, counseling and parent-teacher conferences.

"As a result, the number of suspensions in Baltimore City Schools dropped by about two-thirds, from 26,300 suspensions to 8,600 last year...In just the last school year, the number of suspensions district-wide fell by almost 25 percent to a modern-day low," he said.

Speaking to CNN last week, Mayor Rawlings-Blake made it clear that she, too, wanted to avoid a crackdown on Baltimore's young people.

She defended the city's lenient response to the unruly high school students at Mondawmin Mall:

"And we tried to have a response that was appropriate and not excessive. And that's what our parents are asking us for. We worked very closely monitoring the situation trying to make sure that we were responding appropriately...It wasn't allowing rioters to loot and to burn down," she insisted. "It was making sure that we had a -- an appropriate response to what was going on..."


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