Saturday, January 31, 2009

Millions of British adults lack the basic skills in English and maths to get by

Millions of people are illiterate and struggle with the basic maths needed to get by in life despite billions of pounds being spent on the problem, an influential committee of MPs said. Even though GCSE achievement is rising, many teenagers are still leaving school without any qualifications in English and maths, according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee.

Edward Leigh, chairman of the committee, said that Britain faced dire consequences if the issue was not tackled. “This is a dismal picture, both for the many who face diminished prospects in what they can achieve in life and for the competitiveness of our country in the world economy,” he said. Even if the Government met its targets, he said, Britain would still compare badly with other developed countries. The most up-to-date research, from 2003, estimated that more than five million people lacked functional literacy and nearly seven million were innumerate. This is the equivalent of leaving school without a D to G grade GCSE in English or maths and being unable to read labels or count the change given when making a purchase.

The report said that, despite the Government spending 5 billion between 2001 and 2007 on trying to improve levels of literacy and numeracy, England still had an unacceptably high number of people who could not read, write or count. It said: “The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has helped no more than one in ten of those with numeracy skills below the level of a good GCSE. “Lack of up-to-date information on the skills of the population means that the department cannot be sure that its programmes are equipping people with the skills that the UK economy needs to remain competitive.”

The report found that more than 50,000 pupils left school in 2007 without achieving a grade D to G in maths and 39,000 failed to achieve this basic grade in English. It said that remedial action would be needed later in life to correct the deficiencies in skills. The authors of the report recommended adopting new approaches to recruiting maths teachers, such as targeting specific graduates and making it easier to train in different ways, including through distance learning.

The report also said that more effort should be made to help illiterate prisoners. “Only one in five offenders with very low levels of basic skills had enrolled on a course that would help them,” it said. “This represents a major lost opportunity.”


Church schools to be allowed to ban homosexual staff in South Australia

CHURCH schools will retain the right to refuse to employ gay teachers in South Australia under a watering-down of proposed anti-discrimination laws. Religious schools also will retain the right to prevent students, who belong to a non Christian religion, from wearing the dress or adornments of that religion at school.

The new Bill, which replaces a controversial 2006 Bill, gives employers a loophole under which they can refuse to employ people wearing religious dress, such as burkas, by allowing them to set "reasonable" standards of workplace dress. Proposed legislation to make the changes is set down for debate when Parliament resumes on Tuesday. That follows nearly three years of debate and intense behind-the-scenes negotiations between Labor and the Opposition.

Under the old Bill, church schools wanting an exemption to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality were required to lodge a copy of their policy with the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity and make it available to current and prospective staff, students and parents. That has been watered down so schools only will need to have a written policy available on inquiry and publish it on their website if they have one. Other proposed changes include:

RAISING the age limit from 12 to 16 under which a student can make a formal sexual harassment complaint.

DROPPING a proposed unlawful act of victimisation if a person were to "engage in a public act inciting hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule of a person or group".

DELETING part of the Bill which made it an offence to discriminate on the grounds of where a person lived.

LIMITING discrimination on the grounds of caring responsibilities to those looking after immediate family members while the original Bill had a much wider coverage.

Opposition justice spokeswoman Isobel Redmond said the Liberals, who supported large sections of the original Bill, would decide their position at a shadow cabinet meeting next week.


Friday, January 30, 2009

The British schools where NO-ONE speaks English as a first language

There are now ten schools in England without a single pupil who speaks English as his or her first language. Research reveals that there are almost 600 primary schools where 70 per cent or more of youngsters normally speak a foreign language. Across the country, one in seven pupils aged 4-11 does not have English as the first language, which is the equivalent of 466,620 children. But, following years of unprecedented levels of migration, ten schools have now reached a point where every youngster falls into this category.

Their locations range from London to Lancashire. One, St Hilda's in Oldham, is a Church of England school. Some schools are in areas with long-established Muslim populations. In others, the high number of non-English speakers is the consequence of large-scale immigration from Eastern Europe.

Labour MP Frank Field and Tory MP Nicholas Soames, co-chairmen of the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration, said: 'These figures make a nonsense of the Government's aim of integration and show the very real strain that uncontrolled large scale immigration is already placing upon our society. 'In hundreds of primary schools, English is the second language for over 70 per cent or more of the pupils. 'How can these children be expected to integrate into our society if they are being taught in schools where is English is the mother tongue of no pupils or a minority of pupils?' Mr Field asked the Children's Department to produce a list of all those schools where seven in ten or more pupils did not have English as their first language.

The 591 primary schools out of 17,205 which fall into this category represent around three per cent, or around one in 30. There are a number of local authorities where 20 per cent or more of their schools have at least 70 per cent of youngsters who do not have English as their first language. These include the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets (62 per cent), Newham (46.9), Brent (28.8) and Ealing (28), plus Blackburn (26.7), Leicester (25.9), Bradford (25), Luton (20.3) and Birmingham (20).

Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said: 'Two successful elements of any immigration policy should be to limit the numbers coming in so that the pressure on all public services is reduced, and to insist on English being spoken to a competent level by people coming here to get married. 'It is relatively easy to cope with a small number of non-English speakers, but incredibly difficult if there are large numbers. Scale matters.'

David Green, director of the Civitas think-tank, has warned that when a large number of immigrant children go into schools, it is very hard for the staff to accommodate them and specialist teachers have to be brought in. Last night, Dr Green said that when the Government was advocating the economic benefits of mass migration, it failed to take into account the impact on schools and other public services. He warned that one of the consequences of having schools where no pupils had English as a first language was that they and their families might lead a sectarian lifestyle.

A spokesman for the Children's Department said: 'It is important to remember that some of the schools with 100 per cent of their pupils with English as an additional language are actually doing very well, especially considering the extra challenges they face. 'Even if a pupil speaks another language they may still be highly competent in English, and many are. In cases recent arrivals from countries such as Poland have helped keep small rural schools open that may have otherwise closed because of falling pupil numbers. 'The language of instruction in English schools is English and this is vital in boosting community cohesion. 'The task is to get every child up to speed in English so that they can access the whole curriculum. 'We have listened to the concerns of head teachers and are increasing funding in the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant to 206million pounds by 2010, to bring students weak in English up to speed.'


Choice, not report cards, will cure schools. The Swedish example

In an effort to show greater accountability for results, school districts across the country from Florida to Missouri to California are issuing so-called school report cards, which contain data on various indicators of student and school performance. Ray Cortines, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), recently announced a new report card on the performance of each school in his district. Parents may welcome the new information but, unfortunately, there is little they can do with that information to improve the education of their children.

The new report card offers a much different picture of school performance than that contained in the state's calculations. For example, the latest state figures claim a graduation rate of 76 percent for Manual Arts High School near downtown Los Angeles. In eye-opening contrast, the district report card says that only 37 percent of the school's students in the class of 2008 graduated on time. Cortines fully acknowledged that in the past school districts cherry-picked statistics to cover up poor performance and accentuate selective successes. Now, says Cortines, "I want both the bad and good, and I don't want it sugarcoated." While Cortines' attitude is highly commendable, the new district report card has holes.

The report card fails to include measurements of teaching effectiveness, campus safety, and satisfaction of parents and students with individual schools. There are even more critical concerns, however, than missing statistics. While it's important that parents receive truthful information regarding their children's school, the question remains what they can do with this information once they receive it. Even if they truly understand how badly their neighborhood public school is performing, there are precious few alternatives.

Imagine you are a parent with a child at Manual Arts High School. You learn from the new district report card that only 13 percent of students at the school score at the proficient level or above on the state English test and 2 percent score at that level in math. What recourse is open to you? Wait for the school to do better? That could take years, if not decades, and your child will be long gone, saddled with an inadequate education, and ill-prepared for higher education or the modern workplace.

How about working to turn the school into a less-regulated public charter school? That might be great, but the process of creating a charter is often extremely political, and the powerful Los Angeles teachers union has fought such efforts tooth and nail. Perhaps paying for private school or private after-school tutoring? Such costly alternatives aren't an option even for many middle-class families, saddled with debt and job uncertainty.

There's really only one effective way to ensure that parents can use the information contained in public-school report cards to improve their children's education immediately. That's by giving them school-choice options such as the universal voucher system Sweden instituted in the early 1990s. While the Swedish banking plan has been cited as a possible way to solve our own banking crisis, the Swedes actually offer a better example for education reform. Under the Swedish voucher system, government funding follows the child, which allows parents of all income levels to choose between local municipal schools and private independent schools. Prior to the enactment of the voucher system Sweden had very few private schools but now about one- third of students in Stockholm attends private school.

Research shows that the Swedish private schools perform at a higher level than the public schools, but that the competition resulting from the program has raised public-school performance. Most important, the voucher program gives parents a ticket to exit public schools that are not meeting the needs of their children.

Per Unckel, current governor of Stockholm and minister of education when the Swedish school-choice law was implemented, says that all parents have the inherent right to send their children to the school of their choice. Parents, he emphasized, should be given choice options immediately, without having to wait for government-run schools to take years to improve, because every year in a failing school is a year wasted in a child's life.

In the end, better information in school report cards will only help parents if they are given the tools to make better education choices for their children. Improved information without choice creates frustration, while improved information with choice creates satisfaction. It's time for policymakers to stop worrying about satisfying the education special interests and start giving real satisfaction to parents and their children.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

The race-obsessed University of California

There is a movement afoot to have the University of California’s Board of Regents vote on February 4 to get rid of the SAT II as part of UC’s admissions process. The reason, predictably, is to change the racial makeup of the student body currently being admitted.

And here’s an interesting twist: While designed to increase the number of blacks, getting rid of the SAT II will apparently hurt not only whites but also Asians and Hispanics. State assemblyman Van Tran recently wrote that the proposed move “could diminish opportunities for tens of thousands of UC applicants from minority, immigrant, and disadvantaged families.” Former U.S. Representative Doug Ose agreed, in this op-ed for The Berkeley Daily Planet.

Actually, this twist is maybe not so interesting; it’s becoming old hat. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) recently proposed reinstating racial preferences in its federal highway contracting. And it proposed that, from now on, these preferences would include blacks and exclude not only whites but also Hispanics and some Asians. And if you don’t get a preference when others do, of course, then the fact of the matter is that you are discriminated against.

Tension between blacks and Hispanics in California is not news either. A few years ago, California lawyer Nicolas C. Vaca wrote The Presumed Alliance, the subtitle of which was “The Unspoken Conflict between Latinos and Blacks and What It Means for America.” More recently, New America Media published a survey that highlighted the extent to which there are tensions between Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans.

These inter-minority tensions are not exactly inspiring, but they do point to an obvious solution, which is: As America becomes an increasingly multiracial and multiethnic society, a legal regime that sorts people according to skin color and what country their ancestors came from becomes increasingly untenable. Accordingly, we must embrace without further delay the colorblind ideal rather than a divisive racial spoils system. As a prerequisite to mutual respect, everyone must know that everyone else is being judged by the same standard, without discrimination. And make no mistake about it: Getting rid of selection criteria (like the SAT II) because they don’t give you the racial numbers you want is a form of discrimination.

Suppose the shoe were on the other foot, and the Regents were being urged by whites to stop using a test that was resulting in “too many” blacks being admitted. One hopes that the Regents would simply tell this crowd to get lost.

And, indeed, there is precedent for rejecting such schemes as illegal. The Supreme Court long ago ruled that the infamous “grandfather clauses”—which superficially might appear neutral but were deliberately designed to help whites register to vote at the expense of blacks—were unconstitutional.

The inconvenient truth is that students in some groups (like Asians) are reaching the age of 18 with, on average, better academic credentials than those of students in other groups (like blacks). The reason for this is not that the tests are unfair. Rather, the main reason is that more than 7 in 10 blacks are now born out of wedlock, versus fewer than 2 out of 10 Asians and Pacific Islanders.

As the Educational Testing Service has warned (in a study published in fall 2007, quoting from “the most recent and large-scale synthesis of research on single-parent families in the United States”): “Studies demonstrate quite conclusively that children who live in single-mother families score lower on measures of academic achievement than those in two-parent families.”

Since the tests are perfectly valid, what is unfair—to those who have worked hard and therefore do well on them—is to throw them out because “too many” students of one color have scored high. Harvard, Stanford, and other top schools recognize the value of the SAT II. Harvard’s dean of admissions recently announced that the university’s own internal studies have proven the efficacy of the test in predicting academic success, noting it is a better predictor than high school grades, for instance. Prof. Keith Widaman, who heads UC Davis’s faculty committee on admissions, likewise defended the SAT II in this recent Sacramento Bee article.

Accordingly, the University of California’s Board of Regents must refuse to jerry-rig the undergraduate admissions system to ensure a predetermined, politically correct racial and ethnic mix. Instead, educators ought to figure out what criteria will select students with the most willingness and the greatest ability to do the school’s academic work, and then apply those criteria to all students, without regard to race or ethnicity—and let the chips fall where they may.What’s wrong with that?


Illegitimacy and the Black-White Test-Score Gap

Just about nobody in public life is game to admit the amply documented fact that blacks have ON AVERAGE much lower IQs than whites and Asians. And because it really does measure broad intelligence, IQ is the most powerful predictor of educational success. So people are always trying to find some other explanation for the extraordinary poor performance of blacks in education. The article immediately above nominates the fact that most blacks are born out of wedlock. The post below punctures that polite little fiction

I agree that illegitimacy can affect other areas of life, and almost certainly, if we could restore the black illegitimacy rate to what it was before the welfare state, the black-white gap in academic performance would close some.

However, I don't share your confidence (expressed both here and on the Corner) that closing the illegitimacy-rate gap, in and of itself, will somehow catapult blacks to near-equality academically. This implies that between blacks and whites, differences in illegitimacy explain nearly 100 percent of differences in test scores.

One way to test this idea is to see if the black-white score gap moves in tandem with the black-white illegitimacy gap. On the contrary, illegitimacy rose pretty much continuously between 1940 and the turn of the century, with black illegitimacy always rising faster than white illegitimacy—while the black-white test-score gap either improved or didn't move (depending upon whom you ask).

This situation, in which increased illegitimacy corresponds to steady or even improving test scores, would seem to suggest that other factors are having a large impact on the gap.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

UK: Former Soldiers Guarding Jewish Schools

(London, England) In the wake of the Gaza skirmish, Jewish schools throughout Britain have hired former elite soldiers to guard against Islamic extremists.
Classrooms are being swept for bombs and visitors searched for weapons after Hamas said Jewish children are legitimate targets.

A staff member at North West London Jewish Day School said the premises now resembles a military barracks. He added: "Many of the security staff served in armies in specialist units."

Phaivish Pink, head at Manchester Jewish Grammar School, said: "Like most other schools we've taken steps to ensure pupils, staff and visitors are safe."
Although I haven't seen any reports, it's logical to assume that Islamic schools have hired additional security to guard against Jewish extremists -- uh, or maybe not.
Arkansas parents challenge racist law

Why should kids be kept in underperforming schools just because they are white?

Four rural, mostly white school districts in Hot Spring County are being asked to defend the race restrictions in a school transfer law that they'd rather see changed. A group of white parents has sued the districts over the School Choice Act, which forbids the four schools from accepting white students from the racially diverse Malvern district which they're supposed to attend. So when the Ouachita, Glen Rose, Magnet Cove and Bismarck districts were named in the federal lawsuit, they offered no defense of the 1989 law. With that, they've sided with those who favor more choice in selecting schools and against many racially diverse school systems in urban areas where administrators fear white students will flee if the race provisions are removed.

The divide between various school systems presents a challenge for lawmakers who plan to reconsider the law this session while the parents continue their fight in U.S. District Court in Hot Springs. On one side, with higher percentages of white students, are the many rural and suburban schools who want to open their doors to anyone who wants to transfer. On the other side, with higher percentages of black students, are more urban schools such as Hope, Jonesboro, El Dorado, Camden-Fairview and Hot Springs, where administrators say they fear "white flight." "It's hard to please everybody," said Rep. Bill Abernathy, D-Mena, who leads the House Education Committee. "It's going to be difficult to find middle ground."

Parents of at least 50 white students in Hot Spring County have sued the Ouachita, Glen Rose, Magnet Cove and Bismarck districts along with the state Board of Education and the Malvern School District, claiming the transfer law violates their civil rights. The parents live within the boundaries of Malvern schools, where roughly one-third of the student body is black, but they want their children to attend the other schools, where the number of white students exceeds 90 percent. The school choice law bans transfers that "adversely affect the desegregation of either district," and it outlines specific formulas to be used in calculating the racial balance.

The lawsuit points to a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that restricted race-based enrollment decisions. But there is no consensus among education attorneys in Arkansas on whether the ruling means Arkansas' law is constitutional. The state attorney general's office plans to defend the law in the Malvern case, which is scheduled for a Nov. 30 trial. Still, lawmakers say they intend to propose changes. "This is the biggest policy issue, in my opinion, that this state faces this session," said Tom Kimbrell, executive director of a state association that represents school administrators.

When lawmakers passed the choice act, they intended to increase competition among schools by freeing parents, to some extent, to pick schools, regardless of where they live. In the past few years, fewer than 1 percent of students across the state have transferred out of their home districts under the law, according to the Arkansas Department of Education. This school year, 2,718 of the state's 465,801 students took advantage of the law. There is no way to know how many more would transfer if the race restrictions were removed, and the Department of Education is not studying the matter, a spokesman said.

But Allen Roberts, an attorney for several school districts including El Dorado and Camden Fairview in south Arkansas, says he's convinced that large numbers of white students would leave the more urban schools. "If students were permitted to go to school wherever they wanted to, at school districts in south and east Arkansas, that would result in total segregation to the education system in that area," he said.

Superintendents at districts that stand to gain more students under loosened rules, however, say race should not be a factor in enrollment decisions. "The playing field is not level right now," said Nathan Gills, superintendent of the Glen Rose School District, where the student body is about 98 percent white. The Glen Rose School Board in Hot Spring County even passed a resolution stating their view that the race provisions in the act are unconstitutional. And when Glen Rose and the other area schools were forced to respond to the federal lawsuit that originally named just Malvern, their attorney simply offered that the districts "admit that the race-based provision of the school choice statute is unconstitutional at this time."

In St. Francis County, one district made a bold move this school year to buck the state transfer law and turn a blind eye to the color of the skin of the students seeking transfer. The Palestine-Wheatley School District in the Delta can't accept more white students from its nearby districts, under the choice act. Its student body is about one-third black, compared with the two other districts in the county where the student bodies are nearly 80 percent black. But Superintendent Donny Collins said he thinks the act is unconstitutional, so he took a risk and accepted both black and white student transfers. Enrollment climbed a couple of dozen students to 626, he said. "You just can't base something on race," Collins said.

More here

New British diplomas not suitable for bright pupils, say teachers

More crap education for kids stuck in British government schools

Teachers do not rate the Government's new diploma as suitable for bright teenagers or those wanting to go to university, according to research published today. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, appears to be failing to win round his own workforce in promoting the qualification for 14 to 19-year-olds. Mr Balls has said that the diploma, which is supposed to bridge the academic and vocational divide, could become the qualification of choice, eventually replacing A levels. Teachers, however, do not appear to share his enthusiasm. A survey of 1,300 teachers found that under a quarter thought the diploma was suitable for academically able pupils. Just a fifth believed that students destined for university should bother taking a diploma; A levels were still seen by most teachers as appropriate for clever pupils and for those wanting to progress to university.

The results of the survey are a blow for the Government, which has pushed hard to convince parents, universities and employers of the diploma's worth. The qualification was designed to break down what ministers have called the pernicious divide between theoretical and practical education.

Some universities have agreed to accept the engineering diploma, but Oxford and Cambridge also want students to take A-level physics as a condition of entry to its engineering degree course. Other diploma subjects include construction, hair and beauty, information technology, and travel and tourism. Five diplomas are currently on offer, with plans for an eventual 17. Three announced most recently appear more academic than their predecessors, covering science, languages and humanities, but these will not be available until 2011. Only 12,000 teenagers began taking diplomas last September, a quarter of the Government's original estimate.

The poll, conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research and released by the Sutton Trust, an educational charity, found that three quarters of teachers thought the diploma was for schools in poorer areas. Only three in ten believed it was suitable for independent schools. More than four fifths saw the qualification as being for those who wanted to pursue a vocational route.

James Turner, director of policy at the Sutton Trust, said: "At a time when diplomas are being heavily promoted to schools and students, it is worrying that the perception among teachers - who should be best informed - is that these are not for bright young people with university ambitions. This reflects a wider confusion about the role and currency of the different qualifications available in schools and colleges. "There is a real danger of a divide emerging between those pupils in independent and top state schools who are set on an academic path, leading to places in selective universities, and students from non-privileged backgrounds who have those opportunities closed to them."

Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, said the survey showed that young people needed better guidance. Diana Warwick, its chief executive, said: "This is a new qualification, so inevitably there will be a learning curve for everyone involved. But we are concerned that there is a perception among the teachers surveyed that the diplomas are not appropriate qualifications for students aiming to go on to university. "Diplomas provide a new route to higher education and enable wider accessibility for students to develop the skills that best meet their aspirations."

Professor Michael Arthur, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds and a member of the Government's advisory group on diplomas, said: "The results of this survey show that we have to work harder on providing high quality information and training to those that are giving our 14 to 16-year-olds advice and guidance about their future studies."


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

British schoolgirls banned from lessons by headmaster for being 'too blonde'

What smallmindedness!

A headteacher has come under fire from parents and pupils after banning two 16-year-olds from school for being 'too blonde'. Raegan Booth, 16, and Aby Western, 15, say they were threatened with expulsion by David Alexander unless they dyed their hair brown. The girls claim they are being forced to adhere to the strict dress code of Rednock School in Dursley, Gloucestershire, in order to sit GCSE exams. But Raegan remains adamant that her hair is a natural shade of blonde. She said:'The school rules clearly state that there are to be no "unnatural" hair colours on students. 'Unnatural hair colours are blue, purple, green and bright red. Blonde is considered a natural hair colour and there are many different shades.

'The head claims that he must follow the rules. To me this suggests that certain students are being made to look a way which is against their will. 'I believe this is wrong and no amount of hair dye affects a person's ability in school.' The teenager, who is refusing to dye her hair a darker shade, added: 'As we are in the middle of our GCSE year, we should not be excluded over something so petty. 'This is a crucial time for us and we should be focusing solely on our grades as opposed to our level of appearance.'

Martin Booth, Raegan's father said: 'Raegan is a model pupil and is working very hard towards her exams. 'She is always well turned out, her hair looks a very natural blonde. 'This is their final year, they are under enough pressure with GCSEs, they do not need to be worrying about their hair.'

Mr Alexander, who is due to meet with Raegan, denies the claims. He said that the girls were sent home only to dye their hair, and that they would still have been allowed to sit their GCSE exams. He said: 'We would not stop any student from sitting their GCSEs, it is in our interests that every student sits their GCSEs at the school. 'We are just trying to be consistent and apply the rules across the board. This code of conduct has been in place for a long time. 'However I am going to be meeting with parents to talk about looking again at the code and making it more clear. 'I think the problem is how you interpret the rules and we need to make it clearer for the students and parents. 'I accept this is a stressful time for the GCSE students, but we have to be consistent with our rules and must apply it to all year groups, otherwise it would be unfair.'


Dumbed down education hits home in Australia

POOR spelling and grammar, verbose resumes and applications that include too many personal details are killing the chance of job seekers finding work. Recruiters and those who help applicants prepare CVs and resumes say they are astounded by some of the obvious mistakes that job applicants make. "The world of texting and emails has lowered people's standards of English," Jeanette Hannan of Brisbane firm Resumes for Results said. "I receive emails with text message jargon. I straight away dismiss them."

Some applicants put too many details about their private lives, and wrote resumes that were 20 to 30 pages long. "They will put in that they are married, how many children they have, even the dog's name," Ms Hannan said. One woman even detailed her husband's and father's job qualifications.

Ms Hannan said job seekers often failed to sell their achievements, such as boosting sales achieved in a previous job. Kevin Alexander, practice leader with recruitment firm Hudson, said many people forgot the importance of the resume document. "It is the document that the candidate will be initially judged against, and therefore it is vital to get right," he said. While candidates could get away with a few lapses in their resume in the past, as the job market intensified this year employers would look for those who stood out, Mr Alexander said. Many people with great resumes fell at the interview hurdle and job applicants needed to be prepared for several interviews, he said.

Recruiter Glenda Stenner said the internet had made it too easy for people to apply for jobs, and as a result some applied for too many positions, including those for which they were not qualified. She has seen bad spelling mistakes, particularly in resumes of people applying for administrative positions.

Ms Stenner said employers and recruiters were being inundated with applications, and resumes and cover letters needed to have enough impact to get the job seeker on to the shortlist. "It should be just the facts," Ms Stenner said. One employer said he sometimes had to scroll down five pages of information before he found out where an applicant had worked. Ms Stenner said some applicants failed to tailor cover letters to the position, and were sending the same cover letter over and over, with the same mistakes.

Deborah Barit of Impressive Interviews said many applicants did not explain what they did and tried to give employers too much information they were not interested in.


Monday, January 26, 2009

British A-levels 'destroyed' by Government interference

A leading independent school is axing A-levels amid claims the exam has been "destroyed by Government interference".

Charterhouse is introducing two new qualifications to replace traditional courses following fears they fail to prepare students for university. The Rev John Witheridge, the headmaster, said schools had been left with a "dumbed down exam" as the Government aims to to increase the number of students gaining top grades as part of a drive to get more school-leavers into university.

Last September, sixth-formers at the school started Cambridge University's new Pre-U qualification - developed as a tough alternative to A-levels. The school is believed to be doing more Pre-U subjects than most other state or fee-paying schools. Now Charterhouse in Godalming, Surrey, has also announced it will offer the International Baccalaureate - the Swiss-based course set up for academic all-rounders - by September 2011.

It comes as the school prepares to stage a conference next week on the future shape of sixth-form education. Mr Witheridge said: "Government interference has destroyed the A-level as an exam for bright sixth-formers. They have reduced the overall level in order to increase the school-leavers passing the exam and going on to university. We are quite certain that the A-level has had its day."

Fifteen state schools and 35 from the private sector offered the Pre-U for the first time in September. Another 100 schools have confirmed they will run the courses in the next three years. It is seen as a return to traditional A-level study before the course was divided into six modules that students can re-sit multiple times to inflate their marks. Pupils take Pre-U exams at the end of the two-year course and answer mainly essay-based questions.

Ministers introduced reforms to A-levels last September, cutting the number of modules and introducing an elite A* to pick out the brightest. But Mr Witheridge said: "We felt that was a minimal change and we were still left with a dumbed down exam."

The school will join names such as North London Collegiate School, Sevenoaks, King's College School and Cheltenham Ladies' College in offering the IB. King Edward's School in Surrey has announced it will offer the IB exclusively from 2010 after running it alongside A-levels for the last four years, while Wellington College is proposing an IB qualification for under-16s. As part of the course, students study six subjects - three at higher and three at a standard level. They also complete a 4,000-word essay, a theory of knowledge module, extracurricular activities and community service.

"Almost every subject department here does the Pre-U and we want to offer the IB as well by 2011," said Mr Witheridge. "We think the Pre-U will be attractive for those students who want to specialist in particular areas, while most generalists among our sixth-form will go for the IB. It means all our students will be able to follow qualifications that are valued by universities, free of Government interference."


Australia: Teachers getting fed up with chaotic schools

MORE than 530 graduate teachers will begin work in State Government schools this week, but twice as many teachers resign every year. There has been a 17 per cent jump in primary and secondary teacher resignations since 2003, according to the latest State Government figures obtained by the Opposition.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said there would be a shortage of teachers in specialist subjects in government secondary schools this year. Mr Ryan said maths, science and manual arts would be hit hardest. "Enrolments are increasing and the number of teachers also needs to increase," Mr Ryan said. The Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the Beattie and Bligh governments had taken teachers for granted.

ABOUT 5 per cent of state school classes have too many children. That figure has remained constant for the past three years, despite regular complaints of overcrowding. Education Queensland and the Queensland Teachers Union have agreed on target class sizes for 2009: Prep to Year 3, 25; Years 4 to 10, 28; and Years 11 and 12, 25. "Queensland state school students spend the vast majority of their time in classes under the target sizes," a department spokesman said.

Almost 500,000 students will enrol at state primary, secondary and special schools in 2009. Just under half that number will enrol at private schools. Staffing at the 1250 state schools will be based on rolls on the eighth day of the school year - Thursday, February 5, - the official census day.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

How hysterical mothers have driven men out of teaching in Britain

As endangered species go, this one is especially alarming: so rare has the male primary school teacher become that one in ten schools has none at all, while across the country they account for barely 15 per cent of those who teach under-11s. At a time when unprecedented numbers of children live with single mothers, this means that more and more of them have little or no contact with any male role model at all. So parents have decided, as a survey this week shows, that they aren't happy about it. They think, correctly, that it is good for children to have a man to look up to; that many pupils, especially boys, behave better with a man in charge. They think that their children are being shortchanged by the imbalance.

I agree. But I also think that too many of these 'concerned parents' have only themselves to blame. There are two reasons given to explain the slump in male teacher recruitment. The first is that men tend to view the profession as 'women's work'. But if that were true, then why are nearly half of all secondary school teachers men? Nor does it explain why, given the far more rigidly sex-divided jobs of my youth, most of my primary school teachers were men.

So let's hazard a guess at what has changed since then. My old teachers were free to enjoy their jobs because they were exempt from the second, and more truthful, of the reasons given by the Children's Workforce Development Council (which commissioned the survey) for the decline in numbers. It is that these days, men are scared of teaching young children because they are scared of false allegations of child abuse. And if you want to know who is largely responsible for creating an atmosphere in which such a fear is all too horribly realistic, look no further than the twittering bunch of over-protective, over-excitable mothers clustered around our school gates.

These are the people who have bought, wholesale, into the myth of the sexually predatory bogeyman on every corner; the people who have, in a single generation, swept us from the sensible 'don't take sweets from strangers' to the absurd 'all men are paedophiles'. These are the people who breathe the fire of the name-and-shame campaigns of the scurrilous end of the Press; the people who have propelled sensational memoir after memoir of child sex abuse to the top of the bestseller charts. These are the people who declare such abuse to be appalling, but who slavishly follow the titillating thrill of 'kiddie-fiddler' storylines in soaps or films - the same soaps and films that their children also watch.

And that, of course, is the point: observant, clever and calculating as most children can be, they note the drama that thrills Mummy so very much and, sometimes, they spot their chance of a leading role in it. Robbed as they have been of their innocence, familiar with concepts and even words that most of us would not have known at their age, they join in. This is not mere speculation on my part. I have personally known a false allegation to have happened and seen the desperately unfair consequences of it.

Let us call him Roger, this committed and dedicated teacher at an inner-city school. He was impeccably behaved and adored by pupils, staff and the head, who is a close friend of mine. So she was utterly taken aback when an eight-year-old, known already to be disturbed, complained that Roger had touched him 'inappropriately'. But no matter the head's disbelief, rules are rules and, no doubt, rightly so. So Roger was suspended and sent home with his future hanging in the balance until the necessary inquiry could be arranged. In the event, there was not only a lack of proof of his guilt, there was incontrovertible proof of his innocence, as he had never been alone with the child in question.

Back at school, however, this was not enough for the twitterers at the gates. There was much over-excitable chit-chat concerning 'no smoke without fire' - chit-chat picked up by the children until, just a few months later, it happened to him again. Another allegation, another suspension, another inquiry, another total exoneration. But this time, with Roger and his wife racing each other towards mental breakdown, he left teaching: everyone, but everyone, was a loser.

There was an 'abuse counsellor' whom I once interviewed whose immovable principle was that children never lie about such things. That is rot. They do lie. And the question is not why they do, but why shouldn't they? It's a he-said/she-said game. They think they stand a chance of winning it, they get to be the centre of attention, wielding a power unusual (and unhealthy) for a child, and fully aware that if they get caught out in the lie they won't even be punished for it. They know what rattles Mummy's cage so, not surprisingly, they rattle it.

If Mummy really wanted to do her child a favour, she would forego the thrills and spills of paedophile hysteria, complete with its marches, banners, petitions and idiots, and opt for a more rational assessment of the relationship between children and male adults. First, she might look closer to home. When the NSPCC reported this week that the police estimate some 50 allegations a day of sexual abuse against children, they meant, overwhelmingly, abuse at the hands of family or of parents' friends. Mummy should be rather more vigilant about the new boyfriend she allows into her home than she need ever be about a stranger, let alone a professional one. She might also like to monitor far more closely the menace of the internet and its 'grooming' chat rooms in which the real monsters lurk.

But as for the fear of a male primary school teacher turning out to be one of them, she can forget it: so rigorous are today's checks upon teachers that a Home Office spokesman boasts of 'the most comprehensive vetting service anywhere in the world'. In short, the chance of a predator sneaking through is up there with camels and eyes of needles.

We need more male primary school teachers for all our children. For boys, they provide a glimpse of potential for their own futures: a reason to work hard, to play fair, to demand respect from the world around them. It matters, too, for girls. If the first proper contact a girl has with men is as a teenager, when her hormones are raging, the consequences of her lack of experience of them are already too obvious.

But if, back in their formative years, Mummy's fevered and irrational obsession with paedophilia leads her to say - and, believe me, I've heard it said - that there must be 'something funny' about men who want to work with small children, their numbers will continue to fall until there are none left at all. If she cannot look at a teacher like Roger without suspicion, she may think she's only doing her best to keep her precious babies safe. In fact, she might be paying a price they can't afford.


CT: Court backs school’s punishment of student for off-site writing

This is very dubious. What right has a school got to penalize what people do at home?

Burlington school officials acted within their rights to discipline a student for an Internet posting she wrote off school grounds, a federal judge has ruled. US District Court Judge Mark Kravitz rejected Avery Doninger's claim that administrators at Lewis B. Mills High School violated her rights of free speech and equal protection. She also alleged they inflicted emotional distress when they barred her from serving as class secretary because of the 2007 posting, which criticized the administrators for canceling a popular school activity.

Kravitz's ruling relied partly on the ambiguity over whether schools can regulate students' expression on the Internet. He noted in his ruling that times have changed since 1979, when a landmark student speech case set boundaries for schools regulating off-campus speech. Now, he wrote, students can send e-mails to hundreds of classmates at a time or post entries that can be read instantly by students, teachers, and administrators. "Off-campus speech can become on-campus speech with the click of a mouse," Kravitz wrote.

Kravitz cited previous rulings in his decision that school administrators were entitled to qualified immunity. That shields public officials from lawsuits for damages unless they violate clearly established rights that a reasonable official would have known. The officials could not reasonably be expected "to predict where the line between on- and off-campus speech will be drawn in this new digital era," he wrote.

Kravitz's ruling let Doninger's claim stand that her right to free speech was "chilled" when an administrator prohibited students from wearing T-shirts that read "Team Avery" to a student council election assembly. That matter can proceed to trial.

Doninger's attorney, Jon Schoenhorn, plans to appeal the rest of the ruling and said the case may ultimately have to be decided by the US Supreme Court. "We are not backing down," he said.

Thomas R. Gerarde, attorney for Regional School District 10, likened the case to "taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning" and pointed out that every ruling has favored the district so far. "The school district is pleased to have won another decided victory in this seemingly never-ending saga," Gerarde said.

The case stemmed from a 2007 dispute over comments that Doninger, then the junior class secretary, made about administrators in her blog after they canceled a popular event she helped plan. The event was later rescheduled. Administrators prohibited Doninger from seeking reelection as class secretary, but she refused to withdraw her candidacy and won as a write-in candidate. The school then barred her from serving in the post. Doninger, who graduated in 2008, now works for AmeriCorps in an impoverished school in Denver.