Friday, October 14, 2016

British State teachers refuse to push poor, bright pupils to apply for Oxbridge because they believe they 'won't be happy there'

And that's not unreasonable.  The British class system is vicious and students from poor backgrounds will be likely to feel excluded by students from elite backgrounds who dominate the social scene

State school teachers refuse to encourage bright, disadvantaged pupils to apply to Oxford and Cambridge because they assume most ‘won’t be happy there’.

Four in ten teachers said they would rarely or never advise their cleverest children to apply – despite the opportunities this could offer the students, a study found.

Of those admitting they did not encourage pupils, 19 per cent said it was because they felt the children were unlikely to get in and 13 per cent said they didn’t think they would be happy there.

The findings come amid a Government drive to increase the number of students from deprived backgrounds going to top universities.

In previous years, both Oxford and Cambridge have faced criticism for not doing enough to encourage children from state schools and disadvantaged backgrounds to apply for courses. Theresa May has highlighted the injustice of white working-class boys being the least likely group to attend university.

The Government hopes to reintroduce grammar schools to the poorest areas in the country to help more disadvantaged bright children get into Oxbridge.

Yesterday, experts said the findings showed many teachers in the comprehensive system were failing to help bright students fulfil their potential.

The study of 1,607 primary and secondary school teachers was carried out by the Sutton Trust, a charity providing educational opportunities for children from under-privileged backgrounds.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: ‘Many state school teachers don’t see Oxbridge as a realistic goal for their brightest pupils. It is vital that the universities step up their outreach activities to address teachers’ and students’ misconceptions.’

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘Lots of teachers, it seems, are actively damaging the future prospects of the children they teach.

‘If the Government seeks an extra argument in favour of grammar schools for helping raise the attainment and expectation of children from deprived backgrounds, this research finding provides it.’

The news comes ahead of the deadline this Saturday for applying to Oxford and Cambridge.

Just one-fifth of the polled teachers said they always advised their bright pupils to apply and a quarter said they usually did.

Researchers also found teachers’ common misconceptions extended to the proportion of state school students at Oxford and Cambridge. Just over a fifth thought less than 20 per cent of students came from the state sector when the actual figure is about 60 per cent.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at the University of Buckingham, said: ‘It is shameful that these teachers cut across the chances of bright, poor pupils by assuming they would not be happy there.’


China cracks down on Muslims

China has banned parents and guardians in its heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang from encouraging their children into religious activities.

The government unveiled new education rules on October 12 meaning that those who encourage or force their children into religious activities will be reported to the police.

Previous rules have already banned beards for men and head coverings for women in a province that is home to over ten million Muslims.

China claims that the legal, cultural and religious rights of Muslims in Xinjiang are fully protected.

However many Muslim Uigur people resent increasing restrictions on their culture and religion and complain they are denied economic opportunities amid an influx of Han Chinese into the province.

The new education rules come into effect on November 1 and forbid parents and guardians from forcing minors to attend religious activities, reports Xinjiang Daily.

The rules also ban religious activities in schools and state that if parents cannot guide their children away from harmful extremist ways then they can apply to have their children sent to specialist schools to receive 'rectification'.

The government has called for people to report the banned activities to the police.

In recent years, hundreds of people have died in unrest blamed by the Chinese government on Islamist militants. 

Previous rules in the province ban men from growing beards and women from wearing a veil.

In April 2014, the Global Times reported that officials in Xinjiang offered rewards of up to 50,000 yuan (£6,066) for those who tipped police off with information on separatist activities which included growing facial hair.

While in 2015, Radio Free Asia reported that Uygur imams in Kashgar were forced to tell children that prayer was harmful for the soul and to declare that 'our income comes from the Chinese Communist Party, not from Allah.' 


UK: Islamist girls' school which taught that gay people could be killed and men could beat women faces closure two years after pupil exposed its sharia-style regime

An Islamist girls' boarding school which taught that men could beat women and that gay men could be killed faces closure after a student whistleblower exposed its worrying practices.

Aliyah Saleem was expelled in front of the entire school in 2011 just for owning a disposable camera. Following her expulsion Ms Saleem spoke out about her treatment at Jamia Al Hudaa girls’ school in Nottingham, saying she was not taught geography, history, art or music.

Instead, she was taught that death sentence could be given to gay men; that Jews and Christians make Allah angry; and that men should be allowed to beat their wives.

Despite reporting the school's inadequacies to both Ofsted and doing an expose interview in a national newspaper, it is only now that the school finally faces closure.

Parents have now been told to pick up their daughters from the school on October 18 after an Ofsted inspection in April found that there were 'inadequacies' in safeguarding pupils, including insufficiently trained staff and bullying, and ordered the school close its residential operations.

The Times reports that since 85 per cent of pupils board at the school, this means it will effectively have to close.

The inspection also found that the school does not promote balanced views or British values, and pupils can access ‘books that have been written by controversial authors, for example by one who is not allowed to enter this country’.

An Ofsted spokesman said the balance of the curriculum was one of several areas that were assessed.

A school spokesman said: ‘The school takes all points relating to safeguarding as serious … and has policies and extensive risk assessments in place to promote British values.’

She claimed inspectors ‘did not show clarity of understanding and displayed lack of basic knowledge in regards to which books posed a risk … The school feels this is a very unfair judgment.’

Ms Saleem said until she left the school she ‘didn’t know about World War One or World War Two’. ‘The worst thing about the school was the national curriculum, it was restricted in every way possible,’ she told the Daily Mail last week.

‘We were taught English and science but we were not taught about evolution or sex education. I had to teach myself evolution at 20.’

Miss Saleem, now in her twenties, was at the school from 2006 to 2011. She was ‘publicly expelled in front of the entire school’ for owning a disposable camera, which was thought to be a sign of ‘narcissism’.

She wrote on her blog: ‘No regulatory body or authority ever found out about it and nobody ever confronted it, even though it caused me great humiliation and shame.’ The ex-pupil said she was pleased the school was judged ‘inadequate’ in 2015, having previously got good ratings.

Inspectors noted ‘disproportionate’ punishments, such as £20 fines for chewing gum and fixed-term expulsions for having a mobile phone.

But Miss Saleem thinks Ofsted did not go far enough. She said that in this inspection ‘very little was said’ on how ‘restrictive’ the curriculum is.

‘It is obvious that for too long the Government has stood by and ignored the utterly appalling imposition of conservative religious ideologies on British school children,’ she said.

Miss Saleem, who campaigns about the dangers of religious education, added: ‘Just because independent schools are funded by parents and charities, it’s not that those children do not matter.’


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Greek parents padlock school against refugee children as education plan gets underway

Greek parents padlocked the gates of a school on Tuesday in protest against a controversial plan to allow refugee children access to education.

The parents waved Greek flags outside the school in the village of Profitis, about 15 miles east of the northern city of Thessaloniki, with some saying they were concerned that the refugee children had not been vaccinated against infectious diseases.

For the second consecutive day, many of them kept their children at home, saying they want local authorities to address their concerns before they will end their boycott.

It was the most extreme protest against a plan being implemented by the Left-wing government of Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, to give schooling to thousands of refugee children who have been left trapped in Greece since the Balkan migration route to northern Europe was blocked earlier this year.

Most of the 60,000 refugees and other migrants stranded in Greece are living in "appalling conditions" and face "immense and avoidable suffering," Amnesty International said in a recent report.

Greek parents have denied that they are racist, claiming that instead they are concerned over health issues.

They also say that many state schools are already overcrowded and under-resourced. But in some parts of the country their worries have been stoked by far-Right extremists, who are staunchly opposed to the education plan.

Around 60,000 asylum-seekers, many of them Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, are stuck in Greece after its northern neighbours, including Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary, closed their borders in the spring.

On Monday, on the first day of the school initiative, around 100 police officers formed a corridor to enable about 40 refugee children to enter the school in Profitis.  "We are told these children have been vaccinated, but we don't believe them," one parent told the AFP news agency.

In other towns and villages in Greece, refugee children received a warm welcome from Greek parents and teachers. "These children fled war, fled hell," said Yiannis Boutaris, the mayor of Thessaloniki, who brought sweets for the new arrivals when they turned up at a school in the city. "Soon they will learn Greek, you will be able to play together," he said.

The Greek government wants more than 10,000 refugee children to be able to go to school while their families wait for their asylum applications to be considered. About 500 children attended classes in 20 schools across the country on Monday, the first day of the programme.

Thousands more are expected to join the scheme in the coming weeks. They will attend special afternoon classes where they will be taught in Greek and in either English or their own language.  The long-term plan is to merge them into mainstream classes, once they have learned enough Greek.


Bilingual education battle revived in Proposition 58

When Palo Alto software entrepreneur Ron Unz led a campaign to ban bilingual education 18 years ago, California erupted in an acrimonious debate that drew national attention, with proponents expressing fears about the decline of English and opponents charging racism and predicting an educational Armageddon.

But today, in a sign of the Golden State’s dramatically changing demographics and politics, the campaign to roll back the “English-only” Proposition 227 seems low-key and uncontroversial, overshadowed by a bevy of hot-button ballot initiatives and the emotionally charged presidential race.

Through Proposition 58 on the November ballot, bilingual education proponents seek to permit public schools to teach in languages other than English, without securing explicit parental permission, as is now required.

A recent Field-IGS Poll showed that Californians overwhelmingly support the measure. But when they find out what the ballot language omits — that it would reinstate bilingual education — that support turns to opposition.

The proposition’s author, state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, says the measure will help prepare students for jobs in a globalized economy. “We already have a natural reserve of children speaking other languages,” he said. “Why not help promote learning their native language?”

Lara insists he doesn’t advocate returning to the pre-Proposition 227 days, when many immigrant children were taught for years in Spanish, often without their parents’ permission or knowledge, and went on to struggle in English.

“All kids should learn English,” Lara said. “What we’re questioning is the method we use to get there.”

Proposition 58’s opponents, however, argue that English-teaching shouldn’t be delayed, and they emphasize what’s commonly observed: The younger the children, the easier and faster they learn English. And, the opponents say, parents have the right to know if their kids are placed in a class taught in a foreign language.

If Proposition 58 passes, “we are going back to a system that will ghettoize children,” said Kenneth Noonan, a retired Gilroy and San Diego schools superintendent and former bilingual education leader who now sees its failings. “It’s just not right.”

After eliminating bilingual education in his Oceanside school district, Noonan said, reading scores of second-grade English-learners grew 100 percent.

Bilingual education already has crept back into California schools because of legal provisions that allow parents to sign waivers to place a child in non-English classes. San Jose Unified School District offers bilingual classes in 14 elementary and middle schools, Mount Diablo Unified in six schools. In particular, programs that immerse children in a foreign language from kindergarten have become popular among parents of English-speaking children.

Proposition 58 could have a significant effect on the 22 percent of California’s 6.2 million students in public schools who are learning English as a second language.

Many parents see the measure as a way to make it easier to start teaching their children in their native language because schools won’t have to get signed permission to do so. “Our children will begin learning academic concepts without losing months” in English-only classes in which they hardly understand a word, said Jacqueline Garcia, a mother of three children at McKinley School in San Jose. And, she added, children learning in their first language can get help from parents who don’t speak English. “It’s always better when parents can be involved in their children’s studies,” she said.

Proponents also say it will promote bilingualism – which they say is becoming increasingly vital in business. “It’s a good idea, absolutely,” said Frank Guerrero, father of a fourth-grader in a Spanish-immersion class at San Jose’s Willow Glen Elementary. He, his wife and son are all bilingual.

Teachers unions, the state school boards association, the state PTA, Gov. Jerry Brown and a slew of Democratic politicians all back Proposition 58. Proponents have raised about $1.9 million, much of it coming from the California Teachers Association and other unions.

That has left Unz, who spearheaded Proposition 227, waging a lonely campaign to protect the status quo. The Republican and Libertarian parties have signed on but aren’t contributing any financial support. Unz hasn’t reported raising any money for a campaign.

Unz staunchly sticks by the benefits of English-only teaching. Proposition 227, he said, “is one of the very few totally successful ballot initiatives in the history of California,” he said. “Everybody knows it’s very, very easy for children to learn English at a young age.”

In June 1998, his initiative passed overwhelmingly, winning more than 61 percent of the vote. And rather than the predicted educational disaster, he said, state test scores of English-learners rose substantially.

Bilingual-education proponents, however, point to a George Mason University study from 1998 to 2000 that showed that the switch in teaching methods did not narrow the wide achievement gap between English-learners and native speakers.

Proponents favor so-called dual-immersion schools, which have spread throughout the state, including in San Jose, Palo Alto, San Mateo, Oakland and Concord, according to multilingual-education consultant Claudia Lockwood. Most of the 430 schools are Spanish-English, but others teach Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, German or French.

Unz contends that Proposition 58 is backed by dual-immersion Anglo families, who need a certain number of Spanish-speaking children for their program model to work. Eliminating the current requirement for parents to sign waivers makes it easier to populate those programs, he said.

Educators, however, see the waivers as impeding bilingual classes, especially when skeptical parents have to be convinced to sign up their children.  “It is a tedious process,” said Jose Espinoza, director of English-learner services for the Mount Diablo district.

But critics of bilingual education say parents are right to feel uncertain.

Isabel Ocampo says her older daughter had attended a Spanish immersion program in Redwood City from kindergarten. A native Spanish speaker, she reached middle school struggling in English and math, said Ocampo, who then decided to pull her younger daughter from the Spanish program.

“It is important to be bilingual,” Ocampo said, “but it is more important to know what you’re doing. I can’t sacrifice one thing for another.”


Rise of the home ‘unschoolers’ – where children learn only what they want to

To the extent to which it works at all, it probably works because of subtle adult guidance

It’s Tuesday morning in Coventry and three children are making clay seal pups on the dining table at home. Zephan is four, so his looks a bit like an aeroplane. Noah and Josiah, 10 and 13, are carefully shaping flippers. A book about seals lies open on the sofa. This morning’s activity was Zephan’s idea, inspired by the boys’ term-time holiday to see seal cubs on the Pembrokeshire coast.

While other children may be fidgeting at their desks in school, these boys can take the day in whichever direction they choose. Zephan goes off to make a den; Noah picks up his Lego; Josiah decides the seal activity has more life in it and starts a painting.

This is “unschooling” in action, a step beyond home education because children decide what they’d like to learn and when. Unlike school, or more traditional types of home education, there’s no curriculum, no imposed learning, no testing. The children set the agenda and pace; the aim is to learn through living.

For Alice Khimasia, mother to Zephan, Noah, Josiah and their 14-year-old brother, Elias, this is an antidote to school. “In year 3 I started to be concerned about Elias,” she says. “He seemed to lose his spark, almost like the light in his eyes went out. He seemed downcast. He stopped looking at people. He exhibited anxious behaviour.” Khimasia had written off home education as “weird” but she and her husband, Kaushil, a supply teacher, started to research it. Then came a snowy day in January 2010: “It was the most beautiful day, clear and bright,” she recalls. “The boys were so excited when they woke up. So I rang school and said: ‘The boys won’t be in today, we want to play in the snow!’ And we didn’t go back.”

Unschooling, also known as autonomous, child-led or delight-directed learning, has spread across the world from its inception in the counter culture of 1970s America. There are no firm figures for how many children are home educated in the UK, let alone unschooled, as there is no legal obligation for parents to register their children, but a 2015 survey put the figure at 36,609 home-educated children. The real number is likely to be much higher.

Anecdotally unschoolers appear to be increasing. “If you mean people taking their kids out of school and not teaching them in a structured way, that’s definitely on the rise,” says Simon Webb, author of Elective Home Education in the UK. “On most of the lists and the Facebook sites you can see that’s the trend, to not have to teach them as they do in school.”

Khimasia’s sons spend their days exploring their world. In addition to Zephan’s interest in ancient Egypt, Noah’s fondness for the Bloodhound land speed record car, Josiah’s art and Elias’s engineering, they tend an allotment, attend a woodwork class with a group of pensioners and swim with other home-educated children. For Khimasia, who trained as a teacher, unschooling has required a shift in her mindset. “I’ve had to let go of a lot of my thinking. I’m more of a mentor, encouraging the boys to have a vision and to undertake their own projects.”

According to a 2013 study by Boston College professor Peter Gray, which looked at the outcomes of 75 adults who had been unschooled as children: “Unschooling benefited them for higher education and careers by promoting their sense of personal responsibility, self-motivation and desire to learn.”

Khimasia’s eldest son, Elias, standing in his workshop in the back garden tinkering with the hydrogen generator he’s just built, appears a particularly self-reliant young man. At 14, he has chosen to re-enter formal education, attending an engineering academy to gain the GCSEs he feels confident will eventually lead to a career in the automotive industry. He feels unschooling’s emphasis on self-directed learning has made him a problem solver and given him time and space to follow his passions. “My teacher described me as the ‘Google of engineering’ because I’ve had experience actually building, designing and inventing things.”

Yet unschooling has its detractors. “If a child is really curious about the world and enthusiastic about learning, he or she can spend as long as needed to explore various topics and pick up valuable life skills,” says Webb. “But some parents might not understand this method, so the child drifts, not doing much.”

Although the majority of respondents in Gray’s study were positive about their unschooling experience, three were unhappy, stating they came from dysfunctional, socially isolating families. One, who grew up in the UK, wrote: “I actively disagree with unschooling because I believe that it is a very easy way for unwell parents to bring their children up without needing to actively participate/integrate into society.” She didn’t study anything or develop a satisfactory plan for her own life, she said.

Although the responsibility in law for children’s education is with their parents, local authorities have a statutory duty to make sure all children get a suitable education. In an effort to do this the Local Government Association has called for the power to compel parents to register home-educated children and for the right to enter premises to see children and check the suitability of education being provided. But some home educators claim local authorities already have extensive powers and are not exercising these fully.

Lewis James, 26, from Rotherham, was taken out of school at the age of 11. He describes his home education as “no schooling”, even though he was visited annually by a local authority inspector and signed off as receiving a suitable education. “But I wasn’t really doing anything. I mainly did drawing and made things out of Plasticine. My mum used to make excuses, like my uncle was in a car crash, and she said it was too stressful for me to do any work. We moved when I was 14 and after that I didn’t see anyone from the council.”

At 16, with no qualifications or work experience, Lewis tried to get a job, but it didn’t work out. At 17 he went to college to do wall and floor tiling and worked as a cleaner. Eventually he approached the Prince’s Trust, which gave him a grant to set up his own business as an illustrator and in 2015 he became a young ambassador for the trust, speaking at events where he tells his story of turning from ”Neet” to young entrepreneur.

Khimasia has had a broadly positive experience with the local authority, and her annual inspections have taken place without incident, but not everyone wants inspectors in their home. Julie Coles Bunker, from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, withdrew her three children from school when they were 13, 11 and eight and unschooled them at home. “They weren’t happy in school and the schools weren’t meeting their needs,” she says. “For my children, they did not want to have anybody invading their privacy, wanting to interview them and ask questions. My children have the right to a private life so we chose to give written information.”

Dr Helen Lees, senior lecturer in education studies at Newman University, Birmingham, recognises that some families will resent state involvement, but feels there is a need to modify the inspection regime to the benefit of children and parents: “We need to understand whether parents are engaging their children in a suitable and efficient way. It has to be non-intrusive and inoffensive, but it is not unreasonable to ask carers to explain what they’re doing and why.”

For Khimasia her philosophy is clear: “I want my children to become independent lifelong learners and to know that whatever they want to learn, they can learn it. Lay on a feast of interesting ideas and children will learn – that’s what they do.”


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Where there are fewer of them, kids do better in schools

Although it is impolite to mention it, the USA does have a strong social class system.  And these results are a typical social class effect.  The lower the social class the higher the number of children.  So what the authors found was just a familiar social class effect:  Higher social class kids are more likely to do more schooling.  All the other explanations they mention below are unproven, a violation of Occam's razor

I had a look at the detailed results and note that they DID find a stronger effect in richer neighborhoods -- which is consistent with what I have just said.  They found no effect of education, however, which is INconsistent with what I have just said.  That may simply confirm a popular stereotype:  That in America, money is king. 

More likely, however, it shows that social class is complex with no one objective indicator being crucial.  Subjective class identification may be the best single indicator.  I have discussed these issues at some length long ago

One should also mention another taboo subject: IQ.  High IQ people have fewer children and tend to have high academic ability, which they pass on to their kids.  So just one component of social class -- IQ -- could explain the results all by itself.  While they are constrained by political correctness, American social researchers will continue to do inconclusive research that leads nowhere

For decades, communities across the USA have tried all manner of raising high school graduation rates: higher academic standards, better school funding, stricter testing and calls for arts, vocational, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs.

New research suggests there’s another way to raise graduation rates: simply increase the number of adults in a community.

Combining decennial U.S. Census and education data, a pair of researchers has found that improving the ratio of adults aged 25+ to school-aged children helps keep kids on a path to graduation. More adults in a neighborhood means a bigger “web of supports” that benefit all kids, said Jonathan Zaff, a developmental psychologist, executive director of the Center for Promise at Boston University School of Education and the lead researcher on the project.

It’s those relationships that young people need in order to be successful in school, he said.

The new research finds that for every seven adults a neighborhood adds, one fewer young person leaves school. The effect is even greater in upper-income neighborhoods, data suggest.

Researchers have long explored the adult-to-child ratio idea as it relates to crime policy, Zaff said, but the new findings are the first to apply it to schooling.

He said more research is needed to pinpoint exactly why a healthier youth-to-adult ratio aligns with better school outcomes. But it makes a certain kind of sense, since the primary role of adults has long been to teach, guide and provide social norms for young people.

When they’re not around to do that job, Zaff said, “then young people will turn to their peers — they’ll turn to their own devices, in a sense, in order to really figure things out. And what we see from the literature is that when that happens, when you don’t have the guidance of adults, the outcomes typically are not as positive.”

He noted, for instance, that international development researchers have long studied the “youth bulge” that results in developing nations when they experience civil wars or epidemics that kill a lot of adults.

“All of a sudden there are few adults, but there are a whole lot of young people without (their) guidance and support,” Zaff said. “That’s when you get things like child soldiers and people who don’t go to school — and a lot of other negative outcomes.”

The new research comes courtesy of America’s Promise Alliance, a centrist Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that closely tracks U.S. high school graduation rates — it has publicly pushed for a 90% graduation rate by the end of the decade. At last count, the USA’s graduation rate hovered around 82%, a record high, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The group on Monday posted an interactive tool that allows users to compare youth-to-adult ratios by Census tract and overlay the percentage of youth either not in school or unemployed.

Why do low-income neighborhoods tend to have fewer adults? Possible culprits: higher rates of incarceration, adult mortality and single parenthood, for instance.

On the flip side, in wealthier neighborhoods with higher birth rates, families’ higher incomes can make up for the lack of adults-per-child, Zaff said. He offered the example of two of the USA’s wealthiest communities, both in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., with “amazing” schools and other amenities that keep graduation rates high.

“If you go to a place like Bethesda or Potomac, there are so many resources around the young people that it can make up for the lack of adult capacity,” he said. Wealthy communities “can, in a sense, afford those kids.”

But he noted that one key indicator — adults’ education levels — actually had an interesting relationship to graduation rates: “It had no effect, actually.”

It’s not that education levels don’t matter, Zaff said. “Education matters, but even if you have adults who don’t have a college degree, they do play a really important role in the education of youth in their community. It’s not this elitist thing: ‘Only those communities that have a lot of college-educated people will be able to do this.’ It really is that all adults have a role to play.”


Canadian spending on public education grows $18 billion over a decade even as enrolment falls: Fraser Institute

Fat cat teachers

Teacher compensation is driving up education costs in Canada even as student enrolment falls across the country, a new Fraser Institute report finds.

Education spending increased by more than 41 per cent from 2004 to 2014, or from $44.3 billion to $62.6 billion — a spike of almost $18 billion. At the same time, overall enrolment declined by about 200,000 students.

Public education advocates say most dollars go to teachers because they are the heart of the classroom. That means overall per-student funding has risen, the report’s authors say, and the bulk of that increase is going to teachers’ salaries, benefits and pensions.

“We’re now spending a larger share of every dollar we spend on our public schools on teacher compensation,” said Deani Van Pelt, director of the Barbara Mitchell Centre for the Improvement of Education at the Fraser Institute.

She said that in 2004, 72 cents of every dollar spent on education went to compensation. It’s now 74 cents: “We have experienced a dramatic increase in what we spend on education in Canada and over 78 per cent of that increase has gone to teacher compensation.”

“Alberta stands out,” Van Pelt said, as that province has increased spending on compensation by 80 per cent. And Ontario has more than doubled how much it spends on teacher pensions in that decade, with spending in that area increasing by 106 per cent even as the province struggled to rein in public-sector compensation costs.


Steiner schools rising in popularity Australia-wide

They have some wacky ideas but they seem to be good for artistic kids.  I visited a Steiner school years ago with the aim of seeing whether it might suit my son.  I left in a rather stunned state.  I sent him to a Catholic school instead

Steiner schools are rising in popularity across Australia with three new schools built in as many years, lengthy waiting lists, and the introduction of a degree in Steiner education at a Queensland university.

Australia's first Steiner, also known as Waldorf, school opened in 1957 at Castlecrag in Sydney.

The 1970s saw most of the country's 43 Steiner schools built, but Steiner Education Australia CEO Tracey Sayn Wittgenstein Piraccini said the system was experiencing another rise in popularity.  "Over the years it's just grown and it's mushrooming," she said.

"Many of the schools are 30 or 40 years old now, and quite well established in their communities ... and three years ago we had three new schools start, and next year we have another school starting, so there's growing interest in what we're doing."
Steiner school principles

The most recent schools were built at Queensland's Moreton Bay, Victoria's Bairnsdale and Bowral in New South Wales.

Another is planned for Agnes Waters in Queensland next year, while several state schools in South Australia and Victoria have introduced Steiner-based streams to their classrooms.

Ms Sayn Wittgenstein Piraccini said she believed the system's rise in popularity was because of a combination of parents being drawn to the holistic approach of Steiner education, as well as being dismayed with many aspects of traditional, mainstream institutions.

"I think parents are really investigating what they want for their children," she said.

"Many years ago parents just sent their children to the school down the road ... because the world is changing at such a rapid rate, the old forms of schooling just aren't working.

    "We're seeing children with mental health problems, depression, obesity problems, and parents are seeing their children unhappy at school and not engaged in their learning and so they're seeking different ways."

The demand has also resulted in the introduction of a Graduate Certificate and Masters in Steiner education at the University of the Sunshine Coast next year.

"Our plan is to really engage with mainstream education and work alongside our peers in education to try and actually bring impulses from Steiner education into all aspects of education," Ms Sayn Wittgenstein Piraccini said.

"We want to have good dialogue so that all children benefit from an excellent education and are engaged in their learning and are lifelong learners.

"That will bring about a better country for Australia — not narrow standardised testing and data-driven policy that is just impacting on teachers at every level."

She said the demand for Steiner education was particularly high in the Byron Shire, in northern New South Wales.

There are currently two kindergarten to year 12 Steiner schools in the region and waiting lists that could justify the establishment of a third.

Cape Byron Steiner School principal Nerrida Johnson said there were 370 students at her school and a waiting list of more than 500.

    "It's hard to tell people that we don't have a place for them, particularly when they're trying to get into kindergarten and they've been on our list for a long time," she said.

"We do encourage people to stay on our lists, stay in touch with us and stay involved with the school."

Ms Johnson said expansion was not an option for her school because of land restrictions, but there may be a case for starting a new school.

"We love the fact we know each of our students, so it works well for us to be a single stream school and to have the lower number of students, but I also know there's a lot of pressure in this shire for more," she said.

"I don't know what the future is going to hold — maybe at some point there might be a possibility of opening a senior campus or something like that so we can provide more opportunities for students.'

Parent explains appeal

Tanja Nelson has two children at Cape Byron Steiner and a third who has graduated. She said she began investigating the system after being impressed by work experience students from a Steiner school who had volunteered at her graphic design business.

"Those kids were so much more capable of being independent in their roles in our business," she said.  "They had eye contact, self-initiated projects, they were just a world apart from the other kids from state and private schools."

"By that stage we only had a one-year-old child and we said 'that's a really interesting system, where are these kids coming from, why are they so different?'"

She said the best way to describe the Steiner approach was as "holistic". "It's very hard to realise with one little snapshot what actually goes on, but when you watch these children move from kindergarten all the way to year 12 and you see them grow holistically," Ms Nelson said.

"And I really mean holistically — the whole person is educated and supported."

"There's this backwards and forwards between the community and teachers, and this co-operative process to educating the child that makes these amazing people at the end of the journey.

"That constant communal approach to educating the child has very profound impacts for the children.

"This is something that I think parents from other schools or education systems will look at and they can see there's something different in our kids, but not understand what it is or why it is."


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sexual misbehaviour in Australian universities is extremely rare

Sexual misbehaviour at universities is a great fad worldwide at the moment.  There are constant wails about it.  And from the wails you would infer that universities are a hotbed of rape. But are they?  Putting a lot of juicy young men and women together is sure to go astray in some instances but is rape in universities any more common than in the community at large? Among all the hyperventilating, I have yet to see any statistics on the question. 

That rather aroused my suspicions.  If rape really were particularly common in  universities, would not all the agonizing ones be forcing the statistics on the matter down our indifferent throats? Instead there seems to be a complete statistical blackout.

So I decided to do a few back of the envelope calculations of my own.  The total university rapes reported across Australia is given below as 126 in five years.  And I estimate the number of students as being about 1 million.  That gives a rate per 100,000 of 12.6.  Compare that with the latest nationwide figure of 28.6 per 100,000 PER ANNUM.  Clearly, by general community standards, rape is exceptionally RARE in Australian universities. Clever young people behave cleverly, which is what I thought.  I spent nearly 20 years in Australian universities without hearing ANYTHING about campus rape

No doubt much scorn will be heaped on my calculations but surely the challenge is to do better.  I would think that no statistical jiggery pokery would close up by much the vast gap I have found

Three young women have shared the harrowing stories of how they were allegedly raped at Australian universities - two when they were just 18.

They are some of 575 students who were sexually assaulted on campus in the past five years, with only six alleged perpetrators expelled.

Dr Rosyln Arnold, a former council member of Sydney University’s St John's residential college who quit her position in disgust in 2012, said it was the product of entrenched rape culture in young men.

'It's endorsing a pattern that women deserve to be victims, that it is acceptable to denigrate and humiliate them and to act violently towards them,' she told Sunday Night.

She said this was made worse by an environment where women were 'objectified and crudely ranked on social media'.

However, one student who had dozens of men make sexualised comments on her Facebook photos said she enjoyed the attention.

'For me, that was really flattering and actually quite funny too. My friends also found it very funny so we just had a bit of a laugh,' Melbourne University student Sydney Watson said.

Sunday Night reporter PJ Madam then read Ms Watson a series of very insulting comments directed at her - including that she 'is a b**** and has bad breath'.

'Look, I won't lie, that some of those thing are really inappropriate but to me that's the nature of the online world. I think it's all in the name of fun,' she responded.

'Whilst they might not be completely right, I don't think that it's in a serious fashion, by any stretch of the imagination.'

Dr Arnold said attitudes like Ms Watson's were 'letting down the side by saying that it's OK. We don't think it's OK.'

Another student, Emma Hunt, was excited to attend Monash University in Melbourne, but her first experience of university life on orientation camp went horribly wrong when she got blackout drunk at a costume party. 'I remember waking up in a cabin with a stranger. And I don't know how I got there, didn't know who he was,' she said.

Her first memory was a lot of people getting her out of the room. She didn't remember how long she was there for, but she was being raped when she woke up.

Ms Hunt only told a friend months later because she didn't know where to go for help. Her alleged rape is now being investigated by police, but she is still scarred by the ordeal

'I wake up fearing i'll run into him every day at uni. It's quite scary, I feel like I have to be hyper-vigilant in case I recognise him,' she said.

'I never really know when the next day is that I'm going to run into him. Last time I was absolutely terrified. I only saw him for a split second, the most unsafe I've ever felt.'

On the other side of the country, former University of WA science student Jannika Jacky said she was raped on her 18th birthday three years ago by a friend from her dorm.

'We met at college, and we became friends quite quickly. He seemed like a perfectly good you know, charming, funny sort of person,' she said.

After pre-drinks at college and then a bar to celebrate, she was feeling drunk and wanted to go home but couldn't find friends who had her room key, so asked him to get her home. 'It was freezing outside and I was just like, "It's really cold, can I just chill in your room for a little bit?"' she said.

'And he was like, "sure, no worries, what are friends for".'

As soon as they were in his room he turned the light off and began kissing her, before raping her despite her protesting.  'I remember quite clearly saying "no. I don't want to do this. because we're just friends". But he just didn't stop,' she said.

'When I got back to my room I just remember taking the longest shower I have probably ever taken.'

Ms Jacky eventually had to drop out of university. Her alleged rapist was kicked out of campus housing but otherwise not punished. He graduated last month.

'The stress was unbearable, depression just went through the roof and so did my anxiety as well. Um, I also have a lot of trouble with having relationships,' she said.

Olivia Todhunter, at the University of Melbourne, alleged she was on exchange overseas when she was raped by a fellow Australian student. 'I remember saying "stop". I remember saying "get off". I remember saying "you have a girlfriend". I remember saying that I didn't want this,' she said.

'When I went to uni counselling they said that my issue wasn't urgent enough to be available for emergency counselling.'

It took Australia's biggest ever freedom of information request to lift the lid on the scale of sexual assault in Australian universities, forcing 27 universities to hand over records of complaints.

There were 575 cases of sexual assault, harassment and indecent behaviour reported over five years, including 145 rapes.

Only six alleged perpetrators were expelled, 14 were suspended, 11 given warnings, 12 reprimanded, and six 'voluntarily separated'.

Those who were punished by universities were in some cases made to pay a $55 fine, write an apology letter, or do just eight hours of community service.

In the vast majority of cases no action was taken by universities and, against their own policies, allegations were often not reported to police. 

The complaints uncovered included a male student breaking into campus dorm rooms and raping women in their beds, and another given a master key to all rooms after he was accused of multiple assaults.

Staff members exchanged sexual favours for free accommodation, and others secretly filmed women using showers and toilets.

Male students grabbed women’s breasts, forcefully kissed them, spat at them, and yelled insults like 'slut, slut, slut', 'I bet you like c**k', 'bitch' and 'scum-c*nt'.

Victims were also advised that any discussion of their sexual assaults or abuse with others 'could be considered a disciplinary matter' due to 'confidentiality’' concerns.


Oxford faculty are warned to think twice before serving alcohol and fancy food for fear of upsetting foreign university students

Fine wines and sophisticated food have long been a part of college life at Oxford. But now dons have been warned to think twice before serving canapes or alcohol – for fear of upsetting foreign students.

And new guidelines also warn against the dangers of using metaphors or even the word ‘discuss’, because they may cause problems for those youngsters from overseas.

The university has issued detailed guidance to academics warning them of the sensitivities of inviting students from abroad to social events. The advice, from the Oxford Learning Institute, said social occasions could be difficult for international students, ‘especially if alcohol is involved’.

It said: ‘We should not be providing reinforcement for the view, voiced by an undergraduate from China, that, “All their [UK students’] social interactions are based on drinking.” ’

It continues: ‘A British cultural phenomenon is to provide food, such as snacks or canapes, as a form of welcome to newcomers or visitors. However, this practice may disregard the preferences of other cultures,’ and quotes a Chinese student saying, ‘Chinese people don’t eat and drink that way’ in evidence.

The guidance added that, while academics should not drop such occasions, they should be aware some might find them ‘awkward’, and ensure soft drinks and ‘appropriate food options’ are available.

Dons are also urged to avoid using metaphors or idioms that might confuse overseas students, or asking them to ‘discuss’ an issue in an essay, as the term was too ambiguous.

David Palfreyman, the bursar of New College, said: ‘I am bemused as to what a culturally neutral canape would be. That could be quite a challenge. ‘I think this advice might be a little bit oversensitive to very minor comments.’

A spokesman for the university, where nearly 40 per cent of students are from overseas, said: ‘We make no apology for doing all we can to make all feel welcome.’


National Education Association aims to tie bullying to Trump

The National Education Association, which has endorsed Hillary Clinton, announced a six-figure digital ad and mail campaign attempting to tie bullying and fear in the classroom to the Republican nominee.

The NEA is pointing to a Southern Poverty Law Center report that found that the presidential election "is producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. Many students worry about being deported."

“This is so much bigger than politics,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said in a call with reporters Monday. "We are going to launch that [ad] campaign, we are going to make a difference in lifting up the voices of our members and parents and students and we will be, I think, a very key constituency in who becomes the next president."

The NEA is the largest labor union in the United States.


Monday, October 10, 2016

British University considers banning the National Anthem from graduation ceremonies - because of its links to 'increasing far right nationalism'

Mahamed Abdullahi, a most unhappy person

A student union welfare officer has called for the National Anthem to be removed from a leading university's graduation ceremony because of 'increasing far right nationalism'.

Mahamed Abdullahi, from King's College London Students' Union, called the traditional rendition of God Save The Queen 'outdated'.

Although the suggestion was dismissed as 'petulant and disrespectful' by fellow students, the university management admitted it was 'in discussion' about the use of the song.

In an expletive-laden Facebook post, Mr Abdullahi wrote: 'I want to get rid of the national anthem at graduation because it's outdated and not reflective of the "global" values the college espouses.

'In the context of increasing far right nationalism across Europe and the legacy of the British empire, it's just a bit s*** and it doesn't even bang. Basically, f*** the nation state.'

His comments led to a petition to keep the anthem from James Findon, a member of KCL's Conservative Association.

He told MailOnline: 'We are a global university with global values. These two facts are not in conflict.

'We can be proud of our traditional British roots and celebrate our global values.'

King's College London was founded in 1829 under the patronage of King George IV. It plays God Save The Queen towards the end of graduation ceremonies.

Mr Abdullahi studied Geography as a postgraduate. His interests are described in an online profile as 'the intersection of race and gender as well as class, disability and sexuality'.

In his manifesto to become Vice President for Welfare and Community, Mr Abdullahi called the government's anti-terror strategy Prevent 'racist' and said he wanted to 'decolonise' the curriculum.

Mr Abdullahi, who was born in Denmark, studied for an undergraduate degree at the University of Reading. 

Alex Sansom, 22, who is studying for a MA in politics, called on him to 'respect the traditions of the university'.

He told MailOnline: 'It is deeply worrying that an elected student representative should promote his own political agenda with such a lack of respect for the traditions of the university, particularly on an issue of historic and cultural salience.

'For someone who condemns issues that divide us, it is bizarre that the VP should criticise the nation state - the ultimate institution to promote and enable unity amongst us.'

A spokesperson from King’s College London said: ‘We are always open to feedback from students, staff and alumni and are currently in discussion with KCLSU student officers about various elements of the ceremonies, including the use of the national anthem.

'Feedback from all members of the King’s community will be used in planning the next set of ceremonies.'

When contacted by MailOnline, Mr Abdullahi said he did not want to comment.


Here’s what Cambridge students think of their sexual consent classes: Women’s officer posts picture of empty hall as freshers boycott ‘patronising’ talks

They are the university workshops designed to inform new students about sexual consent in an effort to tackle the rising number of assaults on campus.

But in a sign of a growing backlash against such events, not a single fresher attended an hour-long session at a top Cambridge college.

The angry women’s officer at Clare College later posted pictures of the empty auditorium on social media and lambasting freshers for snubbing the event. She described the move as a ‘huge step backwards’.

In a post to accompany the picture of the empty venue, she complained: ‘This is the number of Clare College freshers who thought it worth their time to show up to the consent workshops this morning, who thought that an hour out of their morning in Freshers’ Week was too much to ask.’

The post was later deleted.

Earlier this month, students at York University staged a walkout in protest against consent classes.

Every first-year student was expected to attend the sessions, although officials insisted that they were not compulsory.

Last night Sir Anthony Seldon, the vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, said he was heartened by the student boycott. ‘Universities are about the teaching of independent mindedness, and students should not be going along with what the NUS or anyone else is telling them,’ he said.

The row at Clare College emerged after its women’s officer – understood to be second-year history undergraduate Rosie Boxall – posted the pictures of the empty lecture hall on Tuesday on social media. Miss Boxall said Clare, whose alumni include Sir David Attenborough, had been at the forefront of tackling consent issues.

She said: ‘Clare has been leading the colleges in taking a proactive approach to dealing with sexual assault in Cambridge and to cement active, enthusiastic and informed consent as the norm in our student body. This feels like a huge step backwards.’

Union of Clare Students president Laura Minoli insisted there had been a ‘miscommunication’. But Miss Boxall denied that in a Facebook message, which has now been deleted. She wrote: ‘Students were told Sunday, emailed last night and told again this morning, so it wasn’t a miscommunication about timings.’

A Cambridge spokesman said: ‘The consent classes are a key part of our students’ introduction to university life. They are included in induction programmes, and students are strongly encouraged to attend.’

Speaking to student newspaper Varsity, Cambridge University Students’ Union women’s officer Audrey Sebatindira also expressed her disappointment.

She said: ‘In the 2014 Cambridge Speaks Out survey, 77 per cent of respondents had experienced sexual harassment while at Cambridge.

‘Given how pervasive the problem is, there’s no doubt that the consent workshops are necessary and more people should appreciate that.’

The National Union of Students claims that one in five students experiences some sort of sexual harassment during their first week of term.

Sexual comments, wolf-whistling when students walk into lectures, heckling in nightclub queues, and jokes about rape were all cited as examples.

First-year students attending York’s first ever sexual consent classes protested that they were being ‘patronised’.

But student union leaders said that the ‘gender-neutral’ lessons were necessary to protect the ‘wellbeing of freshers’.

Some students took to social media to comment on the row, with one complaining the session had not been listed on the official freshers’ timetable. There were also claims that such talks are ‘usually very long and dry’.

The latest twist follows claims in a national newspaper that sexual harassment and assault on Britain’s campuses remains hidden. The Guardian interviewed 100 women, who said many incidents go unreported, and the issue was compared to the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Sexual consent classes are even more widespread in the United States. Next year California will become the first state to make it mandatory for high schools to teach students about ‘affirmative consent’.


He criticised lefty thinking? Silence him!

Snowflake students are censoring everyone, and universities are to blame

Neoliberalism. To some, this one word encapsulates all that is wrong with capitalism today – from the marketisation of public services, such as health and education, to the takeover of local high streets by global, tax-avoiding corporations.

To others, neoliberalism is a vague word that signifies little other than the pseudo-radical credentials of the person using it. In 2010, professor of higher education Ron Barnett described neoliberalism as a ‘catch-all term used with little discrimination’ that has taken on the aura of a grand theoretical concept. Sociologist Frank Furedi echoes this critique, arguing that the ubiquity and lack of specificity of the word has rendered it a vacuous insult.

Most recently, Colin Talbot, professor of government at the University of Manchester, wrote on his personal blog that ‘neoliberalism is a myth. It’s a pervasive myth on one side of politics – the left. But it is nevertheless a myth.’ Talbot explains that no one identifies themselves as ‘neoliberal’, and points out that at ‘the start of neoliberalism… the state was more than four times the size it had been in 1870’.

Talbot’s blog is interesting and well worth a read, but he’s clearly not the first to claim that left-leaning academics and commentators are over-reliant on the virtue-signalling rhetoric of neoliberalism. However, he is perhaps the first to have a student lodge complaints with three heads of department at his university for putting forward such a critique. The student, an economics postgrad, called for Talbot to retract his blog post. According to The Times, he claimed that the ‘professor’s argument was not worthy of an A-Level student let alone a head of department’.

The student who complained about Talbot’s views on neoliberalism has rightly been taken to task on social media and, sensibly, the University of Manchester is taking no further action. But news that some students are prepared to make formal complaints against academics for saying something (not terribly) controversial – even if, as in this instance, the student is not taught by the professor involved – will no doubt chill academic freedom and make lecturers think twice about engaging in debate both inside and outside the classroom. It serves as a reminder that some students expect freedom from intellectual challenge and emotional discomfort rather than free speech. It adds to the anecdotal evidence of students switching courses or choosing modules specifically to avoid having their beliefs challenged.

Universities have done much to create these students who demand protection from ideas that upset them and views they disagree with. Many academics themselves have, over the past few years, legitimised a culture in which students’ complaints about their lecturers and the content of the curriculum are taken absolutely seriously and often acted on.

No student starting university this month will be able to make it through their degree programme without being asked to complete questionnaires asking for feedback on everything from their lecturer’s performance to course content to assessment methods. Universities are obsessed with gauging the ‘student voice’. Surveys are distributed at the end of each module and each academic year, culminating in the National Student Survey (NSS), completed by students bribed with Amazon vouchers and printing credits at the end of their final year. What’s more, focus groups and course reps are there for any student wishing to make a comment in between the distribution of surveys.

Universities are not just after feedback – they’re after satisfaction. The results of the NSS are often reduced to a crude satisfaction score, which is then used in the compilation of league tables. Prospective students are encouraged to use these statistics to choose the university that is right for them. Institutions therefore pour time, money and effort into ensuring students are satisfied at every stage of their university experience. For lecturers on temporary contracts, or those seeking promotion, having satisfied students is almost more important than anything else. If course content is complex or controversial, and students struggle, then the temptation to shorten a reading list or skate over a topic can be hard to resist. Many students pick up on the message that they are customers, and are, as such, always right.

This focus on satisfaction is exacerbated by a belief that students today are vulnerable to mental distress and in need of protection from anything that might be perceived as emotionally disturbing. At Oxford University, law students have been issued with trigger warnings before classes covering sexual offences. At University College London, archaeology students have been given permission to ‘walk out’ of classes if they find topics to be ‘disturbing, even traumatising’. The message to students is clear: your emotional safety is at risk in the classroom, and you have every right to avoid ideas you find upsetting.

The belief that course content is potentially traumatising stems from a view, enthusiastically endorsed by many lecturers, that the curriculum does not represent an objective body of knowledge, or the best that has been thought and said on a particular subject. Instead, it is intrinsically political. It is not students but academics who are leading the charge to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum, and insisting ‘it’s time to take the curriculum back from dead white men’. Students who run with this message and demand to know ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ are lauded rather than challenged. In 2013, students at the University of Manchester, home to Talbot and his complainant, launched a ‘Post-Crash Economics Society’. Their proposals for an ‘overhaul of orthodox teachings to embrace alternative theories’ were welcomed by academics and used to illustrate the importance of listening to the student voice.

If students are to learn anything during their time at university, they need to be confronted with complex and challenging ideas. Higher education that doesn’t make students feel intellectually, and perhaps even emotionally, uncomfortable is not an education at all. In order to push students outside of their comfort zone, academics need to be free to engage in debates, contribute to new understandings, and advance knowledge both in the classroom and beyond.

A growing and increasingly vocal minority of students do not want to confront views that upset them. They prefer to have ideas that disturb their existing beliefs rescinded. Academics should remind students that they are always free to read, learn more and take apart arguments they disagree with in classroom discussions, essays, and blogs of their own. But academics can’t do this while also promoting the importance of student satisfaction and emotional wellbeing, and arguing that the curriculum is nothing more than a political tool. Universities have helped create snowflake students who are now threatening academic freedom. They can’t just be wished away.


Sunday, October 09, 2016

UK: Islamic hate preacher who called for gay men to be beheaded is teaching children as young as six at a school in London

A hate preacher who has called for gay people to be beheaded or burned to death should be removed from the UK, the Home Secretary has been told.

Shaykh Hamza Sodagar is in London this week to deliver a series of lectures at the Islamic Republic of Iran School, which is run by the Iranian government.

The American-born radical, who describes himself as a 'role model for young Muslims all around the world', has previously posted a video listing five ways in which gay people should be killed.

The footage, from 2010, shows him saying: 'If there’s homosexual men, the punishment is one of five things.

'One - the easiest one maybe - chop their head off, that’s the easiest.

'Second - burn them to death.

'Third - throw ‘em off a cliff. Fourth - tear down a wall on them so they die under that.

'Fifth - a combination of the above.'

Sheikh Hamza Sodagar was born in Kentucky, and was raised in Maryland until his family moved to Iran. He is a scholar who currently lives in Iran, where he has spent the past 16 years pursuing Islamic studies.

He has previously described Americans and Europeans as 'kuffar' - and says they are puppets of Jewish lobby groups, describing Israel as a 'cancerous tumour'. He gives regular lectures around the world, and teaches students from the west.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called on the Home Secretary to revoke the preacher's visa. He said: 'In a free society, Hamza Sodagar has a right to believe that homosexuality is sinful but not to preach about ways to kill lesbians and gay men. 'Many people with far less extreme views, who have never advocated violence, have been banned from entering the UK.

'Calling for death to LGBT people crosses a red line. The Home Office was wrong to grant him a visa and should now revoke it.  'The cleric should be ordered out of the country.'

The Home Office said it would not comment on individual cases, but a spokesman told the Mail Online: 'An individual can be excluded on the grounds that their presence is "not conducive to the public good" if it is reasonable, consistent and proportionate based on the evidence available.'

The series of lectures is organised by the Ahlulbayt Islamic Mission - a nonprofit British group which says it was founded by a group of Muslim activists and thinkers.

A statement from the group defended the cleric, saying claims that he advocated beheading gay people was 'laughable and absurd'.

It said: 'In remarks made in 2010, as part of a series of lectures delivered on mercy, love and hatred in Islam through a commentary of a supplication from the Islamic tradition, Shaykh Hamza explained the position of Islam on homosexuality, and that it is not compatible with Islam.

'This is a clear and undeniable position that is upheld by Islam as found in Islamic scripture and tradition.

'In this regard, it must be understood, as was mentioned in the very same lecture series, that Islamic penal code cannot be administered outside the framework of law-enforcement and legal process within a legitimate government.

'De-contextualised excerpts of this series, were used by right-wing media to suggest that Shaykh Hamza was calling for ‘the beheading and burning of homosexuals’. This is untrue and a mischievous and malicious accusation to make.

The Islamic Republic of Iran School is an Iranian government-run small independent mixed Muslim school teaching pupils aged six to 17 in Maida Vale.

Iran has the death penalty for homosexuality.

The school opened in 2001 and follows the Iranian National Curriculum teaching in Farsi.

It seeks to help pupils achieve an understanding of their Muslim faith and culture, as well as Arabic and the Qur’an, which was rated as 'adequate' by Ofsted at the last inspection in 2013.

When the lectures were announced, the mission wrote: 'The Ahlulbayt Islamic Mission (AIM) is proud to announce that it has confirmed Shaykh Hamza Sodagar to speak for the 10 nights of Muharram in October 2016.

'The program is a joint effort from AIM, the Islamic Centre of England and the Lebanese Youth Foundation, and will be held nightly at the Iranian School on Carlton Vale in London.'


UK: Students, fight for your right to offend

Now the campus bores are in a flap over white t-shirt socials

Barely a week into the new academic year and the first student ban has already reared its ugly head. Exeter University’s Athletic Union has banned sports groups from holding white t-shirt socials, where students write and doodle on each other’s t-shirts as a way of breaking the ice and having a laugh. Why? Because a couple of students were photographed with offensive scribbles on their t-shirts during the snowsports club freshers’ event. One said ‘The Holocaust was a good time’; the other, ‘Don’t talk to me unless you are white’.

You are most likely thinking: well, it’s very distasteful and offensive to have written those things. But isn’t that the point of a white t-shirt social – to be offensive? At white t-shirt socials you don’t write ‘Bill, you are a lovely chap and I hope you have a nice night’. No, you draw genitalia and write offensive jokes to drop Bill in it. If you have been on a white t-shirt social and have not written something that could land you on the front page of the Guardian, then you’re either a liar or you’re doing it wrong.

Now that Exeter’s Athletic Union has taken it upon itself to ban the socials, will other universities follow suit? Now, when societies hold these kinds of events, students who should be able to let go, get drunk and relax with their new mates are going to find themselves walking on eggshells.

This isn’t the first time students have been censored for offensive clothing. At Aberystwyth University, the cricket society was banned because one member wore a shirt with his nickname, ‘casual rape’, written on the back. This censorship needs to stop. Students must be allowed to make mistakes, and, yes, be offensive.

In a similar vein to the popular-with-students card-game ‘Cards Against Humanity’ – in which Holocaust jokes are part of the game – the whole point of a white t-shirt social is to be offensive. Those who enjoy a hand of ‘Cards Against Humanity’, yet are furious about the behaviour at white t-shirt socials, are simply hypocrites. You don’t see unions slapping students down for playing that offensive game, so why punish those who take part in socials where the aim is to have fun through being offensive?

White t-shirt socials during freshers’ week are a chance to mock your new mates with distasteful banter. Do you actually believe your new geography-course friend is a sex offender? Of course you don’t. Do you believe the Holocaust was a joke? No, you don’t. Do you believe only white people should talk to you? Of course you don’t. The intent was obviously not to be abusive but to have a joke. Let’s stop punishing freshers for being freshers.


Trouble brewing for childcare in Australia
Just as the Education Minister has disabled the landmine that was Labor's troubled VET fee help scheme, he's having to deal with the news of rorting on a massive scale in family day care (FDC).

Now, I confess that a bit of a mea culpa is in order. Whenever a government says they can find budget savings (usually to offset larger spending) through cracking down on rort and fraud, my usual response is 'yeah, right!' In this case I was utterly wrong, as this reporting on a Canberra man charged with ripping upwards of a million dollars off the taxpayer shows.

It's too perfect. Labor in government almost immediately got set to work on this brand spanking new set of regulations, the National Quality Framework, to bring state-regulated childcare systems under one federal jurisdiction (when has that ever ended badly). And in the process of micromanaging every experience that children might have in care they forgot something pretty crucial -- making sure that subsidies are being paid for kids who are actually being cared for.

State governments are now blaming the federal government for not giving them enough money to handle compliance and accreditation. This is despite the Commonwealth already carrying the can for the increased costs of all this quality regulating, and funding ACECQA  -- the body in charge of the quality rating process.

The laws governing the NQF are codified at the state level, with each state and territory having its own separate Act that legislates broadly the same thing. But if the Minister wants to change it, he'll have to get them all to agree. Which, given the trajectory of other negotiations at the COAG level, is not going to be a painless exercise for him.

Furthermore, it spells trouble for the government's landmark childcare reforms which, in an effort to reduce the administrative costs, want to provide subsidies to providers rather than parents -- even though this is exactly the type of provision that has been taken advantage of.

So can the indefatigable Birmo [Senator Birmingham] fix it? As much as I think it is sad for governments to blame their policy problems on governments three years gone, in this case it's definitely a tough one for the poor Minister. Good luck to him.