Category Archives: Education

Education professionals rubbish Williamson’s claim Covid has worsened behaviour in English schools

Wearing the dunce’s cap yet again: Gavin Williamson was happy to deliberately endanger your children by reopening schools at the height of the Covid crisis (he was forced to close them again when the demand for him to do so became overwhelming. Now he’s happy to falsely criminalise them – in order to satisfy a new profit-making market he is creating?

The Tory Education Secretary’s unevidenced claim that discipline in English schools has “inevitably” worsened after a year of lockdowns has been dismissed as nonsense by people who actually work with school pupils.

Gavin Williamson intends to impose a national network of “behaviour hubs” to spread “best practice” among schools and teachers.

But it seems there is absolutely no need for them. Why is the Tory minister so keen to force them on our schools, and on our children?

Is it anything to do with his new network of “secure schools” – prisons for youngsters – to be run by private firms as “charitable” enterprises?

But Mark Russell, the chief executive of the Children’s Society, told The Guardian:

“We are not aware of any evidence that their behaviour is worse, and our practitioners report that on the whole young people have been relieved to get back inside the classroom.”

Mary Bousted, a joint leader of the National Education Union, said:

“With all the challenges currently facing schools, playing to the gallery by talking tough on behaviour is the least useful approach the education secretary can take.”

Wes Streeting, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister, also said something – but we are already aware that he is an extremely suspect character himself so it is best to pass him by.

Stuart Lock is chief executive of the Advantage Schools trust, which includes one of the 22 schools named as hubs. Even he disagreed with Williamson’s claims:

“I don’t believe classroom behaviour has got worse than it was before the pandemic. It is probably a bit better.”

Even the man leading the new project – Tom Bennett, the DfE’s lead adviser on behaviour – has said there is no evidence of worsened behaviour:

“To be honest, the picture on behaviour we’re seeing is reasonably consistent with the behaviour we were seeing before the pandemic.”

So why has Williamson suddenly falsified a claim that our kids have all gone feral, and started wasting our money on a project to correct behaviour that hasn’t gone bad?

Well, there is this new “secure schools” aspect of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill:

Secure schools are essentially a re-branding of Young Offenders Institutions that allows private organisations to run them.

The government says it is building “schools with security, not prisons with education” but as Zahra Bei wrote in 2019, “the policy of rebranding youth jails as ‘secure schools’ provides a thinly-veiled disguise for what in essence marks the start of the biggest children’s prison expansion programme in Britain”.

Members of the British Association of Social Workers have called the plans “a penal approach rooted in the past”.

The contract for the first secure school was awarded to academy chain Oasis, which has one of the highest rates of personal exclusions in the UK.

It will be on the site of the former Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent, which was described as “a site of violence and abuse that prevented the young people who were held there from accessing learning and freedom”.

After a dispute arose over whether running a child prison could be considered a suitable activity for a charity, the government wrote clauses into its new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to ensure that running a child prison can be considered a charitable activity in law.

The change will encourage more academy chains to be providers, creating what the Tories no doubt hope will be a profitable market. And the use of charities will put distance between the Tory government and anything that happens there.

You can read further information on the “secure schools” project here.

With a new market opening up for the detention (and mistreatment?) of children, it seems clear that the organisations running it will want a supply of children.

And suddenly Gavin Williamson is talking about poor behaviour in schools. Convenient?

Source: Experts reject claim Covid has worsened behaviour in English schools | Pupil behaviour | The Guardian

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Gavin Williamson wants school discipline clampdown. Based on what evidence?

Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em: Gavin Williamson was unkindly compared to Frank Spencer from the 70s sitcom. Sadly, if he were more like the character Michael Crawford immortalised, he’d probably care more about children’s well-being and less about subjecting them to “discipline” – which, in the mouth of a Tory, seems very creepy indeed.

Gavin Williamson, the dunderheaded education secretary who illegally scrapped dozens of legal rights for children, is attacking them again.

This time he’s telling us that long periods in lockdown have “inevitably” turned our children feral, and they need to have hefty amounts of discipline whacked into them now that schools are open again.

(When I say “whacked”, I should stress that he’s not actually promoting a return to physical punishments – although I wouldn’t put it past him and our government of weirdo fascists.)

I see no evidence in support of Williamson’s claim. Indeed, information he has provided himself suggests that kids in lockdown have settled down to the different routine of remote schooling via the internet.

“Technology has been invaluable keeping children learning during lockdowns and we support its use,” he said.

Unfortunately, in the very same breath, he demanded that technology is a disruptive influence and that mobile phones should be banned from schools.

He’s actually trying to do something clever here – supporting a lie with a truth. But we can all see through it – can’t we?

This Writer’s personal opinion is that mobile phones shouldn’t be allowed in classrooms. If kids insist on bringing them in, teachers should keep a list of those who have them, and should collect them in the morning and give them back at the end of the school day.

It would be too easy to use internet-enabled mobiles to cheat – and that would undermine the point of going to school.

The points about cyberbullying and inappropriate use of social media are, on balance, also fair:

Mr Williamson has made banning mobile phones in schools a key part of his plan, saying they not only distract from “exercise and good old-fashioned play” but also foment cyber bullying and the inappropriate use of social media.

But he has produced no evidence to suggest that possession of a mobile phone, use of it as an education tool during lockdown, or indeed being forced to stay at home at all have eroded discipline in children.

Indeed, if our kids have buckled down and studied at home, without a teacher standing over them, that tends to indicate that they have employed self-discipline. Doesn’t it?

Also, he hasn’t provided any information about the kind of discipline he intends to impose. Is he advocating the conversion of our schools into training grounds for some kind of imposed fascism – the “Johnson Youth”?

The backlash has started:

Last word: It has been alleged that Williamson’s discipline drive is a retaliation against kids who criticised him for policies like his stupid algorithm-based plan to replace exam marks, that automatically assumed that state school pupils would not achieve results as high as those who were privately-educated…

Can anybody provide evidence to support this? I haven’t seen any.

But you have to admit, based on his behaviour, it rings true.

Source: Gavin Williamson backs mobile phone ban in schools and claims children have lacked ‘discipline’ during lockdown | Evening Standard

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Shameless Tory Children’s Minister tries to steal credit for Marcus Rashford’s school meals campaign

Brazen: Ford’s false claims are disproved by her own voting record.

How brazen can these Tories be?

Children’s Minister Vicky Ford has told Good Morning Britain viewers that she – not Marcus Rashford – was the person who got the government to extend free school meals into the holidays during the Covid-19 crisis, and who created lockdown meal vouchers.

She said she was not influenced by Rashford’s campaign at all.

Her claim has been ridiculed by those of us who can read Hansard, which shows that she voted against demands for such schemes – twice.

See for yourself:

Social media commentators have used the claim to make Ford a target for ridicule – and rightly so:

I want to know what Marcus Rashford – who received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List last year for his  services to vulnerable children in the UK during COVID-19, has to say about Ms Ford’s claims.

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‘Pork barrel’ Tories: they quietly changed rules to give money to schools in rich areas

If you live in a poor area, you may soon start wondering why your local school is complaining about having no cash. Here’s the answer:

It’s because Boris Johnson and his Conservatives have quietly changed the way ‘pupil premium’ cash – allocated to children who are classed as deprived – to ensure that most of them could not be registered.

The pupil premium hands over £1,345 for every primary age pupil who claims a free school meal, or £955 for a secondary student.

Allocations have always been based on numbers registered by each January – but was suddenly – and secretly – switched to “the number of eligible pupils recorded by schools in their census in October 2020” – just a few weeks after the new school year started.

Many parents had not provided the necessary information by that time – they tend to need reminding of it because the Tories refused point-blank to introduce a fair system of automatic registration.

Schools in poorer areas are likely to lose around £40,000 each – the equivalent of a full-time teacher or two support staff. Schools in rich Tory areas are said to be likely to benefit.

This is ‘pork barrel’ politics – rewarding people who voted for the Conservatives with cash benefits.

It’s forbidden in election campaigns but sadly there is no way to prevent a government from diverting funding to benefit areas that voted for it; they’ll always have an excuse.

And they have one in this case. Accused of making the change when it was too late to act, the Department for Education responded that the intention was to “allow schools a chance to know their budget earlier in the year, helping them to plan ahead”.

How many had been complaining that they couldn’t plan ahead with the previous system? We’re not told that, which suggests the Tories just made up something they thought would sound good.

This revelation follows a previous discovery that the Tories have stripped £100 million of emergency funding from poorer parts of England – including many Covid-19 hotspots – and given it to Tory constituencies instead.

The government stripped deprivation out of its calculations, despite announcing plans for that switch had been shelved – and despite saying the money was to “fight the pandemic”.

[The cash] is intended to fund getting rough sleepers off the streets and domestic abuse victims into safe accommodation, as well as to help manage funerals and bolster frontline services; all tasks more onerous in deprived areas with more virus cases.

The poorest areas in England lost funding, while the 10 richest areas enjoyed huge boosts.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it was providing funding in “the fairest way possible” but this rings hollow when compared with the black-and-white figures.

But it’s what the UK’s Tories voted for – a fat bung from a corrupt government, taken from the people who genuinely need the funds.

Source: Millions of pounds swiped from England’s poorest schools in fresh ‘political’ funding switch | The Independent

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Johnson insults Turing with foreign education scheme on the cheap

Insult AND injury: if the injustice he suffered while he was alive wasn’t bad enough – and remember, it drove him to suicide – it seems Boris Johnson is trying to make it worse by linking one of the UK’s greatest minds with a scheme that will actually prevent students from achieving their potential.

We always knew the UK backed out of the ‘Erasmus’ scheme, for UK students to study in the EU, for only one reason: to save money.

Now the scale of Boris Johnson’s cheapness is becoming clear.

The new scheme, named after Bletchley Park code-cracker Alan Turing, will send students all over the world, rather than just into the EU.

But it will not pay for their tuition. Instead, universities are to be urged to agree tuition fee “waivers” with their counterparts abroad. Does anybody really think that’s going to happen?

Nor will the new scheme pay travel costs for UK students to study abroad – except in the case of students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds (but we know that the Tories are biased against such students from last year’s ‘A’ level results so it seems unlikely that any travel costs will be paid at all).

The European Commission had paid up to £1,315 for UK students to study in the EU, so this will seriously hinder the ability of poorer students to travel.

Oh, and just for good measure, the living allowance has been slashed – by a fifth, according to the Scottish National Party.

Originally, Johnson had promised that UK students would remain part of the far better-funded Erasmus.

But it seems clear that he changed his mind when he realised there was an opportunity to cut spending – and victimise poorer UK citizens at the same time.

(Rich students will still be able to study abroad if they want, because they can rely on the bank of mummy and daddy.)

Instead, he announced the new Turing scheme, doing his best to make it sound like a huge stride forward into a brighter, wider world:

In fact, Johnson is pushing us into darkness and isolation.

Source: New ‘Erasmus’ scheme will not pay tuition or travel costs and living allowance slashed | The Independent

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Ex-head of OFSTED says teachers should be prepared to lose lives to Covid. Haven’t they?

Sacrifice: Sir Michael Wilshaw looks like he’s forced more than a few people to fall on their swords.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, former head of schools inspection organisation Ofsted who was once dubbed its “Dirty Harry”, has come out as the latest ex-government employee to have sawdust between his ears.

Watch this if you’ve got the stomach for it:

Of course, teachers have already lost their lives. This fool doesn’t understand his subject – and that’s a terrible indictment against a school inspector.

And yes – as a commenter on the tweet stated – healthcare workers deserve better than to have their deaths described as some kind of worthy sacrifice.

But worst of all, this school inspector has belittled the commitment of teachers up and down the UK.

Teachers have gone to enormous lengths during the Covid-19 crisis.

Most particularly, they have done all the could to ensure the safety, both of school staff and pupils – which is more than has been managed by either Sir Wilshaw or the government he used to serve.

Source: Ex Head of OFSTED: Teachers should be prepared to give their lives… – Dorset Eye

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Nothing for you if you’re sick, disabled, at school or in care: reaction to the Tory budget

They all do this: but the way Rishi Sunak held the red box indicated there wasn’t much in it. And there wasn’t.

Rishi Sunak’s budget has shown he is a diehard Tory, with concessions for businesses while those of us in need can go whistle.

He has claimed his hands are tied by huge Covid-19-related debts – but we all know that he has already paid them off, by the simple means of creating the money needed to do so.

And his big plans for the future were pathetic: new ‘free ports’ that have always been a bad idea, and an investment bank to replace the one a previous Tory government sold off a few years ago.

We are ruled by intellectual pygmies – and that is being harsh on the pygmies.

I watched the budget speech and commentated on it on Twitter, so I can provide a first-hand account of the announcements – but first, I’d like to go straight to what wasn’t announced, with comments from people who were reading at the time:

So the people who did all the hard work during the Covid-19 crisis will receive no reward for their sacrifices at all – even though many of them sacrificed their lives, contracting the virus and dying because Matt Hancock couldn’t be bothered to supply proper personal protective equipment (PPE) at the right time.

However:

People with disabilities who did not receive the £20 benefit uplift because they are on so-called “legacy” benefits will still receive nothing more, even though the uplift will remain in place until September. After then, it seems people who lost their jobs because of Covid-19 will fall over a so-called “cliff edge”, with the uplift cancelled, forcing them to live on much less.

The Tories have made a major issue of education in the crisis, demanding that our children must go back to school as soon as possible in order to catch up on what they have missed – but Rishi Sunak has provided no extra facilities for this in his budget. It seems it was all talk and – in fact – the plan is to reopen a major vector for transmission of Covid and hope that the increase in infections – and deaths – won’t be noticed amid the falling numbers triggered by the vaccination programme.

And after years of promising to fix problems in the social care system – that became hugely pronounced when 30,000 people died in care homes because of Tory stupidity – Sunak is breaking that promise by offering nothing.

Meanwhile, those who profited hugely from the pandemic – either by being perfectly situated to continue selling goods to people in lockdown or by receiving government Covid-related contracts to provide services at hugely-inflated costs (many of which were not actually provided because the contractors were not qualified to do so) are to get off scot-free because Sunak has backed away from calls to impose a wealth tax.

So, what has he done?

Well, he carped on a lot about borrowing a huge amount of money to pay for Covid-19. That was a stream of lies from start to finish, as I pointed out:

So we were led to expect tax hikes a-go-go. But this didn’t happen:

The refers to income tax, National Insurance and VAT. However – and this is indeed a ‘however’:

This is the amount you earn before you start paying tax, or before you start paying it at a higher rate. Because these thresholds are frozen, it seems more people will pay at a higher rate due to wage inflation, so there will be a de facto increase in taxes. But this depends on people receiving pay rises to cover their costs and Tory policy over the last 11 years has been to discourage that – it’s the reason real take-home pay has fallen by thousands of pounds per year since 2010.

This was the only increase in taxation, and it is only on a tax on profits. So firms that pay corporation tax can avoid it by ensuring that they make no profit from 2023. The best way to do that is to invest in infrastructure and wages (by employing more people, perhaps).

It would be wrong to say that Sunak’s budget does nothing for ordinary people – but it’s all based around existing Covid-related schemes:

Sunak went on to announce plans for government investment. The main points were:

But “free ports” are not new, nor are they likely to help:

Here’s an interesting point:

Mr McDonnell himself promptly answered it:

There was also some muttering about policies that give a nod to the environment but if you blinked, you missed them – and This Writer blinked. They certainly don’t constitute a “Green Industrial Revolution”!

As Tory budgets go, this is not the disaster for working-class people that it could have been – although the main hits have been offset, so it may be a few months or years until we can know the effects for sure.

The lack of any hard taxes or austerity measures suggests a tacit admission that Covid-19 really is bought and paid-for, and there won’t be any real need to pay for it again.

So This Writer is left with a huge sense of anticlimax. I was expecting to be fearful after today; instead I feel let down.

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If this doesn’t convince you the Tories are doing their best to kill us all, what will?

No face masks, no testing: school halls will soon be as packed as this, again. And with no demand for mandatory masks and testing, they’ll soon be chock-full of Covid-19 too.

Tory schools minister Nick Gibb has decided that face masks and asymptomatic Covid-19 testing with be optional in schools.

You know what this means. Face masks are supposed to protect other people if we have the virus – and the ones who refuse to wear them will be the contagious idiots.

The same applies to asymptomatic testing. They’ll say, “I don’t feel bad! Why should I have a swab up my nose?” And then they’ll infect your sons and daughters, you, and everyone you know.

Charming.

And all made possible by the damnfool Tories who’ve made such a pig’s ear of the Covid crisis so far.

We are saying it is not mandatory for schools to have masks in classrooms but it is highly recommended because we want to do everything we can to reduce the risk of transmission in the school

said Gibb.

Of course we can’t make it [asymptomatic testing] mandatory … but we just hope that most parents will see the wisdom of testing their children twice a week.

It is as though the Tories are trying to make it seem they are doing all they can to minimise the risk of infection – while actually doing all they can to increase it.

Isn’t it?

Source: Face coverings in secondary schools will not be compulsory, says minister | The Canary

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No vaccination for teachers before schools go back – because it’s too much like hard work

The government has said it will not prioritise teachers (or police officers) in the next phase of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout because it will involve doing some work.

The government has been under pressure to give priority in phase two to key workers, such as teachers or police officers, irrespective of their age.

But the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has stated it is better to stick to vaccination in order of age groups (oldest to youngest).

The JCVI said targeting occupational groups by going through employee lists would be more complex to deliver than simply running through a list of age groups.

It said this could slow down the vaccine programme, leaving some more vulnerable people, at higher risk unvaccinated for longer.

If schools go back, who will be more vulnerable than teachers? The really high risk groups have already had their jabs.

Bizarrely,

Professor Wei Shen Lim, the Covid chair for the JCVI, said the the goal of vaccinations was to stop people from dying.

We’ll see how that looks a few weeks after schools reopen on March 8, shall we?

It seems incredible, that pupils, parents and teachers will all be put at risk – not to mention all their families, friends and colleagues – because the people behind the vaccination programme can’t be bothered to compile the necessary lists.

Source: Under-50s Will Be Vaccinated Based On Age Not Occupation | HuffPost UK

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Schoolkids know the score: reopening all schools in England will infect the nation with Covid-19

“Perfectly safe”: this photo was taken on a school staircase after Boris Johnson ruled that it was “perfectly safe” for children to go back there in September – no social distancing, no PPE… not safe at all. Now he is planning to do it all again, with infection rates nearly seven times higher than when this image was made.

Boris Johnson loves announcing big plans without giving us the facts and figures behind them, and he has done it again with school reopening.

How humiliating for him that it has been up to school pupil Jamal Elaheebocus to explain that when schools were recklessly reopened in June last year, one in 1,100 people were infected with Covid-19. When they were recklessly reopened in September, this had fallen to one in 2,000.

In mid-February, the infection rate was one in 115 people. It is hoped this will have fallen to one in 300 but that is nearly seven times more than in September last year – and look how that turned out!

Jamal reminds us of a few more uncomfortable truths:

the prevalence of the virus in communities remains high. As Johnson himself admitted on January 4, schools are vectors of transmission.

To any of us working or studying in schools, the reasons why schools are hotspots for infection are obvious.

Fitting thirty students and a teacher in a classroom makes social distancing impossible, overcrowded buildings means that several year groups who are separate bubbles then mix together.

Students are then packed on buses and trains to get home, spreading infection not only among themselves but among the wider public as well.

The latest data from Imperial’s React programme showed that 5 to 12 year olds had the second highest infection rate of any age group. Given this, there is no doubt that schools will increase the infection rate again. The difference this time is that infection rates will be much higher.

While the vaccine may help limit the rise in infection to an extent, infection rates will undoubtedly increase. This is a reckless gamble just to get children into schools for three weeks before Easter holidays.

Yes.

So why is Johnson doing it?

This was inevitable, thanks to the pressure from the mainstream media and Keir Starmer.

How low Labour has sunk! Its leader is now counted among those responsible for inflicting an inevitable increase in Covid-19 infections on the UK – yet again. People will die because Starmer did this.

Yes, some of the arguments in favour of re-opening schools have influence – but only because prolonged closures have placed pupils at the mercy of the Tories’ neoliberal system – one that Starmer wholeheartedly supports.

The combined incompetence of the government and the cruelty of the neoliberal system has meant many kids have missed out on free school meals, families are struggling to cope in overcrowded homes and kids have not been able to access online learning because of lack of access to a laptop or good broadband.

Lockdown has been made so difficult for school pupils because of the government’s decision to continue to punish the poorest in society. It is a disgrace that the Tories and the right-wing media are attempting to manipulate the stress and hardship and use it to back up their reckless campaign to open up society and let the virus run rampage.

It is a disgrace.

And the Tories’ adherence to the neoliberal system that demands minimal investment for maximum return (to the very, very rich) means that the reopening will be done on the cheap.

Jamal proposes a series of measures to make schools safe – or at least safer. None of them have been supported – or even mentioned – by Boris Johnson because they cost money.

Teachers should be prioritised for the vaccine since they will be mixing with such a large number of people. This should have been done months ago and as more and more of the clinically vulnerable and elderly are vaccinated, there is no reason not to now prioritise teachers.

There should also be plans to repurpose public buildings as classrooms or put money into new buildings on school sites to facilitate social distancing in classrooms and allow for proper separation of year group bubbles.

Supply teachers and newly-qualified teachers who are not employed can be utilised to allow for smaller class sizes and more social distancing.

The vaccine is not the cure-all that Johnson and his cronies have claimed. It wont protect you as fully as you think, and it won’t protect as many people as you think.

And, of course, it has only been applied to a minority of the population – on a first-dose basis.

How sad that Johnson is so keen to prolong the UK’s Covid-19 agony, just to please his backbenchers, the baying hounds of the mass media… and Keir Starmer.

Source: A school student speaks: 8 March ‘big bang’ reopening just isn’t safe – Counterfire

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