Category Archives: Education

As Covid rates skyrocket, new Health Secretary is trying to gaslight us all

Covid Javid: would he be so keen to whip that mask off in a school, where absence rates due to the virus have quadrupled in the last month?

England is on course to come out of lockdown altogether on July 19 – according to Sajid Javid. There’s just one problem: Covid-19 infections are skyrocketing.

It’s not a good look for a brand-new Health Secretary – trying to gaslight a nation that is tired out after almost 18 months of lies, denials, excuses, self-justifications and, worst of all, false promises.

But on June 28, Javid stood up in the House of Commons and told us all that he could “see no reason to go beyond” that “target date” of July 19.

The rest of us can. Covid-19 infections have shot above 20,000 per day for a second day running, and are likely to pass 100,000 a day by July 19 at the current rate of increase.

Javid says that’s not a problem because the number of deaths is falling. But this is to deny the fact that Covid-19 has other harmful effects.

What about the increased strain on the National Health Service?

What about Long Covid?

Oh yeah, that’s right. Javid reckons the lockdown must end because we must all learn to “live with” the virus.

How perversely appropriate, then, that the first people having to learn to live with it are likely to be our generation of learners – at school.

The infection rate there is already booming after the government decided to tell our kids not to wear face masks.

More than 375,000 pupils – about one in 20 – were out of school for Covid-related reasons, up by more than 130,000 in a week according to the latest official figures.

That’s more than four times as many as at the beginning of June, when the effects of the decision to stop demanding that pupils wear masks (from May 17) started to become clear.

And let’s not forget that, despite what he says, Javid has already played a huge part in increasing the threat of Covid-19:

So now we see that the new boss is exactly the same as the old boss, and Javid intends the government to continue handling Covid-19 exactly as it has all along:

BADLY.
Source: Covid-19: End of England’s Covid rules still set for 19 July – BBC News

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Priorities: Tories fail to provide funding for schools to recover from Covid-19 because they want YOUR kids to fail

Gavin Williamson: he could provide the funding needed to help your kids catch up with the education they’ve missed due to the Covid lockdowns – he just doesn’t want to.

Tory priorities in action: they have billions to waste on PPE provision contracts for donors who were never going to be able to provide anything, but they absolutely refuse to spend enough for your kids’ education to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

The gap between what is needed and what they’re offering is apparently so wide that England’s school recovery commissioner (did you even know there was such a person) has resigned in disgust:

The education recovery commissioner for England, Sir Kevan Collins, has resigned in a row over the lack of “credible” Covid catch-up funding.

Sir Kevan took on the role as catch-up tsar in February to develop a long-term plan to help pupils make up for lost learning during the pandemic.

But on Wednesday he stepped down saying the government’s funding for the plan “falls far short of what is needed”.

Head teachers labelled the £1.4bn cash over three years as a “damp squib”.

The Education Policy Institute had calculated that a catch-up funding recovery would need £13.5bn – and Sir Kevan was reported as having put forward plans costing £15bn.

The government’s proposal represents £50 per pupil per year.

The government’s response has been to thank Sir Kevan for his work, and to claim that already £3 billion has been put into helping school pupils catch up.

So that’s an admission that they’re providing less than a third of what is needed.

The tragedy of this is that the government could magic up the cash for this in a heartbeat – but our dunce of an Education Secretary, Gavin “Algorithm” Williamson, together with Boris Johnson himself, simply doesn’t want to.

To explain: governments create money and invest it in the economy wherever their priorities lie. Last year, Johnson created £300 billion to keep the UK ticking over during the Covid lockdowns.

So, if the government really wanted to invest in your child’s education, it would create the money for it and pump it into the education system.

The only conclusion to be had is that the Tories don’t want your child to be properly educated. Why should they? Their children are privately-educated.

Source: School catch-up tsar resigns over lack of funding – BBC News

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This is how governments attack minorities: they cut funding to councils

End SEND cuts: the Tory war on kids with special needs has been going on for years – this image is from 2019.

Your Tory government has targeted youngsters with special needs for persecution.

Oh, it hasn’t announced an attack on kids whose life opportunities are limited by accidents of birth. Oh no. It doesn’t have to.

Instead, it has simply cut funding – creating a shortfall of more than £500 million in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) system.

There’s no need for the cuts. Experience over the last few years has shown us that the government could easily create the money needed and dedicate it to this purpose, if ministers were included to do so.

They are not.

Don’t be surprised. This is just the latest stage of the ongoing Tory war on people with disabilities. Eugenics disguised as economics.

Source: Councils in England facing funding gaps plan to cut special needs support | Special educational needs | The Guardian

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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

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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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.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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The Livingstone Presumption is now available
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