Tag Archives: learning

Williamson’s failures on home learning expose Tory policy stupidity on ‘Broadband Communism’

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson may be acting “to the utmost of his ability”, but so was Frank Spencer – the calamitous comedy character with whom Williamson has been compared.

If this inspires confidence in you, then you’re not thinking hard enough:

Saying the prime minister thinks Gavin Williamson is being Education Secretary “to the utmost of his ability” is not the same as saying he has “full confidence” in him.

Williamson has far too many mistakes in his recent history for any member of the public to have full confidence in him, let alone any school pupil.

Only yesterday he admitted that his Covid-19-related failures – in both policy and practice – have made it impossible to hold GCSE, AS and A level exams this year:

Perhaps you don’t grasp the enormity of the admission from what he said. Labour’s shadow Education Secretary, Kate Green, made it clear that she holds him to blame for the chaos in the education system.

The reason Williamson has cancelled the exams is that the Covid-19 crisis – and its effect on schools – has made it impossible to ensure that pupils across the UK have been educated to an equivalent standard.

The reasons for the uneven standards include the fact that teachers have been unable to plan their lessons properly due to Williamson’s unfortunate habit of announcing that schools will stay open no matter what – and then closing them.

Also, he was supposed to provide laptops to pupils, in order to ensure that they could carry on learning to an acceptable standard even if they were confined to their homes. He didn’t (or at least, he didn’t provide enough).

This has now necessitated children without laptops being added to the “vulnerable” list of youngsters who have to go to school during lockdown, alongside the kids of key workers. This amounts to another example of class warfare – kids without laptops are likely to be poor, and sending them to school exposes them to the most common vector for transmission of the killer virus:

Finally, there’s the fact that some families don’t have access to the broadband internet connections necessary to experience this kind of home learning.

The Tories now agree with Labour that this is a good idea – but it is too late to implement it in time to help this year’s crop of exam-takers.

Let us remind ourselves of the reaction – from the Tories and the mass media – when the Labour Party proposed free broadband across the UK in the run-up to the 2019 general election:

Who was right?

John McDonnell and Labour, of course (Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, that is. Kate Green, while being right about Gavin Williamson, also said that schools should stay open. That’s the lunacy of the party under Keir Starmer for you)).

If that party had been elected, free broadband would have been brought to the UK, school pupils would have been able not only to do their homework but to carry out distance learning, preparing them for their exams which would not have had to be cancelled – and it would have helped adults to work from home as well, which would have been a great help to a great many people during lockdown, as well.

That’s the problem with silly Tory ideological incompetence.

Their failure to accept the wisdom of free broadband, and their failure to equip school pupils for home learning, means Williamson has been forced to cancel exams because pupils are not well-enough educated.

As a result, the UK’s workforce will be less competitive in the world marketplace in the future, when compared with other countries that were better-prepared and more willing to help everybody in their populations, rather than just the very rich.

So when we look at the malady afflicting the UK’s education system under the Conservatives, during the Covid-19 crisis, we can see one thing clearly:

Williamson is a symptom of the illness. Conservative government is the cause.

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Learning-disabled deaths linked to coronavirus are huge – but nobody’s talking about it

The proportion of people with learning disabilities who have died with coronavirus is higher than that of people in care homes.

But nobody seems to want to mention that.

Is it because we’ve been told for the last 10 years that they are scroungers and skivers?

Between the March 16 and May 10, 1,029 people with a learning disability died in England, with 45 per cent, 467, linked to coronavirus.

Overall the number of deaths during the eight weeks is 550 more than would be expected when compared to the same period last year.

The charity Mencap warned people with a learning disability were “being forgotten in this crisis” and called for action to tackle what it said could be “potentially discriminatory practice.”

It highlighted the percentage of Covid-19 related deaths among learning disabled people was higher than those in care homes, where the proportion of Covid-19 deaths was 31 per cent for the same period.

The data has been published after an outcry over the lack of transparency about the impact of Covid-19 on mental health patients and people with a learning disability or autism.

A spokesperson for NHS England said the number of deaths was “broadly in line with the rest of the population”. This is clearly not true.

The simple fact is that double the normal number of people with a learning disability are dying – but they continue to be forgotten and, according to Mencap chief Edel Harris, they are “forgotten in this crisis”.

Forgotten? Maybe.

Or maybe that was the intention.

The fact is that the Conservative government – which has a history of discrimination against people with any kind of disability – tried to hide the figures.

People don’t do that if they have a clear conscience. They do it if they feel guilty.

Let’s remember to demand an independent inquiry into these deaths, with a focus on whether there was a deliberate move to focus resources – and attention – away from helping people with learning disabilities.

Source: Coronavirus: Hundreds of learning disability deaths in just eight weeks, new data shows | The Independent

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If the DWP reckons it’s getting decisions right, why are people still suffering?

He knows he's in trouble: Mike Penning, shortly after removing his foot from his mouth while talking about 'mandatory reconsideration'.

He knows he’s in trouble: Mike Penning, shortly after removing his foot from his mouth while talking about ‘mandatory reconsideration’.

The minister for disabled people, Mike Penning, seemed to think he had something to celebrate this week, after official figures showed the number of benefit decision appeals dropped by 79 per cent between January and March this year (compared with the same time in 2013).

He said it means the government’s new ‘mandatory reconsideration’ process is helping people to challenge wrong decisions earlier and helping target government support on those who need it most: “Getting more decisions right the first time avoids the need for protracted tribunal appeals… This new safeguard gives claimants the chance to raise their grievance promptly, provide further evidence and have their claim reassessed without the unnecessary stress of an appeal.”

How wonderful for him.

Does the man with learning disabilities who was living on a paste made of flour and water, after his benefits were suspended, feel the same way, one has to wonder?

How about the woman with breast cancer who was forced to stop chemotherapy – putting her life in danger, one must presume – because she was assessed as ineligible for benefits?

The fact is that ‘mandatory reconsideration’ was brought in to make it harder for benefit claimants like these to challenge a decision that they are capable of work.

If a claimant is unhappy with an adverse decision, they can demand a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ and it will be revisited, usually by a different decision-maker – but the Department for Work and Pensions will not pay even the ‘assessment rate’ of the benefit that has been claimed until a new decision has been reached, and there is no time limit within which the DWP must carry it out. Once a decision has been made, and if it is favourable, there is no guarantee that the benefit will be backdated to cover the whole period since the original claim.

If the claimant is still unhappy about the decision, they may then take it to appeal. This is unlikely as, by then, they will have been forced to live without any means of support for an extended period of time and other benefits such as Housing Benefit may have been denied to them because of the DWP’s adverse decision.

This is the whole point of the nasty game – cutting the number of appeals. When a benefit case goes to court it is both expensive and potentially embarrassing for the Department for Work and Pensions. Of course it is – when a judge tells a government representative that their decision has been irrational or needlessly cruel, it’s a slap in the face for both the decision maker and, ultimately, the government whose benefit ‘reforms’ made that decision possible.

‘Mandatory reconsideration’ was brought in at the end of October last year, and the figures for January to March are the first quarterly statistics to indicate its effect.

Mr Penning said: “This new safeguard gives claimants the chance to raise their grievance promptly, provide further evidence and have their claim reassessed without the unnecessary stress of an appeal.” Would this be “unnecessary stress” to DWP employees? Claimants now have even more “unnecessary stress” to handle.

It should also be noted that we can’t trust the government’s statistics on the number of appeals it has been handling.

A Freedom of Information request by the iLegal website has revealed that, between April 2012 and June 2013, the DWP received 406,070 ESA appeals – and officially recorded outcomes of only 12,800. What happened to the rest?

It seems Mr Penning has learned to speak with a forked tongue.

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