Tag Archives: pupil

School meal vouchers for poorest families ‘delayed’ – yet another Tory coronavirus fail

School meal: this image is from before the coronavirus lockdown. These kids are probably starving to death right now, waiting for their mythical Tory meal vouchers.

Oh, they’ve been delayed, have they? Funny, that…

Funny that the claim comes after This Site ran a poll asking whether anybody had received their vouchers – and two-thirds of the respondents said no.

Funny that the Tory government seems unable to supply anything that it has promised in the coronavirus crisis.

They promised plenty of personal protective equipment for NHS staff dealing with people who have the disease – and didn’t supply it. Medical professionals are dying, who should be helping to treat the virus, because of this failure.

They promised ventilators to stop people with the disease from dying of the pneumonia that kills them – and didn’t. This meant GP surgeries ended up asking some of the most vulnerable people in the UK to sign forms saying the did not want ventilators if they caught the disease – effectively signing their lives away.

They promised 100,000 tests per day to find carriers of the disease – and ended up turning away offers to supply test kits.

They promised to help victims of domestic abuse who have been shut in their homes with their abusers. No such help has been forthcoming.

They promised all kinds of financial packages to help businesses and employees hit by the pandemic – leaving gaping holes in the provision, through which many people are in danger of falling (if they haven’t already done so).

These Tories have promised the world, and delivered very little indeed – apart from at least 7,097 deaths so far.

So ask yourself: are they evil, or just monumentally stupid?

Many families whose children are eligible for free school meals have not received supermarket vouchers as promised by the government because of delays in the supply system, school leaders say.

Headteachers and school business managers in England said the problem was widespread, and many took to social media to complain about difficulties accessing the scheme and delays in delivering vouchers to the families who need them.

Until now there has been support for the government’s announcement of a national voucher scheme to ensure that children from the poorest families continue to receive free meals while schools are closed during the Covid-19 crisis.

Source: UK’s poorest families suffering as free school meal vouchers delayed | Education | The Guardian

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Children and coronavirus – the facts have made a worse fool of Johnson

A class at school: if just one of these pupils had the coronavirus, who knows how many would have taken it home with them at the end of the day?

Children can be invisible carriers of the coronavirus, playing a key role in its spread, according to scientists.

The revelation has made Boris Johnson’s decision to keep schools open for as long as possible look even more ignorant and dangerous than it already did.

According to Jonathan Ball, who is a professor of molecular virology, young people are at less risk of suffering serious illness as a result of contracting the virus – but this means their potential for harming more vulnerable people could be devastating.

And Boris Johnson insisted that they remain in contact with those vulnerable people for as long as possible.

Professor Ball said that, in more than 85 per cent of confirmed cases, symptoms can go undetected or be easily confused with the common cold of mild flu.

Coronavirus’s biggest weapon – the thing that has, according to one study, allowed it to spread so easily – is this ability to cause mild disease in the majority of people it infects.

When you can’t easily tell if someone has a cold or coronavirus, case identification and infection control are far more difficult – and Boris Johnson closed down testing for the disease.

As a result, according to Professor Ball:

Far from being uninfected by this virus, children could in fact be its unseen carriers, important links in community transmission chains.

By assuming that the young and healthy weren’t at risk, the UK government may have underestimated the effects of coronavirus.

Younger people and children are less likely to die from coronavirus, but their mild symptoms could make them contagious carriers of the virus – and they are more difficult to spot.

So now you know.

Those of you who spotted mild symptoms in your children and isolated them immediately are to be congratulated; you did absolutely the right thing.

Those in your government who said schools should stay open so “children congregate en masse, often in close proximity, and then return home, taking with them any new infection they’ve picked up” are to be vilified.

Let’s be honest: it is politicians like Johnson who have really been spreading the infection.

Source: What scientists know so far about the effects of coronavirus on children | Jonathan Ball | Opinion | The Guardian

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Labour’s mental health pledge will help vulnerable children across the UK

School: It isn’t just exams that can stretch young people’s mental health. Labour’s plan could help eight million pupils.

Every school pupil in the UK will have access to mental health support under a Labour pledge to end Tory neglect – worth £845 million a year.

Vulnerable youngsters would no longer have to wait months for urgent help – all they would have to do is report to their school’s qualified counsellor.

And a network of drop-in hubs will help 300,000 more kids after it was revealed one in eight suffer at least one mental health disorder.

Here’s the Mirror:

Labour’s child mental healthcare revolution will ensure a healthier, happier generation that will benefit all of society for decades to come.

Its £845million-a-year Healthy Young Minds plan will reverse years of Tory failures that have left vulnerable youngsters waiting months for urgent care.

Early intervention would dramatically help the one in eight children suffering at least one mental disorder.

A Labour government will:

  • Recruit on-site mental health professionals for each of England’s 3,500 secondary schools.
  • Give every primary school access to qualified experts at least once a week.
  • Set up drop-in mental health hubs in every local authority to directly help 300,000 more children.

It means every one of the country’s eight million state school children will have access to help when they need it.

For information:

The number of child and adolescent mental health service appointments cancelled by the NHS in England soared by 25 per cent in the last year alone, to 175,000, according to mental health charity Mind.

The rise suggests the Tory-run system is struggling to handle the level of demand.

Children who do get treatment have to wait on average 83 days from first referral – yet early identification is crucial, with half of all mental health problems developing by the age of 14.

Around 95 per cent of teachers believe they have taught a child suffering anxiety, while 60 per cent believe at least one pupil is self-harming.

One in eight youngsters aged five to 19 had at least one mental health disorder in 2017, the last year for which data is available, NHS figures show.

Yet nearly 60 per cent of local authorities have seen a real-terms fall in low-level mental health services.

To This Writer, the choice seems clear:

Continued despair under the Tory system – or a brighter future for all our children with Labour.

Source: Labour pledges £845m for forgotten children struggling with their mental health – Mirror Online

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Food bank opens AT SCHOOL after famished children start stealing from lunchboxes

The food bank at North Denes Junior School in Norfolk.

Now even children are being forced into crime by repressive Conservative government policies.

Think it through: Schoolchildren are almost entirely dependent on their parents for nutrition and Conservative policies have pushed 14 million UK citizens below the poverty line.

This figure includes four million people who are in work.

We may conclude that this is because the Tories have deliberately pushed wages through the floor. Only last week, Tory ex-minister Dominic Raab was ridiculed after he claimed wages were rising at their fastest rate in eight years. They weren’t; and they’re still lower – in real terms – than in 2010 when Gordon Brown was prime minister.

Here’s the graph:

Fairy tale: Dominic Raab thinks it’s terrific that wages are lower now than when Labour was in office.

And the benefit nightmare the Tories euphemistically call “Universal Credit” only worsens matters. The Tories say there’s nothing wrong with it because, even though there is a five-week wait before people who are successful in claiming it receive the cash, they can apply for an advance of up to 100 per cent.

The problem is, they have to pay that advance back, meaning the amount they receive regularly drops below subsistence level – for months. It’s a poverty – and debt – trap.

And it leads to further social problems including poor health and rising crime; people who are starved of money often suffer from malnourishment, with all its attendant health problems, and may turn to crime, simply to feed themselves and their families. Their children may do the same.

The issue creates a huge problem for school authorities, of course.

Teachers are charged with pupils’ moral education, as much as parents and other figures of authority – and cannot, therefore, allow theft from lunchboxes to go unremarked, even if the thieves are starving. And obviously it must be heartbreaking to watch their pupils wasting away due to the policies of a selfish government of the rich and privileged.

So staff at North Denes Junior School in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, set up their own food bank for hungry pupils whose parents are struggling. It is thought to be the first at a British school

Half the school’s 420 pupils get free meals (although this won’t happen during school holidays, meaning that Christmas would be a miserable affair for them if they don’t get this kind of help.

Head Debbie Whiting launched the facility after seeing pupils so famished they were stealing from other children’s packed lunches.

Read more about the school’s food bank here.

But remember that, while the help for starving children is welcome, it is not a solution to the problem.

This is a problem that can only be solved by providing the whole workforce with wages that make it unnecessary for them to have to claim benefits – and by reforming the benefit system to ensure that those who are out of work can look for employment without having to worry about starvation or the threat of eviction.

That will never happen under a Conservative government.

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As parents consider withdrawing primary school children from Sats exams, it’s time to ask: Are Tories bad for our mental health?

It seems the Conservatives have a ‘whole life’ attitude to mental illness – they want to create it in the young and worsen it as we get older.

How else are we to explain the concerns about school pupils’ mental health, due to the pressure being piled on them by the state-run system?

We can see that Tory employment policy seems intended to continue this pressure into the world of work, forcing school leavers into poorly-paid, stress-filled employment.

This, itself, is madness.

Pushing people until they crack is not a sign of a good system; it betrays one that is self-destructively exploitative.

Under this kind of system, more and more people will have to retire from work to seek medical help. Who will care for them? And who will be left to prop up the economy as it sags under the weight of the unwell.

Not the wealthy – we already know the vast majority of the rich are idle – especially those in government.

Parents across the country are preparing to withdraw their 10 and 11-year-olds from tests over concerns about their mental health.

Families are becoming increasingly worried about the number of practice papers and revision classes that Year 6 children face during the Easter holidays, The Independent understands.

Thousands of parents have downloaded a letter which sets out plans to stop their children from taking the Sats exams next month because of the “pressures of a high stakes testing system”.

It comes as teaching unions warned about the “damaging” impact of assessments in primary school.

Just last week, the National Education Union (NUT section) voted to explore ways of disrupting the pilots of the government’s new literacy and numeracy tests for four-year-olds.

Source: Thousands of parents consider withdrawing primary school children from Sats exams over mental health concerns | The Independent


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PFI schools have fire safety issues: Isn’t this a breach of contract?

According to The Independent, eight schools built under Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts have fire safety issues that could affect the health of pupils.

The revelation raises serious questions about the safety of public facilities built by the private sector, according to the newspaper:

PFI supporters say private contractors generally get major projects done quicker, cheaper and to a higher standard than the public sector. However, these claims are increasingly disputed. A report in 2011 by a Treasury Select Committee of MPs comparing PFI with traditionally procured projects said “we have seen reports which found out that building quality was of a lower standard in PFI buildings”.

Isn’t the issue more that the private contractor – Balfour Beatty – is in breach of contract, having built schools that are unsafe?

PFI has been an enormous waste of public money, with nobody profiting from the contracts apart from the privateers who dictated them.

The contracts were originally employed by John Major’s Conservative government.

When Labour came to office in 1997 and found very little money available for the massive job of rebuilding both the health and education services after nearly two decades of Tory neglect, there was little choice but to take up PFI to achieve these goals.

With safety now an issue, public authorities up and down the country should be demanding checks and consulting their contracts for exit strategies that may provide a way out of the PFI nightmare…

… Or did nobody bother to think of that, back when these things were originally negotiated?

Source: Eight PFI schools built by one of UK’s biggest private contractors have fire safety issues – Home News – UK – The Independent

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Cameron’s delight: school pupils suffering ‘Victorian conditions’

15022013m-in-poverty-half-in-working-households_JRF

Don’t you just hate it when politicians rig the statistics to show ‘facts’ that are demonstrably untrue?

According to the Conservative Party, the number of children in poverty has fallen by 300,000 under the Coalition Government – but poverty is measured as a percentage of average income; when the nation’s average income drops, poverty is said to have dropped as well, even though this is clearly untrue.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, “Those with less than 60 per cent of median income are classified as poor. This ‘poverty line’ is the agreed international measure used throughout the European Union.”

Here in the UK, wages have suffered their longest-sustained fall for no less than 150 years.

Average incomes in the years up to 2012. Source: ONS.

Average incomes in the years up to 2012. This is the most up-to-date graph I have. Source: ONS.

So no wonder the BBC and the Mirror are reporting that children are arriving at school in “Victorian squalor”. This is what the Coalition Government wants.

The BBC reported: “Claims about poverty in the school-age population will be heard at the NASUWT teachers’ union annual conference in Cardiff. The union asked members for their experiences and received almost 2,500 responses. It was not a representative sample of teachers, but among those replying more than two in three reported seeing pupils come to school hungry.

“Almost one in four of the teachers who responded said they had brought in food for pupils who were hungry, and an even higher proportion had seen the school feeding pupils.

“More than three in four had seen pupils arriving at school with “inappropriate clothing” such as no socks or coats in bad weather.

“Similar numbers claimed that a bad diet meant that pupils were unable to concentrate on their work.”

The Liberal Democrats said they had helped families by introducing free school meals for all infant children. That’s the caring side of the Coalition Government for you. Rather than sort out the underlying problems – that they created – they put a patch on it and say it’s solved.

Meanwhile, a Tory spokesman said – get this: “Because of our policies, there are more jobs than ever before, wages are rising faster than prices and with the lowest inflation on record, family budgets are starting to go further. The NASUWT should recognise how the Conservatives have rescued the economy, and through that, delivering the jobs that secure a better future for families.”

Jobs that pay far too little to make any real difference – 28 per cent of them are on insecure zero-hours contracts.

Who do these selfish toffs think they’re fooling?

130617childpoverty

We must get rid of them before they cause any more harm to our children.

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Do parents even know their children’s school data has been given away?

140426schooldata

Fellow blogger and Vox Political reader Owen Boswarva has delivered frightening proof of the way parents have been sidelined by Michael Gove’s Department for Education, in order to give away – not even sell – confidential information about our children to private companies.

Mr Boswarva said he had written a blog post about the issue last year, in which he stated his concern about “the low profile of DfE’s NPD initiative. Most of the consultation responses are from organisations with an interest in re-using the data, leavened by some cautionary advice from civil society groups. There are only a couple of responses from schools and a half-dozen or so responses from individual parents (consistently opposed to the proposals).” [Emphasis mine]

“There appears to have been no concerted effort to bring the consultation or the NPD initiative to the attention of parents or pupils (i.e. the data subjects themselves). This is a quote from one of the parents who did respond: ‘I am shocked and appalled that I wasn’t notified about this consultation through my child’s school — I read about it on Twitter of all things. A letter should have gone to every single parent explaining the proposals and how to respond to this consultation.’

“(Now imagine that sentiment amplified via Mumsnet …)”

His full article is available here and makes absorbing reading as it features all of the responses to what the DfE (laughably) called its “consultation”.

In his comment to VP, Mr Boswarva wrote: “Some civil liberties organisations (including Big Brother Watch) did respond to the DfE consultation… The implemented access regime is not quite as bad as the original proposals, but I agree we should be concerned.

“For me the main issue is that parents (and pupils themselves, who are the actual data subjects) are unaware of how the personal data is being shared with third-party organisations.

“There was no press release or any other broad communication to the public when access to NPD data was expanded. (It’s worth noting that most of the broadsheets [newspapers] have been given access to Tier 2 pupil data themselves, so they are probably not keen to rock the boat.)

“If you want to get into the detail of what DfE is up to with the NPD, try this Deloitte report: National Pupil Database: Exploiting the benefits of releasing the data.”

I have yet to do so (time being against me) but I invite any readers with an interest to download the report, go through it, and report your findings.

I’m off to find a contact address for Mumsnet.

Addendum: I’ve amended this article after Mr Boswarva contacted me to point out that the DfE isn’t, in fact, selling pupil information – the department is giving it away for free. In my opinion this makes its actions even worse. What do you think? (Thanks are due to Mr Boswarva, whose full communication should appear in the comment column below.)

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School pupils’ details are being given away by the government

Selling their future: Michael Gove's Department for Education has put pupils' confidential information up for sale.

Selling their future: Michael Gove’s Department for Education has put pupils’ confidential information up for sale.

Thanks are due to the Vox Political reader who flagged up the fact that, while plans to sell British citizens’ health records and tax details are currently delayed or in consideration, confidential information about our children is already being passed on to private companies.

Researchers and third-party organisations can apply for detailed information from the national pupil database (NPD), covering pupils at schools and colleges in England.

This includes test and exam results, details of prior attainment and progression at different key stages for pupils in the state sector, attainment data for students in non-maintained special schools, sixth-form and further education colleges, and information on pupils in independent schools, where available.

The database also includes information about pupils’ characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, first language, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs (SEN), and pupil absence and exclusions.

Why would anyone want to use such information commercially?

Extracts of this data are available for use by any organisation or person who, “for the purpose of promoting the education or well-being of children in England”, are conducting research or analysis, producing statistics, or providing information, advice or guidance. To whom?

The available data is arranged into ‘tiers’, as follows:

  • Tier 1 – the most sensitive personal information
  • Tier 2 – other sensitive personal information, including less sensitive versions of tier 1 data
  • Tier 3 – school-level data
  • Tier 4 – other pupil-level data, for example, attainment, absence and exclusions

Users can even request bespoke extracts, with a member of the NPD Data Request team on hand to advise on the approvals process, and whether the information requested is available.

The NPD is also linked to the further and higher education sectors, using data from the individualised learner record (ILR) and Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) student record.

Users can request linked information in the following combinations:

  • NPD linked to ILR data
  • NPD linked to HESA student record
  • NPD linked to both ILR and HESA
  • Individualised learner record linked to HESA student record

You will not be consulted on whether you wish to allow your child’s information to be given away.

This means a huge amount of information about your children is now available to third parties and – considering the government guidance note from which this information is drawn is almost a month old – may already have been handed over.

Confidential information on – for example – exam and test results, special educational needs, absence and exclusions, and eligibility for free school meals could have a serious impact on a pupil’s prospects in adult life, if used to inform organisations that are hiring school leavers, for example.

There are safeguards. Organisations requesting information need to demonstrate that they comply with all relevant requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998, including proving that they are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office to process personal data or fall within an exemption, have appropriate security arrangements in place to process the data, intend to use the data only for a specified purpose, will keep the data only for a specified length of time, and will not share the data without our prior written approval.

Considering this government’s track record, how safe does that make you feel?

If you want to read the guidance note yourself, it may be found here.

Addendum: I’ve amended this article after Owen Boswarva contacted me to point out that the DfE isn’t, in fact, selling pupil information – the department is giving it away for free. In my opinion this makes its actions even worse. What do you think?

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One in the ear for Michael Gove

Here’s one for all beleaguered teachers across Britain – but it’s for their pupils as well.

I was pointed towards this by another blog (alittleecon – look it up). It was posted less than a week ago but has already won a huge following, including many teachers.

I’d like to ask for school pupils to take a look at it too. If you’ve ever spent time in class waiting for the bell to ring and wishing your teacher would stop bothering you because you just don’t care, listen to this and understand why.

If enough school-goers saw, and heard, and listened to this poem, it might completely change their attitude to teachers and teaching.

And if enough parents saw, and listened, and thought about what this poem says – about their own lives and the lives their children can expect thanks to the worst-ever British government, perhaps it might persuade them to think again before putting their cross next to the Conservative candidate at the next few elections.

It isn’t rocket science.

And to Jess Green, if you’re reading this, I’m looking forward to your next poem.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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