Tag Archives: trainee

Never mind literacy and numeracy, Mr Gove – let’s have a bit less duplicity

Speaking with a forked tongue: The Education Secretary appears to have been exposed pushing double-standards into the school system. [Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire]

Speaking with a forked tongue: The Education Secretary appears to have been exposed pushing double-standards into the school system. [Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire]

The Department for Education has been parading the success of “more demanding” rules for teacher trainees – less than 10 days after swearing blind that people did not need to have any qualifications at all.

According to Michael Gove’s Department for Education, “new figures show that changes to toughen up the skills tests taken by prospective teachers have raised the quality of those entering the teaching profession”.

The rules, introduced in September 2012, mean “only high-quality candidates with good levels of literacy and numeracy go on to train to be teachers. This will raise standards in schools,” a DfE spokesperson said.

The press release states that 98 per cent of candidates in the 2011-12 academic year passed skills tests in both literacy and numeracy, meaning they could progress to qualified teacher status – but after the new rules came in, the proportion of passes dropped to 88 per cent – and this after three attempts.

The remaining 12 per cent did not pass both skills tests, including almost three per cent who failed three times and may not progress to teacher training for at least two years.

This is, in fact very good news for school pupils. Yr Obdt Srvt is the son of a teacher and has been well aware of a drop in standards over the last 20 or 30 years – probably since Kenneth Baker was Education Secretary.

There was a big effort to get unemployed people to train as teachers and it was around that time that literacy went out the classroom window, with teachers being permitted to ignore spelling mistakes in pupils’ work (or at least, that’s how it seemed). Numeracy nosedived with an over-reliance on pocket calculators or other such mechanical devices, rather than exercising youngsters’ brains.

That’s not to say that all teachers gave up on their subjects, of course. Teaching is not just a job; for most of the profession it is a vocation – what they were born to do – and many of them carry out their duties with exceptional ability, passion and, let’s not beat around the bush, flair.

But we have also seen the results of lacklustre teaching. Running a blog, one tends to read an appalling amount of bad English in the comments that are submitted. They can’t all be ascribed to difficulties that are particular to the person writing the comment – some are certainly the result of indifferent schooling.

And we see it in the real world as well. People who are perfectly capable of expressing themselves verbally in clear, cogent ways collapse completely when asked to put it in writing.

So the announcement is to be welcomed.

The problem is that it comes hot on the heels of a huge controversy over the quality of teaching in Michael Gove’s pet project, the ‘Free Schools’ system.

Vox Political reported on October 20 that the Al-Madinah Free School, serving 400 Muslim pupils in Derby, received the lowest marks possible from inspectors – in every category. Inspectors railed against the fact that teachers were not trained. Two unqualified head teachers also quit jobs at other free schools after criticism.

Nick Clegg, climbing on the bandwagon as is his way, made a speech in which he said unqualified people should not be allowed to teach in state-funded schools: “Frankly it makes no sense to me to have qualified teacher status if only a few schools have to employ qualified teachers…  I believe that we should have qualified teachers in all our schools.”

But the Department for Education hit back by claiming that head teachers of academies or Free Schools should have the freedom to employ untrained teachers, in the same way that private schools hire “the great linguists, scientists, engineers and other specialists they know can best teach and inspire their pupils”.

In the light of this statement, what are we to make of the latest announcement?

It seems that Mr Gove is trying to face in two directions at the same time. Doesn’t this make him two-faced? With Free Schools he seems determined to defend the employment of unqualified teachers, no matter how badly they wreck pupils’ education and future chances in life, but with the remaining state schools he seems equally determined to ensure that pupils have a higher standard of teacher, who has the qualification to prove it.

Or is it just that he wants to ensure that fewer people qualify to be teachers, leading to a shortage that would logically culminate in the employment of more unqualified people in the state sector?

Duplicity: The quality or state of being twofold or double.

Not a good standard for our education system.

More dodgy numbers on jobs for the disabled from the fake statistics machine

Making up the numbers: Thousands more disabled people are becoming self-employed, contributing to a huge boost in the number of private businesses - or are they?

Making up the numbers: Thousands more disabled people are becoming self-employed, contributing to a huge boost in the number of private businesses – or are they?

Someone in the Coalition government needs to watch what they’re saying – otherwise people all over the UK might come to unintended conclusions.

Take a look at this: “Over 2,000 more disabled people got the support they needed to get or keep their job, compared with this time last year, official figures released today (22 October 2013) show” – according to a Department for Work and Pensions press release.

It goes on to say that the number of people receiving support under the Access to Work programme between April and June this year increased by 10 per cent on the same period last year, to 22,760. Access to Work “provides financial help towards the extra costs faced by disabled people at work, such as support workers, specialist aids and equipment and travel to work support”.

Apparently the new stats show the highest level of new claims since 2007 – 10,390; and more people with mental health conditions than ever before have taken advantage of Access to Work.

The press release also states that young disabled people can now get Access to Work support while on Youth Contract work experience, a Supported Internship or Traineeship; and businesses with 49 employees or less no longer have to pay a contribution towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work. It seems they used to have to pay up to £2,300 per employee who uses the fund.

Now look at this: According to a press release from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the number of private sector businesses in the UK increased by 102,000 between the beginning of 2012 and the same time in 2013.

There are now 4.9 million private businesses in the UK, with those employing fewer than 50 employees comprising nearly half of the total.

Some might think this is brilliant; that the DWP and BIS are achieving their aims of boosting private-sector business and finding work within those businesses for disabled people.

But dig a little deeper and a more sinister pattern emerges.

Doesn’t this scenario seem odd to anybody who read, earlier this year, that the DWP was having deep difficulty finding work for disabled people from the ESA work-related activity group?

Or, indeed, to anybody who read the BBC’s report that work advisors were pushing the jobless into self-employment?

Isn’t it more likely that the DWP and Work Programme providers, faced with an influx of disabled people into the programme from the ESA WRAG at the end of last year, encouraged them to set up as self-employed with their own businesses in order to get them off the claimant books?

Does it not, then, seem likely that a large proportion of the 22,760 getting help from Access to Work were offered it as part of a self-employment package that also, we are told, includes start-up money (that admittedly tapers away over time) and tax credits. The attraction for WP providers is that they would earn a commission for every claimant they clear off the books in this way.

So it seems likely that a large proportion of the 22,760 may now be self-employed in name alone and that these fake firms are included in the 102,000 new businesses lauded by BIS.

Is it not logical, therefore, to conclude that these are not government schemes, but government scams – designed to hoodwink the general public into thinking that the economy is improving far more than in reality, and that the government is succeeding in its aim to bring down unemployment?

The reference to jobs for people with mental health problems would be particularly useful for a government that has just appealed against the result of a judicial review that found its practices discriminate against this sector of society.

Some might say that this conclusion is crazy. Why would the government want to release information that directly indicates underhanded behaviour on its part?

The answer is, of course, that it would not. This government wants to convince an undecided electorate that it knows what it is doing and that the country’s future is safe in its hands. But its right hand doesn’t seem to know what its left is doing – with regard to press releases, at the very least.

And let’s not forget that, since the Coalition came into office, 52,701 firms have been declared insolvent and 379,968 individuals. Around 80 per cent of new self-employed businesses go to the wall within three years.

Therefore we can say that, in trying to prove that it is competent, the Coalition government has in fact proved the exact opposite.

So someone really needs to watch what they’re saying – if they don’t want people all over the UK to come to unintended conclusions!

AFTERTHOUGHT: The BIS press release adds that the government’s ‘Plan for Growth’, published with the 2011 budget, included an aim to create “the most competitive tax system in the G20”. By “competitive” the Treasury meant the system had to be more attractive to businesses that aim to keep as much of their profits away from the tax man as possible. It is a commitment to turn Britain into a tax haven and the VP post earlier this week shows that the government has been successful in this aim. What a shame that it also means the Coalition government will totally fail to meet its main policy commitment and reason for existing in the first place: It can’t cut the national deficit if the biggest businesses that operate here aren’t paying their taxes.

Disabled people and work: Is this government scheme too good to be true?

Access to work (allegedly): If you are also wondering why a group of people apparently having breakfast symbolises access to work for the disabled, you're well on the way to the right level of scepticism about this scheme.

Access to work (allegedly): If you are also wondering why a group of people apparently having breakfast symbolises access to work for the disabled, you’re well on the way to the right level of scepticism about this scheme.

The government is launching a new scheme for the disabled, saying those on traineeships, supported internships, work trials and work academies are to get “additional help” through the Access to Work programme.

After all the persecution of recent years, is it wrong of me to look askance at this?

Here’s the press release; what do YOU think?

“Disabled people will get more support to gain the skills and experience they need to get a job under changes to the government’s specialist disability employment scheme announced today (16 July 2013).

“Disabled people on traineeships, supported internships, work trials and work academies will for the first time get additional help through the Access to Work scheme – which provides funding towards the extra costs disabled people face in work, such as travel costs, specially adapted equipment or support workers.

“Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey said: ‘Young disabled people tell me how difficult it can be to get a job without experience – and they want the same choice of training opportunities as everyone else to help them into work.

“‘We’re opening up Access to Work to do just that – so that more young disabled people can get a foothold in the jobs market, get their careers on track and achieve their full potential.’

Recent changes also mean that businesses with up to 49 employees will save up to £2,300 per employee who uses the fund by no longer paying a contribution towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work.

“Disabled jobseekers who want to set up their own business through the New Enterprise Allowance are also eligible for Access to Work funding. Access to Work has previously been called ‘the government’s best kept secret’ so to raise awareness of the changes, the government will continue its marketing campaign – targeted at young disabled people and people with mental health conditions.

“Last year the programme helped 30,000 disabled people keep or get employment. Research also shows that around half (45 per cent) of Access to Work customers would be out of work if they did not receive support through the scheme.”

The last paragraph should be ignored because it is a DWP statistic. Even if it was right when it left the statisticians, we cannot guarantee that there hasn’t been interference for politically-motivated purposes.