Saturday, October 28, 2006


Nearly a fifth of five-year-olds cannot write their own name and fewer than half have reached their expected level of learning, official figures show. An assessment of 535,000 five-year-olds in England found that, after a year of schooling, 91,000 could not write simple words such as “mum” or “cat” or hold a pencil correctly. The number of children who had mastered basic literacy and numeracy was much lower than last year, as was the number of children who reached expected levels of physical development. Boys proved worst at completing writing tasks, with 21 per cent unable to write key words compared with 11 per cent of girls.

About 21,420 children could not count to ten and 39 per cent could not hear or pronounce the short vowel sounds in words such as “pen”, “hat” and “dog”, while 17 per cent could not recognise or name all the letters of the alphabet. Overall, 44.6 per cent of five-year-olds reached the expected level of improvement after their first year of primary school, a drop of 3.2 percentage points on 2005.

The Department for Education and Skills has defined a “good level of development” as children achieving six or more points across 13 scales in areas such as personal, social and emotional development, reading, writing and maths. However, the figures suggest that the Government will fall short of its target of 53 per cent of five-year-olds in England reaching this level by 2008. Ministers blamed the fall in attainment on tougher marking while teachers said that comparisons between years were spurious.

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Last year’s assessments were riddled with difficulties as teachers came to terms with the new scheme. “The assessments are qualitative judgments on such issues as a child’s personal development and cannot be presented as simple numerical results or in league table form.”

Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, said in April that the new targets would mean that 30,000 more children would reach expected levels. She said that the Government would like to see “faster gains in our most deprived communities” in England, but figures for local authorities were unavailable yesterday. The Education Department said that the public reaction to its curriculum for toddlers, the Early Years Foundation Stage, had been enthusiastic. The framework has a play-based approach that is designed to integrate quality learning and care. Beverley Hughes, the Children’s Minister, said that the framework would improve the learning abilities of five-year-olds and enable “them to reach their full potential, just as any good parent would seek to do at home”.


More Favoritism for Muslims in Britain

Police in Manchester have been told not to arrest Muslims wanted on warrants at prayer times during Ramadan. Greater Manchester Police confirmed it had asked detectives not to make planned arrests during those periods for reasons of religious sensitivity. The advice was emailed out to officers working in Moss Side, Hulme, Whalley Range, Rusholme, Fallowfield, Ardwick, Longsight, Gorton and Levenshulme. Police said it was not a blanket ban, just a "request for sensitivity". The email stressed the order did not apply to on-the-spot arrests, only the execution of arrest warrants.

The holy month of Ramadan began on 22 September and is due to end with the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr next week. The internal email was sent to staff listing the prayer times, but confusion arose and a second memo was sent clarifying it was not a total ban on arresting Muslims at these times. A GMP statement said: "The primary objective of Greater Manchester Police is to fight crime and protect people. "The month of Ramadan is an important time of the year for members of the Muslim community throughout the world. "It is important that normal, planned policing activities and operations are maintained, while ensuring that officers are professional and respectful to members of the community while going about their duties."

Liberal Democrat councillor Simon Ashley, who represents the city's Gorton South ward and leads the party on Manchester City Council, said: "This sounds odd but we would need to find out what impact rescheduling arrests had on police operations. "The police's first job is to police. "I understand they have a difficult task to do and need to do it sensitively, especially within minority communities, but that can't stop them policing serious crimes."


No arrests of Christians over Easter or Christmas/New Year too? That seems to have been overlooked

A Libertarian Archbishop?

There is not much that I agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury about (though he did support the Iraq intervention) and I regularly mock the Church of England but I agree with the following words of His Grace:

"So the ideal of a society where no visible public signs of religion would be seen - no crosses around necks, no sidelocks, turbans or veils - is a politically dangerous one. It assumes that what comes first in society is the central political "licensing authority", which has all the resource it needs to create a workable public morality.


As a libertarian, I think that there should be complete freedom of religion for both Muslims and Christians, unlike the absurd situation in the USA and UK at the moment where there seems to be more freedom for Muslims than for Christians. It is only the advocacy and practice of violence that should be penalized.

And it seems that the chief prelate of the Church of England has similar views. He clearly thinks that the wearing of Muslim veils and Christian crosses should both be allowed. Both have of course recently been penalized in England.

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