Sunday, November 12, 2006


Judges have attacked a fire authority which asked for an injured fireman to be denied compensation because he "should not have attempted to save a driver's life".

John Pennington was involved in a desperate bid to free a trapped driver following a multiple pile-up on the M25. During the rescue attempt the experienced firefighter lost part of his left forefinger while using a power ram in a last-ditch effort to save the stricken motorist, who later died.

He was awarded compensation, but Surrey fire officials said Mr Pennington should never have been involved in the rescue attempt as he was not trained to use the equipment. Appealing against the pay-out, Surrey Fire Service and Surrey County Council have spent thousands of pounds arguing firemen must put their own safety first, even if that means abandoning accident victims to their fate. But judges at the Court of Appeal yesterday dismissed the claim as "unrealistic", saying Mr Pennington had "acted reasonably" in attempting to save the driver's life.

The 46-year-old arrived at the crash scene to find a critically-injured lorry driver trapped in his crushed cab. After a colleague was "overwhelmed by fatigue and exhaustion", Mr Pennington stepped in to take over the power ram which was being used to straighten out the mangled metal. He had never used the equipment before and his hand got caught in its workings, injuring his finger despite the fact he wore protective gloves.

Last year a judge awarded Mr Pennington, of Selsey, West Sussex, 3,115 pounds compensation for the injury. But county fire officials have since spent several times the sum on an unsuccessful legal bid to strip the firefighter of his pay-out.

Rejecting the appeal, Lord Justice Pill said: "Without any training or experience on the ram, Mr Pennington took over the urgent attempt to save life. "I find quite unacceptable the authorities approach to their duties as employers in such circumstances."

Fire officials claimed it was Mr Pennington's decision to use the ram and that firefighters "must put their own health and safety first, however unpalatable the consequences." The judge added: "The implication is that Mr Pennington ought not to have taken over from the leading hand and should not have attempted to save the driver's life. "Not only is it unrealistic to conclude that Mr Pennington should not have continued with the rescue attempt, but he did what was expected of him. On the evidence, he acted reasonably." Agreeing that the authorities' appeal should be dismissed, Lady Justice Arden said: "It was a situation of great stress, with the life of a road traffic victim at stake. "There is no doubt that the fire and council authorities must have expected firemen to be called upon to use this machinery in some fairly horrific road accidents. "They must have expected him to do his best in this situation and he was entitled to training to help him do so without risk to himself. "On that basis it was not only Mr Pennington's own devotion to duty, without more, that was causative of this injury. The lack of training played a role too."

Motoring campaigners condemned the authorities' stance and encouraged people to come to the aid of stricken drivers. "Everyone should do their utmost to save an injured motorist and Mr Pennington should be commended for his actions, not dragged through the courts," said a spokesman for the Association of British Drivers. "The fire and council authorities' approach is ridiculous. They should be encouraging people to save lives, not discouraging them."



Teaching is fast becoming an all-female profession with women outnumbering men in the classroom as much as 13 to one, dramatic new figures revealed today. The number of male teachers has plummeted to an all-time low, threatening a classroom discipline crisis as a generation of boys misses out on authority role models. In parts of the country worst-hit by the male recruitment slump, fewer than 10 per cent of primary teachers are men. In Reading, just 38 primary teachers are male compared with 478 women.

But the decline has been particularly marked in secondary schools, fuelling fears of rising misbehaviour among disaffected teenage boys whose lives lack male authority figures. Analysts believe male teachers are "fast becoming an endangered species" as salaries rise more quickly for other graduate jobs, especially high-flying City roles which traditionally attract men. There are also fears men are being scared away by the fear of false child abuse allegations while others are thought to be put off by the absence of male companionship in primary schools.

It means that in the space of a generation, the proportion of secondary school male teachers has dropped from 55 per cent to 41 per cent. Across all state schools, just a quarter of teachers are men. The shortage is most severe in the commuter belt surrounding London where soaring house prices and high cost of living renders teaching merely the 'second income' for many couples, according to an analysis conducted for the relaunch issue of the Times Educational Supplement. Local authority areas with the fewest male teachers include Reading, Sutton, Windsor and Maidenhead, Surrey, Wokingham, Richmond-upon-Thames, Harrow, Camden and Bracknell Forest.

Teachers are said to be 'mostly women whose husbands or partners have good jobs'. The highest concentrations of male teachers are found in lower-cost areas such as Cornwall, Devon, Norfolk, North East Lincolnshire and Hull.

The findings sparked calls last night for urgent measures to make teaching more attractive, especially in the South East. The imposition this September of 3,000 pounds-a-year top-up fees on university courses is thought to have particularly deterred male applicants. Multi-million pound Government advertising campaigns aimed at tempting more men into teaching are thought to have mainly benefited fee-paying schools, where salaries tend to be higher, it emerged.

Experts are concerned the lack of male role models in the classroom could have serious implications for boys' performance in exams. It is thought to be one of the key reasons why boys now lag behind girls in every major school examination. Analysts from the research firm Education Data Surveys said the trend warranted national debate. Professor John Howson, EDS director and visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University, said: "We've all known it's been like this in primaries. When you add in all the classroom assistants, the dinner ladies and the office staff, probably only about one per cent of the primary workforce in somewhere like Reading is male. "We've rather accepted it. But do we want secondary schools to go the same way?" Since men are more likely to become heads and deputies, who are registered as teachers but often do not have active teaching duties, the number of male teachers actually in the classroom is even smaller.

Professor Howson continued: "In the classroom, the division is even more stark. It is perfectly possible for a child to go through their whole education and be taught entirely by women. That may not necessarily be a bad thing, but it is an issue that society has to have a debate about. "Clearly some schools where all the teachers are women are functioning very well but there may be groups, particularly the older age group of pupils, for whom having some more male role models around would be helpful in making them better operating schools."

The Training and Development Agency, the teacher training body, said male teachers were "important". A spokeswoman said: "Different people bring different qualities to the classroom. It is important that children are exposed to a teaching force which is representative of society." But the agency is concerned men still have "misconceptions" about teaching such as the likely salaries they can earn. Professor Howson said a senior teacher leading a large secondary school department could command more than 50,000 pounds-a-year in London, and 46,000 outside.


Amazing: A MUSLIM Convicted of Hate Speech!

Maybe all is not lost in Britain. Advocacy of violence punished:

"A website designer was convicted yesterday of stirring up racial hatred during a protest by Muslims over cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

Mizanur Rahman, of Palmers Green, North London, carried placards that called for non-Muslims to be "annihilated" and "beheaded" as he addressed more than 300 protesters outside the Danish Embassy in London on February 3.


Good to see dying the double standard which has so far protected Muslims while penalizing others.

British Jury Defends Free Speech

Should you be prosecuted for things you say in private that are critical of Islam? The British govcernment twice prosecuted two members of the British National party for just that. What Nick Griffin and Mark Collett said at a private meeting was that Islam is a "wicked, vicious faith" etc. That was claimed to fall foul of Britain's "hate speech" laws. Fortunately, a jury disagreed and the men have just been cleared of all charges. Story here. Note that there seems to have been advocacy of political action only, not advocacy of violence.

Gordon Brown, a senior member of the British government, has however responded by saying that the laws against hate speech must be "tightened". No respect for free speech there.

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