Saturday, April 14, 2007


Run by a tinpot Hitler with all the flexibility of a brick

A school has banned a grade A pupil from its end-of-year prom because her parents would not force her to attend extra revision classes. Kayleigh Baker, 16, a prefect at Hurworth School, in the Prime Minister's Sedgefield constituency, is a model student with a 100 per cent attendance record and a series of outstanding annual reports. Last year, she achieved A grades in two GCSE examinations that she had sat a year early and is expected to achieve top marks in nine subjects this summer.

Her invitation to next month's prom has been withrawn after a dispute between her parents and the school's senior management about its demand that Year 11 pupils should attend compulsory after-school revision sessions. The annual event, which will be held in an 18th century country manor house, is the highlight of the school's social calendar and for many pupils represents the climax of their school career.

Dean Judson, the head teacher, has also barred Kayleigh from the netball team and from going on any school trips. He allowed her to attend a recent achievement ceremony, at which she collected five awards.

Kay and Ellis Baker say that their daughter is a talented and diligent student who does not need the extra burden of two weekly, hour-long revision lessons at the end of the school day. They believe that they have the backing of the Department for Education and Skills, which told them in a letter: "All study support (out of school hours) activities are entirely voluntary and there should be no compulsion on young people to attend."

One of Hurworth's governors has resigned in protest at its "severe and extremely punitive" treatment of Kayleigh, who hopes to become a lawyer, but yesterday the school, near Darlington, Co Durham, showed no sign of backing down. Eamonn Farrar, its chief executive, said: "We know what's best for the children and that is why we make them go to these lessons." If one pupil were allowed to miss the sessions, others would soon follow suit, he said. "In life, if you don't do something you are asked to, then you can't expect anything in return. Children who don't conform to the school rules cannot expect to go to the school prom."

The 636-pupil school, for children aged 11-16, has won praise from Ofsted inspectors for its "very good leadership and teaching", which has led to a significant recent improvement in its GCSE results. The proportion of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grades rose from 39 per cent in 1998 to 93 per cent last year. Mr Farrar denied that the introduction of compulsory after-school lessons was prompted by an unhealthy obsession with school performance tables. "If I said I run these classes because of the league tables, that would be immoral. We don't play the league table game - we just celebrate when we top them."

Kayleigh, described in a recent school report as "an inspiration to others with impeccable behaviour and a totally focused attitude", said that she was deeply disappointed by the school's decision. Her dress, handmade for her in China last year, was inspired by the gown worn by Kate Hudson in the Hollywood film How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days. Kayleigh had a companion to go with and said that she had been "looking forward to the prom all year". Boys wear black tie and the girls full-length gowns, and many will be travelling to the Hardwick Hall Hotel, near Sedgefield, by limousine. "Everybody has been talking about it, getting excited. My friends are talking about their dresses and asking each other where they got their shoes from, and I can't join in," she said. "I've been excluded from everything fun at school, everything that I enjoy. It's cruel and I feel like I'm being punished when I haven't done anything wrong."

Kayleigh said that, by passing her religious studies GCSE a year early, she already had five free periods in her timeta-ble that were allocated for revision. As a result, she did not need the after-school sessions. Her father, a health and safety consultant, said: "All children that age need balance. Kayleigh is studious and conscientious. We made a decision about her welfare and the school has punished her for it." Mrs Baker said that her daughter had been so upset that she had lost a stone in weight.



Health regulators have overturned a ban on two drugs that could benefit patients suffering from rare and life-threatening brain cancers. The revised guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) means that up to 800 patients a year will benefit from receiving the drugs, Temodal and Gliadel, on the NHS. Doctors and campaigners have been battling for two years to get NICE to reverse its decision to bar brain specialists from prescribing the drugs. The original guidance in 2005 rejected both therapies on the basis of cost effectiveness.

Temodal was originally approved for newly diagnosed cases of brain cancer in 2001 but NICE refused to approve its use for advanced cases of the disease despite compelling evidence from trials. The decision led to anger as the drug, a tablet that patients take as oral chemotherapy, was invented by British scientists funded by Cancer Research UK, yet neurologists in this country were unable to prescribe it to patients.

Gliadel is administered in a wafer that is left at the site where a brain tumour has been removed by surgery. Trials show that the drug is highly effective at mopping up remaining cancer cells and preventing the disease recurring.

Yesterday cancer charities called on health authorities to make the drugs available immediately and not wait until the decision comes into force in June. Ella Pybus, speaking on behalf of a consortium of charities, said: "Everyone is relieved that NICE has had this change of heart. There was solid evidence that these drugs work. "Now we are looking for primary care trusts to give these drugs to all those who qualify for treatment. It will be a cruel blow if treatments for one of the most lethal of all cancers were further delayed because of lack of sufficient funding."


Britain building more jails for illegals

Security concerns about the kind of immigration centre which could come to RAF Coltishall have risen following news of spiralling escape figures at a similar complex in Cambridgeshire. A government decision on whether to locate an immigration removal centre at the now closed RAF site is still awaited. But the anxieties of local people have been fuelled by new figures which show that the Oakington centre had a major rise in attempted and actual escapes.

There were 19 escapes and seven attempts last year, compared to four of each in 2005. Last month, two detainees broke out after climbing over a fence, just weeks after the escape of four other detainees.

District councillor Alan Mallett said: "That sort of thing is obviously going to be of considerable concern to people in the village. The lack of security has always been a major concern should RAF Coltishall become an immigration centre." However, he added that an escapee would not "hang about" in the area. Coltishall parish council chairman John Harding added: "Security has always been the main concern of the people living in the area of the three parishes. It's a worrying trend for anybody who might be living nearby."

RAF Coltishall closed last year after an illustrious 60-year history stretching back to the second world war. Senior members of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), the arm of the Home Office responsible for immigration and asylum, travelled to Norfolk last month to answer questions from councillors, MPs and other parties about possible plans for a holding centre, with a final decision not expected until the end of May.

A Home Office spokesman last night said any centre at Coltishall would have "prison standard" perimeter fencing which was higher than that at Oakington, where "procedural and physical security improvements" had been implemented to reduce the number of escapes.


Britain running around in circles again: "Trains and tracks could be reunited and put under public control for the first time since privatisation, under plans to make Scotland a test case for the rest of the rail industry, The Times has learnt. Network Rail, the not-for-profit company created by the Government to run Britain's tracks, has held secret talks with Scottish Labour politicians about taking control of trains north of the Border. The move would reverse the fragmentation of the industry after British Rail was broken up and sold off in the mid1990s."

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