Sunday, September 02, 2007

Another BBC sneer at patriotism

A BBC series on British cinema which has been criticised for its “sneery” and “witless” commentary is accused of reaching a new low tonight with an insult to the memory of Douglas Bader.

Group Captain Bader performed heroics as a fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain, despite having both his legs amputated after a 1931 flying crash. An instalment of British Film Forever dedicated to war movies discusses Reach for the Sky, the 1956 Bader biopic starring Kenneth More. The voiceover, read by the comedy actress Jessica Hynes, says: “Viewers of this film might’ve thought they were having their legs pulled.”

Alison Graham, TV editor of Radio Times, said: “It purports to be a serious look at British war films, yet only British Film Forever would come up with that throwaway remark. I wonder who exactly this witless commentary is aimed at?”

The critics hope that the BBC will reedit tonight’s episode to remove the Bader remark, which appears designed to offend the audience most likely to tune in for a 95-minute special on British war films.


Private schools in Britain show up government schools

The schools system in England is at risk of drifting into "educational apartheid" with different examination systems for pupils in state and independent schools, according to a leading head teacher. Pat Langham, president of the Girls' Schools Association, was responding to renewed calls from private school head teachers for the GCSE to be ditched in favour of more rigorous examinations, such as the IGCSE (International GCSE). Her comments were made as it emerged that fee-paying school pupils passed nearly six out of ten of their GCSE exams this summer with a grade A or A*, nearly three times the national average of 19.5 per cent. GCSE results for independent schools revealed that 92.9 per cent of pupils achieved five GCSEs at grades A* to C, including maths and English, compared with just 63.3 per cent nationally.

Martin Stephen, head of St Paul's, the top-performing boys' private school in The Times GCSE league tables, said the gulf between the two suggested that the GCSE was no longer fit for purpose. "The GCSE is seriously flawed. It is trying to be all things to all people, but it is failing. Getting five good [A* to C] GCSEs has effectively become the equivalent of passing a school leaving certificate, yet the system is not doing this job very well because 50 per cent of pupils fail to get these grades," he said.

Ms Langham, who is head of Wakefield Girls' School, one of the top 50 girls' schools in the UK, argued against more private schools adopting the IGCSE, saying that it would create further divisions between state and independent schools. She said: "The IGCSE is not the answer. Independent schools should be part of a credible, national examination system and it should be the same as the system in state schools. Otherwise, you get educational apartheid and I don't agree with that. If there are concerns about too many pupils getting A grades at GCSE, we should all work together as teachers in the private and state systems to find a joint solution. "Students in private and state schools are both going out into the same world when they leave school and they deserve the same education."

Ms Langham's comments followed claims by examination boards that standards were falling in private schools. Results for private schools, compiled by the Independent Schools Council, published today, show that 57.4 per cent of GCSE exam entries were graded A or A* this year, with 26.8 per cent of entries awarded an A* grade, up from 26.5 per cent last year. The national A* average was just 6.4 per cent. In 231 independent schools, every pupil achieved five or more A* to C grades. In a further 159 schools, 95 per cent or more achieved this standard.



Forgotten to recycle any newspapers or tin cans recently? Feeling guilty because you neglected to carbon offset your flight to somewhere, anywhere, outside England this summer? The Roman Catholic Church is at hand with a new line in "green confessions" to help eco-sinners to find forgiveness. Dom Anthony Sutch, the Benedictine monk who resigned as head of Downside School to become a parish priest in Suffolk, will be at the county's Waveney Greenpeace festival this weekend to hear eco-confessions in what is thought to be the first dedicated confessional booth of its kind.

Vested in a green chasuble-style garment made from recycled curtains, and in a booth constructed of recycled doors, he will hear the sins of of those who have not recycled the things they ought to have done and who have consumed the things they ought not to have done. Father Sutch tries to practise what he preaches but has turned the heating down so low at his church of St Benet's that at least one parishioner has fled to the warmer care of a neighbouring priest for winter services.

He told The Times: "It is not, I hope, blasphemous to do this. I do not think it is. It is just an attempt to make people conscious of the way they live. The Church is aware of green issues and of how aware we have to be of how we treat the environment. "I know the Pope has now set up his own airline, but I am told the Vatican will be planting trees every time it flies. I do think the way we treat our environment is important. "There is a huge amount of greed in the West. We have to be aware of the consequences of how we live."


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