Thursday, November 29, 2007

English is the foreign language for 40% of British primary school pupils

Schools are struggling to cover the cost of providing specialist teachers for thousands of new immigrant pupils, headteachers warned today. Forty per cent of primary age children in London now speak a language other than English at home and some schools take several new arrivals a week as pupils "appear from nowhere", heads have said. The National Association of Head Teachers called for schools to be given the "infrastructure" they needed to get pupils whose first language is not English fluent enough to cope with the national curriculum as soon as possible.

The NAHT warned that the Government's Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant, which is doled out by Whitehall to town halls to allocate among schools according to need, was failing to cover the cost of English as an Additional Language teachers. NAHT leader Mick Brookes said: "These children are welcome in our schools but we need the capacity to look after them properly."

Latest government figures show that the capital's primary schools alone took in more than 197,000 children for whom English is not their first language this year, up from just over 190,000 last year. Secondary schools' proportion of non-native English speakers rose from 33.5 per cent to 35.3 per cent. Most are concentrated in inner London - in Tower Hamlets, three quarters of children in primary schools are now not native English speakers.

Ofsted research has shown that primary schools typically spent their EMAG on a single EAL teacher, supported by a classroom assistant. But Ofsted also found that primary schools with a track record of successfully integrating EAL pupils were forced to find thousands of pounds more from their general budgets. Most had suffered cuts in their EMAG grants. "Schools were pessimistic about being able to sustain the excellent work they had built up over the years if funding continued to decline," said Ofsted.

Clarissa Williams, head of Tolworth Girls' School in Kingston, said she got œ1,300 from the Government to teach English to foreign pupils, and topped that up with another 30,000 pounds. "These children just turn up on your doorstep and it places a significant additional strain on budgets," she said. A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families insisted the EMAG was keeping up with demand, saying it was going up from 178.6million this year to 206.6million in 2010-11.


Britain: That Wicked Woodpile again

We read:

"'Political correctness' forced a councillor out of his job, according to a race relations expert. County Hall Councillor Rhys Goodwin resigned from a role that overseas diversity issues after using the word "n*gger" in front of a black member of staff.

The Conservative member, who represents Toddington, used the phrase "n*gger in the woodpile" during a debate while he sat only a few feet from Basil Jackson, the black assistant director for highways and transport at Beds County Council.

Mr Goodwin, 74, immediately rephrased his comments, apologised to Mr Jackson during a break and later stepped down as chairman of the county council's community services committee which deals with community cohesion matters.


The phrase is supposed to refer to the hiding of escaped African slaves in unlikely places by white people of goodwill but there is not much goodwill about it now.

A quarter of women are abandoned by their NHS midwives during childbirth

Midwives are failing to offer proper care and reassurance during childbirth, with one in four women being abandoned during labour or soon after, a watchdog says today. As proposals are being considered for the closure of specialist maternity wards, a shortage of staff and funding is putting mothers and babies at potential risk, experts say. In the largest study of NHS maternity care, the Healthcare Commission found variations across England, with nearly half the women in some trusts reporting that they had been left alone during labour or soon afterwards.

The Government has proposed that all mothers-to-be should be supported by a named midwife throughout their pregnancies by 2009, while official guidelines state that a woman in established labour should not be left on her own, except for short periods or at her own request. Yet in 18 out of the 148 trusts inspected more than one in five women said that they were left alone at a time that worried them while they were in labour. First-time mothers felt particularly unaided.

The Healthcare Commission surveyed 26,000 women who had a baby in January or February. An analysis of the results showed wide variations among trusts. The worst-performing was Milton Keynes General Hospital NHS Trust, where almost half (49 per cent) of women were left alone at a time that worried them. At Lewisham Hospital NHS Trust, 46 per cent were left alone. At Mid Staffordshire General Hospitals NHS Trust, 39 per cent were left alone. At East Cheshire NHS Trust, in contrast, 85 per cent of mothers were never left alone. Many women surveyed also complained about postnatal care, and more than half said that the food on offer was only "fair" or "poor" and one in five said that the bathrooms were "not very clean" or "not at all clean".

Today's report comes before a wider investigation into maternity services that the Healthcare Commission is expected to publish next year. Responses to the quality of care overall were largely positive, with nine out of ten women saying it was excellent, very good or good. But the Royal College of Midwives estimates that at least 5,000 midwives are needed on top of the 24,000 already in England. Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the college, said: "Without this, the Government's targets will just be broken promises. We have got to aim for all women to be happy with their care but we will struggle to make this happen unless the worsening shortage of midwives is addressed."

The medical royal colleges advised last month that every woman should receive one-to-one care from a dedicated midwife as she goes through labour. Only one in five women surveyed said that she had a midwife who looked after her during labour and birth, while more than two in five said that three or more staff had cared for them at different times. Other divergences from best practice meant that 43 per cent of women were not given a choice of having their baby at home, and 36 per cent were not offered antenatal classes. The Commission also found that 57 per cent of women gave birth either lying down or with their legs supported in stirrups, despite guidance from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence suggesting that women be discouraged from having their baby in these positions. Overall, two thirds of women said that they "definitely" had confidence and trust in the staff caring for them while a quarter said that they had only "to some extent".

The Government has pledged that, by the end of 2009, women expecting a normal birth will be able to choose whether to have their baby at home, in a midwife-led unit or in hospital. Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrats' health spokesman, said that the survey had exposed "a huge gap between Government promises and the reality in maternity units across the country". "As well as being denied the option of a home birth as the Government promised, some women also have the confusion of having to deal with a series of different midwives throughout their pregnancy," he said. "There simply aren't enough midwives to deliver on ministers' promises of one-to-one maternity care."

Gwyneth Lewis, national clinical lead for maternity services at the Department of Health, said: "It is encouraging that the vast majority of respondents reported their care as being excellent, very good or good."


Britain: Mention God and you're seen as nuts

Tony Blair has sparked controversy by claiming that people who speak about their religious faith can be viewed by society as "nutters". The former prime minister's comments came as he admitted for the first time that his faith was "hugely important" in influencing his decisions during his decade in power at Number 10, including going to war with Iraq in 2003.

Mr Blair complained that he had been unable to follow the example of US politicians, such as President George W. Bush, in being open about his faith because people in Britain regarded religion with suspicion. "It's difficult if you talk about religious faith in our political system," Mr Blair said. "If you are in the American political system or others then you can talk about religious faith and people say 'yes, that's fair enough' and it is something they respond to quite naturally. "You talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you're a nutter. I mean . you may go off and sit in the corner and . commune with the man upstairs and then come back and say 'right, I've been told the answer and that's it'."

Even Alastair Campbell - his former communications director who once said, "We don't do God" - has conceded that Mr Blair's Christian faith played a central role in shaping "what he felt was important". Peter Mandelson, one of Mr Blair's confidants, claimed that the former premier "takes a Bible with him wherever he goes" and habitually reads it last thing at night.

His comments, which will be broadcast next Sunday in a BBC1 television documentary, The Blair Years, have been welcomed by leading Church figures, who fear that the rise of secularism is pushing religion to the margins of society. The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev John Sentamu, said: "Mr Blair's comments highlight the need for greater recognition to be given to the role faith has played in shaping our country. Those secularists who would dismiss faith as nothing more than a private affair are profoundly mistaken in their understanding of faith."

However, Mr Blair, who is now a Middle East peace envoy, has been attacked by commentators who say that religion should be separated from politics and by those who feel that many of his decisions betrayed the Christian community.

In the interview, Mr Blair, who was highly reluctant ever to discuss his faith during his time in office, admitted: "If I am honest about it, of course it was hugely important. You know you can't have a religious faith and it be an insignificant aspect because it's profound about you and about you as a human being. "There is no point in me denying it. I happen to have religious conviction. I don't actually think there is anything wrong in having religious conviction - on the contrary, I think it is a strength for people."

Mr Blair is a regular churchgoer who was confirmed as an Anglican while at Oxford University, but has since attended Mass with his Roman Catholic wife, Cherie, and is expected to convert within the next few months.

He continued: "To do the prime minister's job properly you need to be able to separate yourself from the magnitude of the consequences of the decisions you are taking the whole time. Which doesn't mean to say . that you're insensitive to the magnitude of those consequences or that you don't feel them deeply. "If you don't have that strength it's difficult to do the job, which is why the job is as much about character and temperament as it is about anything else. But for me having faith was an important part of being able to do that. Ultimately I think you've got to do what you think is right."

Mr Blair's opponents say his religious zeal blinded him to the consequences of his actions, and point to his belief that his decision to go to war would be judged by God. The Rt Rev Kieran Conry, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, said last night that Mr Blair's comments echoed the feelings of religious leaders. Mr Campbell, in the same TV programme as Mr Blair, said the British public were "a bit wary of politicians who go on about God".


No comments: