Thursday, December 13, 2007

British government body decides that it can afford to prevent blindness after all

Thousands of people at risk from blindness may have access to a sight-saving drug after a U-turn by NICE, the body that decides whether NHS treatments are cost effective. Reports last night said that NICE will change guidelines that restrict the drug Lucentis to only a fifth of NHS patients. The treatment helps those with wet age-related macular degeneration, the main cause of blindness in Britain.


Child games: Another backflip by British Labor

Millions of pounds will be spent on new play and leisure facilities as part of a government plan to reverse the decline of childhood and make sure that children in England are both seen and heard. Ed Balls, the Children’s Secretary, said yesterday that he wanted to move away from the “no ball games” culture of the past, which curtailed the freedom of children and young people to learn and develop by playing independently outside the home.

Outlining details of the Government’s ambitious ten-year Children’s Plan, Mr Balls said: “The main message that children and young people have given us is that they wanted more and better things to do, particularly after school and at the weekends,” he said.

Most young people recognised their responsibilities towards society, but felt their own contributions were too often undervalued or ignored. “We want kids to be seen and heard,” Mr Balls told the House of Commons, adding that he wanted to make Britain the best place in the world for children to grow up. The plan aims to strengthen the children’s workforce by requiring all newly qualified teachers to gain a masters degree in education during their first year in the job.

The suggestion received a cautious welcome from teachers, who were pleased at the increased professionalism this will allow, but concerned about the timing, since the first year of teaching is the hardest for most new recruits. The plan also seeks to find better ways of dismissing poor teachers and striking them from the professional register maintained by the General Teaching Council.

There will also be a review of the way sex and relationships education is delivered in school. This is in response to concerns raised by young people in a recent report suggesting that sex education is taught so badly that many teenagers are left in complete ignorance about how to avoid sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy.

The plan also set out options to help children born in the summer months, who often lag behind classmates born the previous autumn. Although the difference is most pronounced in the reception year, there is evidence that it lasts right up until the age of 16 in some children. Ministers will examine whether summer babies would benefit from the option of starting school the following January, or even the next September when they are five. Although the law already allows for some flexibility, many local authorities have withdrawn January starts saying that it makes it even harder for summer babies to catch up. As part of his curriculum review, Sir Jim Rose will examine whether it would be appropriate for even greater flexibility in start dates.

Free nursery education will be available for some two-year-olds in particularly deprived areas. The most recent research found that children from disadvantaged homes are up to a year behind in their learning than those from more privileged backgrounds by the age of three. From next year, every family will be entitled to 15 hours of free nursery education, up from 12½.

As part of the plan, the government also said that 90 per cent of five-year-olds would meet the agreed standard across the 13-part early years foundation stage by 2020. The most up-to-date figures from the Office for National Statistics found that only 45 per cent of children met the correct standards in the key areas of personal, social and emotional development, and communication, language and literacy this year. The department said across all 13 parts, 71 per cent of children had passed. The plan, which has the backing of Gordon Brown, aims to shift policy from the narrow confines of education to a broader focus on children.


British PM to "negotiate" with Taliban: Gordon Brown will announce today that he intends to talk to the Taliban in a bid to end the war in Afghanistan. In a major shift in UK foreign policy the Prime Minister is expected to tell the Commons today that negotiation is the only way to bring peace to the war torn country. This year has been the deadliest in Afghanistan since the U.S. led invasion of 2001. Since January more than 6,200 people have been killed including 40 British soldiers. In all, 86 British soldiers have died during the campaign which was launched to crush Al Qaeda and the Taliban following the September 11 outrage in America." [Comment here]

Another hopeless British computer system: "Taxpayers face new fines from the European Commission over continued failings in the system to make "green" payments to English farmers. The National Audit Office reveals today that 292 million pounds has already been set aside by the Government to pay for cash penalties for late payments for the farm hand outs in 2005 and 2006. It calls for an updating of the Rural Payments Agency's computer systems.

No comments: