Sunday, February 03, 2008

British white working class boys failing

Government figures show only 15% of white working class boys in England got five good GCSEs [intermediate High School qualification] including maths and English last year. Among white boys from more affluent homes - 45% achieved that level of qualification. Poorer pupils from Indian and Chinese backgrounds fared much better - with 36% and 52% making that grade respectively.

Ministers say they are narrowing the gap between affluent and poorer pupils. The national average for all pupils in England achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths (A* to C) was 46% last year.

Liberal Democrat spokesman David Laws said: "We should be ashamed to live in a country where there is such a huge gap between rich and poor children. "To have 85% of white boys from poor families failing to achieve five good GCSEs including English and maths is truly shocking. "The government has failed to tackle the chasm that exists between the opportunities of most of the poorest and the richest in our society. "We need a massive targeted increase in funding for deprived young people, to allow more catch-up classes and additional support to give every child a chance."

Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove said: "The government's failure to improve standards in education has hit the poorest hardest. We need a school system that allows bright children to succeed regardless of their economic background. "We can only achieve this by focusing on the basics like getting all children reading after two years of primary school. Instead we still have a system where the achievement gap between rich and poor pupils grows as they progress through their school careers."

GSCE performance data released by the government in November did not include details of pupils receiving free school meals - an indicator of poverty. Those details have now been published.

Schools Minister Jim Knight said: "Closing the attainment gap in education remains a top priority, and we have made encouraging recent progress. "There has been good news on our efforts to address social mobility, with pupils eligible for free school meals improving faster than average. "Between 2003 and 2007, pupils eligible for free school meals who achieved 5 good GCSEs rose 11.1 percentage points from 24.4% to 35.5%. For non-free school meals pupils, the increase was 7.6 percentage points, from 55.2% to 62.8%. "Alongside pupils on free school meals, previously disadvantaged groups are also doing better. Over the last four years, black pupils have made the biggest improvement, at almost twice the national average." Policies had been introduced to try to help underachieving boys, he said.


Jury to decide if British mother threw away an apple core

A young mother-of-three is to be tried by a crown court jury after being accused of throwing an apple core from her car on to the pavement. Kate Badger, 26, denies the littering charge but also claims the nature of the accusation is "ridiculous" because apples are biodegradable. She has accused Wolverhampton city council of wasting taxpayers' money by pursuing her through the courts

The council said it took a tough line on those who dropped litter and it would be up to a jury to decide if she was guilty. The council originally wanted simply to issue a 60 pound on-the-spot penalty for the alleged offence, said to have been committed on March 19 last year while Miss Badger's Volkswagen Golf was parked on a street in Wolverhampton town centre. Miss Badger refused to pay and the local authority took her to the magistrates' court, where she chose to be tried by a jury in a crown court.

She faces a fine of up to 20,000 pounds or six months in prison if she is found guilty of the charge, which states that she threw "controlled waste" from the car. A guilty verdict could see her separated from her sons Christopher, eight, Daniel, five, and four-year-old Callum, and the council could also recoup its costs from her.

Yesterday, Miss Badger, a company promotions co-ordinator, was bailed unconditionally by Wolverhampton magistrates until a hearing at the crown court on Feb 6. She is accused of "knowingly causing the deposit of controlled waste, namely an apple core, on land which did not have a waste management licence".

Miss Badger, who lives in the city, said after yesterday's hearing: "I refused to pay the 60 fine because I didn't throw the apple core. "I think it is a ridiculous charge because apples are biodegradable and it is not as if we are talking about a huge bag of rubbish." She added: "The council has taken it to court and they have been to photograph my car. I'm being treated like a criminal." She said she did not believe dropping an apple core was worthy of the court's time.

However, a spokesman for Wolverhampton city council said: "Authorised officers of the council can issue 60 pound fixed penalty notices to anyone seen dropping litter. "A fixed penalty notice is issued in preference to a court summons for littering offences as there is no criminal record recorded if the fine is paid and the penalty is less than that of a conviction for littering. "In 2007 we collected almost 3,000 tons of rubbish from the streets. "Litter is a priority for our residents. It is they who want to make streets tidier and therefore we take a tough line on those who litter."


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