Sunday, June 29, 2008

British government schools killing off literature

A shake-up of GCSE [middle school] English will allow pupils to study travel brochures or biographies rather than novels, the qualifications regulator announced yesterday.

Exams in English, maths, and information and communication technology (ICT) will undergo a transformation in two years' time. The draft syllabuses were released yesterday by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), which is seeking feedback from the public.

Pupils will be able to choose between three English GCSEs, rather than the traditional two. As well as English and English literature, there will be a new qualification in English language.

Although this includes assessment of reading, pupils will be able to pass the exam without studying any plays, poetry or classic novels.

The QCA says: "The aim is to develop students' understanding of language use in the real world, through engaging with and evaluating material that is relevant to their own development as speakers, listeners, readers and writers."

It describes the qualification as an "attractive stand-alone course" for students who have English as a second language. This reflects developments in the school population, and indicates that the exam system is changing to embrace the influx of immigrant families in some areas.

The QCA guidance adds that the English language exam would be suitable for "those needing a language qualification at this level but who are not required to fulfil the range of reading stipulated [in English literature]". It adds: "It provides an opportunity for students to extend their own skills as producers of spoken and written language in contexts that are both practical and challenging."



Gordon Brown suffered the humiliation on Friday of Labour crashing to fifth place in the Henley by-election on his first anniversary as prime minister. The unprecedented result, which placed the government behind the Green party and the far-right British National Party, is likely to raise further questions about Mr Brown's leadership and increase calls for change from Labour MPs.

The Conservatives comfortably held one of their safer seats, vacated by Boris Johnson when he left parliament to serve as London Mayor. John Howell, the Tory candidate, secured a majority of 10,116, increasing the Tory share of the vote from 53.5 per cent in 2005 to 57.5 per cent. In his acceptance speech he said "the British public has sent a message to Gordon Brown to 'get off our backs, stop the endless tax rises and help us cope with the rising cost of living'".

Labour expectations were extremely low ahead of the vote. But even the most pessimistic Labour MPs will be shocked that the governing party won little more than 1,000 votes, lost its 500 pounds deposit and trailed two parties with no representation in parliament.

Martin Salter, the Labour MP leading their campaign in Henley, described it as a "grim result" in which the government "reaped the whirlwind" of voter dismay over the credit crunch and faltering economy. "It is very difficult to divine a clear message for Gordon Brown in a seat in which we had no chance at all," he said.

Labour's share of the vote slumped from 14.8 per cent in 2005 to about 3 per cent - well short of the 5 per cent share required to keep their deposit. Lord Renard, the Liberal Democrat chief executive, said it was "abject humiliation" for Mr Brown.

More here

And below is the high-tax "Green" mentality that lost the election:

GORDON Brown was set to signal today he is prepared to take on public opinion over green taxes. The Prime Minister was to insist "real leadership" is necessary to reduce Britain's carbon footprint.

Announcing a 100 billion pound programme to slash greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Brown was due to say UK lifestyles must change over the next decade. The Government has been under pressure over green incentives such as tax hikes for owners of the most polluting, gas-guzzling vehicles.

But, at a lower carbon economy summit in London today, Mr Brown was to say a low carbon society will not emerge from a "business as usual" approach. "It will require real leadership from government - being prepared to make hard decisions on planning or on tax, for example, rather than tacking and changing according to the polls. It will require an investment programme of around 100 billion over the next 12 years. "It will involve new forms of economic activity and social organisation. "It will mean new kinds of consumer behaviour and lifestyles. "And it will demand creativity, innovation and entrepreneurialism throughout our economy and our society."

Thousands of new wind turbines could be built across the UK over the coming decade as part of the radical blueprint being unveiled today. Business Secretary John Hutton acknowledged the "green" power plants would cost more and take up more land than conventional electricity generation, but said Britain had "no choice" about moving to lower-carbon energy.


The Pill ‘has had its day as an effective contraceptive’

An IUD revival? The Dalkon shield must have been forgotten

The Pill is “outdated” and leading to more unwanted pregnancies and abortions because so few women take it correctly, a leading academic has said. Nearly one in 12 women who takes the Pill stands to become pregnant each year by missing occasional tablets, James Trussell, of Princeton University, New Jersey, says.

Increasing access to emergency contraception - the “morning after” pill - would also not have a significant effect on rates of unwanted pregnancy and abortions, he will tell the British Pregnancy Advisory Service conference in London today.

Speakers at the conference on the future of abortion will say that women should use longer-lasting methods such as hormonal implants or intrauterine devices (IUDs) that can be “fitted and forgotten”, but later removed if a woman wants a baby.

The Government wants to encourage more women to use long-acting methods, and guidance has suggested that if 7 per cent of women currently using the Pill switched to a long-acting method, then it would prevent 73,000 unintended pregnancies, saving the NHS 100 million a year.

But Professor Trussell said that few GPs offered long-acting reversible contraceptives or were trained at fitting them, so most women ended up using the Pill by default. “The Pill is an outdated method because it does not work well enough,” he added. “It is very difficult for ordinary women to take a pill every single day. The beauty of the implant or the IUD is that you can forget about them.”

Studies suggest that women miss three times as many pills as they commonly say they do. Computerised pill packs were used to show that although about half of women said they did not miss any pills, fewer than a third actually did.


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