Monday, October 13, 2008

Police called in to prevent 'havoc' at school entrance exam in Britain

British parents know the value of "Grammar" (selective) schools but the British government does not. It is trying to abolish them instead of building more. A British "Grammar" school is a publicly-funded school run along private school lines -- with admission dependant upon passing an entrance exam. British Leftists hate them because they are "elitist". But the Leftist alternatives -- non-selective "comprehensive" schools -- are often a behavioural sink -- thus preventing even bright children from learning and so closing off their advancement to higher education

Police had to be called to a top grammar school to prevent havoc during an entrance exam day. Officers had to patrol the car park as visitors came to sit the 11-plus exam and threatened to cause chaos at the school. Nearly 1,500 pupils were competing for 126 places at Wallington County Grammar School in Sutton, Surrey.

Competition for highly-rated grammar schools has risen as parents are looking at cheaper alternatives to private schools during the financial crisis. The Good Schools Guide shows applications at almost one in five private schools has dropped by 10 per cent in four years. Highly rated grammar schools on the other hand attract at least 10 applicants for every place, especially schools such as Wallington which do well in the exam league tables without demanding fees.

Wallington, an 880-pupil school which admits girls in the sixth form, obtained five GCSEs at grades A* to C (including English and maths) for 98 per cent of its pupils last year. Tina Marden, admissions secretary, said: "We had 1,496 applications for 126 places this year and we are still expecting some 'lates'. "We had to have the police down to control parking... we are on a red route and, if we didn't, people would cause havoc."

Robert McCartney QC, chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association, said that applications across the country have risen in record numbers. He said: "Many aspirational parents who want their children to have a good education have tightened their belts and gone without other things to give them a place at independent school. "One of the effects of the credit crunch is that those people that were just able to make the fees are no longer able to do so. "Because of the poor state of the comprehensive system, they are desperate to get their children into grammar schools."

A Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed they were asked to attend last month's exams at the grammar school.


Another example of making mountains out of pimples

I regularly characterize medical research as making mountains out of pimples so another example of it might help reinforce what I mean by that. I mentioned this study on the 10th so I will not reproduce it again. Instead I want to point out that its conclusions, although correct, were not only trivial but rather misleading.

What was found was that autism was 7 times more common among mathematics students at Cambridge university than it was among students in other fields at that university. But how was that finding arrived at? It was arrived at by taking 378 mathematics students and comparing them with a group of 414 non-mathematics students. And there were 7 autistic people in the mathematics group but only one autistic person in the other group. So the "7 times" conclusion was totally correct. But was it important?

It was in fact totally trivial. What was really found was that the incidence of autism among students at Cambridge was very rare -- even among mathematics students. Putting it another way, it is very rare for mathematics students to be autistic. Only 1.8% of them were autistic in fact. And putting it that way gives roughly the opposite impression to the impression given by the original report. What the original report presented as interesting is in fact of no importance whatsoever.

And that sort of finding is absolutely typical of what is reported in epidemiological research. In fact it is a much stronger finding than is generally reported. Where a 700% difference was reported above, a 50% difference would be about the average in epidemiological research. Most epidemiological research is the modern-day equivalent of the old mediaeval debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin: An argument about trivia.

British city promises to ban jargon

What a rarity!
"Their meaning has become one of the most perplexing riddles of modern life, but soon "stakeholder engagements" and "multi-agency approaches" could be a thing of the past, in part of the country at least.

A council has banned seven of the most bewildering jargon phrases when speaking to members of the public. Civil enforcement officers, school crossing patrollers and civic amenity sites will become traffic wardens, lollipop ladies and rubbish tips, under new guidelines from Harrow Council. The list of banned phrases was drawn up after Harrow councillors asked a panel of local people about their experiences of dealing with council staff.

Councillor Paul Osborn said: "Our residents want to hear plain speaking and that is what we'll deliver. Every organisation uses jargon to some degree, but councils have been among the worst offenders." The council has also promised to answer phone calls within 30 seconds, acknowledge e-mails within 24 hours and make sure visitors are seen within 15 minutes.


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