Wednesday, November 12, 2008

British head teacher suspends a quarter of her pupils in a year... and exam results soar

A head teacher has transformed academic achievement at her school by adopting a zero tolerance approach to bad behaviour. Caroline Haynes, 49, has handed out 478 exclusions at Tendring Technology College over the past year - an astonishing one in 20 of all those issued across the county. The crackdown has seen the number of pupils getting A* to C grades at GCSE soar from 48 per cent in 2004, when she joined the school, to 74 per cent this year.

Mrs Haynes attacked political pressure on schools to reduce exclusions in order to improve their Ofsted behaviour ratings. 'Statistics paint a false picture,' she said. 'Because we refuse to buckle under the pressure we had to work very hard to convince Ofsted inspectors that pupil behaviour is good, despite the figures. 'I could reduce exclusion rates tomorrow by not suspending pupils, but it would have a detrimental effect on the quality of teaching and unruly behaviour.'

Academic results at the college in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, were rated as being below average in a 2003 Ofsted report. Mrs Haynes joined the following year and now issues more than two suspensions each day on average to the 1,880 pupils. The total of 478 over the year is the equivalent of one in four of the school's pupils. However, a recent report found the school to be 'good' or better in every category.

Under her regime, there is an escalating level of sanctions, including extra work, detentions and being placed 'on report'. One-day exclusions are dished out for offences such as failing to attend two after-school detentions. Longer exclusions are given for offences such as bullying, stealing, disruption, abuse of staff or fellow students, vandalism and racism. During exclusions pupils are set work and cannot return to classes until it is completed. They and their parents must also meet the head to discuss how to improve their behaviour.

Mrs Haynes said it was important pupils knew when they had 'crossed the line'. She added: 'Our pupils learn to deal with the consequences of their actions and our teachers are allowed to concentrate on their job rather than battle bad behaviour. Exam results have soared. I'm very proud.'

The school permanently excludes pupils for possessing an illegal substance or offensive weapon. Two were expelled last year. The Department for Children, Schools and Families said it trusted heads' judgment 'to decide what sanctions will work best'.


Judges eroding freedom of the press in Britain

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre last night launched a passionate defence of Press freedom in a keynote speech to a major newspaper industry conference. He warned of the dangers of a privacy law being brought in by the back door following recent court cases involving celebrities trying to prevent reporting of their private lives. In particular, he argued, the 'arrogant and amoral' judgments of High Court judge Mr Justice Eady, who presides over the overwhelming majority of privacy cases, were 'inexorably and insidiously' leading to greater restrictions on the freedom of the Press to publish stories about the rich and powerful.

Mr Justice Eady had used the privacy clause of the Human Rights Act against newspapers and their age-old freedom to expose the moral shortcomings of those in high places, Mr Dacre told the Society of Editors annual conference in Bristol. 'If Gordon Brown wanted to force a privacy law, he would have to set out a bill, arguing his case in both Houses of Parliament, withstand public scrutiny and win a series of votes,' he said. 'Now, thanks to the wretched Human Rights Act, one judge with a subjective and highly relativist moral sense can do the same with a stroke of his pen.'

Two years ago, Mr Justice Eady had ruled that a cuckolded husband could not sell to the Press his story about a wealthy sporting celebrity who had seduced his wife.

Mr Dacre, who is also Editor in Chief of Associated Newspapers, said: 'The judge was worried about the effect of the revelations on the celebrity's wife. 'Now I agree that any distress caused to innocent parties is regrettable but exactly the same worries could be expressed about the relatives of any individual who transgressed. Followed to its logical conclusion, it would mean that nobody could be condemned for wrongdoing. 'The judge - in a reversal of centuries of moral and social thinking - placed the rights of the adulterer above society's age-old belief that adultery should be condemned.'

In the case of Formula One boss Max Mosley and the News of the World, Mr Justice Eady 'effectively ruled that it was perfectly acceptable for the multi-millionaire head of a multi-billion pound sport, followed by countless young people, to pay five women $5,000 to take part in acts of unimaginable sexual depravity with him'. Mr Dacre said: 'The judge found for Max Mosley because he had not engaged in a "sick Nazi orgy" as the News of the World contested... an almost surreally pedantic logic as some participants were dressed in military- style uniform and Mosley was issuing commands in German.

'Most people would consider such activities to be perverted, depraved, the very abrogation of civilised behaviour. Not Justice Eady. To him such behaviour was merely "unconventional". Nor in his mind was there anything wrong in a man of such wealth using his money to exploit women. Would he feel the same, I wonder, if one of those women had been his wife or daughter?' Mr Dacre added: 'What is most worrying is that Justice Eady is ruling that, when it comes to morality, the law in Britain is effectively neutral.'

He also attacked the expansion of the BBC saying: 'Make no mistake, we are witnessing the seemingly inexorable growth of effectively a dominant state-sponsored news service.'


British politicians seek to censor the media

Britain's security agencies and police would be given unprecedented and legally binding powers to ban the media from reporting matters of national security, under proposals being discussed in Whitehall. The Intelligence and Security Committee, the parliamentary watchdog of the intelligence and security agencies which has a cross-party membership from both Houses, wants to press ministers to introduce legislation that would prevent news outlets from reporting stories deemed by the Government to be against the interests of national security. The committee also wants to censor reporting of police operations that are deemed to have implications for national security. The ISC is to recommend in its next report, out at the end of the year, that a commission be set up to look into its plans, according to senior Whitehall sources.

The ISC holds huge clout within Whitehall. It receives secret briefings from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ and is highly influential in forming government policy. Kim Howells, a respected former Foreign Office minister, was recently appointed its chairman. Under the existing voluntary code of conduct, known as the DA-Notice system, the Government can request that the media does not report a story. However, the committee's members are particularly worried about leaks, which, they believe, could derail investigations and the reporting of which needs to be banned by legislation.

Civil liberties groups say these restrictions would be "very dangerous" and "damaging for public accountability". They also point out that censoring journalists when the leaks come from officials is unjustified.

But the committee, in its last annual report, has already signalled its intention to press for changes. It states: "The current system for handling national security information through DA-Notices and the [intelligence and security] Agencies' relationship with the media more generally, is not working as effectively as it might and this is putting lives at risk." According to senior Whitehall sources the ISC is likely to advocate tighter controls on the DA-Notice system - formerly known as D-Notice - which operates in co-operation and consultation between the Government and the media.

The committee has focused on one particular case to highlight its concern: an Islamist plot to kidnap and murder a British serviceman in 2007, during which reporters were tipped off about the imminent arrest of suspects in Birmingham, a security operation known as "Gamble". The staff in the office of the then home secretary, John Reid, and the local police were among those accused of being responsible - charges they denied. An investigation by Scotland Yard failed to find the source of the leak.

The then director general of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, was among those who complained to the ISC. "We were very angry, but it is not clear who we should be angry with, that most of the story of the arrests in Op Gamble were in the media very, very fast ... So the case was potentially jeopardised by the exposure of what the story was. My officers and the police were jeopardised by them being on operations when the story broke. The strategy of the police for interrogating those arrested was blown out of the water, and my staff felt pretty depressed ... that this has happened."

The ISC report said the DA-Notice system "provides advice and guidance to the media about defence and counter-terrorism information, whilst the system is voluntary, has no legal authority, and the final responsibility for deciding whether or not to publish rests solely with the editor or publisher concerned. The system has been effective in the past. However, the Cabinet Secretary told us ... this is no longer the case: 'I think we have problems now.'"

The human rights lawyer Louise Christian said: "This would be a very dangerous development. We need media scrutiny for public accountability. We can see this from the example, for instance, of the PhD student in Nottingham who was banged up for six days without charge because he downloaded something from the internet for his thesis. The only reason this came to light was because of the media attention to the case."

A spokesman for the human rights group Liberty said: "There is a difficult balance between protecting integrity and keeping the public properly informed. Any extension of the DA-Notice scheme requires a more open parliamentary debate."

The D-Notice system was set up in 1912 when the War Office (the Ministry of Defence in its previous incarnation) began issuing censorship orders to newspapers on stories involving national security. In 1993 it became known as a DA-Notice with four senior civil servants, with an eminent military figure as secretary, and 13 members nominated by the media to form the Defence Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Contrary to popular conception DA-Notices are a request and not legally enforceable. Civil servants fear making the agreement legally binding would lead to hostility from the media. There would be apprehension among journalists about new restrictions, as the committee has in recent times been robust in resisting pressure from the Government to send DA-Notices if it thinks the motives are political. At present most DA-Notices are issued regarding military missions, anti-terrorist operations at home and espionage.


British panel seeks tougher immigration laws

A British parliamentary panel on immigration has suggested tough measures to prevent migrants taking away British jobs. The House of Commons cross-party group said the new immigration points system is allowing thousands of foreign workers to come to Britain just to look for work. "The government's claim that it wants 'British jobs for British workers' is simply not being put into practice. Everyone knew that the government could do nothing to stop EU citizens from applying for UK jobs," committee's co-chairman and Labour MP, Frank Field, said. "What isn't known is that for the last few years tens of thousands of non-EU citizens have been given jobs in the UK and there has been no obligation for any of these jobs to be advertised here first," Field said.

A research by the pressure group Migrationwatch shows at least three categories in the new immigration points-based system allow for jobs to be filled by workers from overseas without any obligation to first advertise the vacancy in Britain.

Last year around 8,400 foreign workers were admitted to so-called "shortage occupations", jobs for which firms can bring in foreign labour, and 38,100 foreign students were employed because of intra-company transfers, the research reported. Tier 1 of the points system allows highly skilled migrants to come to Britain even if they do not have a job.

The report added that last year about 30,250 migrants came here under Tier 1 or its predecessor, the highly skilled migrants programme, and this year 48,500 applications have been approved so far.


Embryo `quality check' could double IVF success rate

Infertile couples could double their chances of starting a family by IVF, with an embryo quality test developed by British and American scientists. The first trial of the procedure, which identifies embryos with the best chances of developing into healthy babies, delivered remarkable results that suggest it could transform IVF success rates, while helping to prevent damaging multiple pregnancies. Of 23 women to have their embryos genetically screened with the technology, two have given birth while another 16 are currently pregnant and have passed the point at which miscarriages typically occur. Another two became pregnant but miscarried. The 78 per cent success rate is particularly outstanding because all the patients had a poor prognosis, with an average age of 37® and a history of failed attempts at IVF or miscarriage.

Dagan Wells, of the University of Oxford, who leads the research team, has applied for permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to offer the test at the Oxford Fertility Unit, and a British trial is expected to begin next year. The test will eventually cost about 2,000 pounds.

It could raise success rates when only a single embryo is used. The HFEA has launched a strategy to promote single embryo transfer, to guard against twin and triplet pregnancies - the biggest health risk of IVF. Dr Wells said: "The pregnancy rates we've got so far are absolutely phenomenal." The probability that one embryo leads to a pregnancy is doubled, he said. "That means that you've got a much better chance of a pregnancy if you do a single embryo transfer."

The new procedure to detect chromosomal defects called aneuploidies was developed by Dr Wells with colleagues from the Colorado Centre for Reproductive Medicine near Denver. More than half of all embryos are aneuploid, which means they have too many chromosomes or too few. Most of these fail to implant in the womb or miscarry, while the few that survive have chromosomal disorders such as Down's syndrome. While a preimplantation genetic test for aneuploidy is already available, it is controversial as there is little evidence that it helps women to conceive. Some studies have even suggested it is harmful, and the British Fertility Society recommends that it should be offered only in clinical trials.

The new approach improves on this by testing IVF embryos when they reach the blastocyst stage of 100 to 150 cells. This allows extra cells to be removed for genetic analysis, giving increased accuracy. It also employs a more advanced profiling system called comparative genomic hybridisation, which can screen all 23 pairs of chromosomes, against only ten with existing techniques.

In the trial, which will be presented today at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in San Francisco, patients had IVF at the Colorado centre, and cells were then removed and DNA sent to Oxford for analysis. Once the normal embryos had been identified, these were then implanted. The 78 per cent success rate recorded so far is significantly better than the 60 per cent that the clinic usually achieves for this patient group. For each individual embryo, the implantation rate is 62 per cent, against a normal rate of 28 per cent.

Mandy Katz-Jaffe, of the Colorado centre, said: "This is still a trial, and we don't offer it yet as a clinical procedure. But this is very promising." Allan Pacey, of the British Fertility Society, said the results were interesting, but that it would need to see larger studies with a control group before the society changed its policy on preimplantation screening.


Arrogant British hospital

At an age when most teenage girls are thinking about school, boys and pop music, Hannah Jones is hoping only to be allowed to die with dignity. Hannah, who is 13 and terminally ill, has persuaded a hospital to withdraw a High Court action that would have forced her to have a risky heart transplant against her will.

Although the operation should prolong her life, it would only provide temporary respite. Instead, Hannah said she would prefer to spend her remaining days in the care of her family rather than take the chance of dying in hospital. The decision to drop the action was taken after Hannah was interviewed by a child protection officer.

Her mother, Kirsty, an intensive care nurse, and her father, Andrew, an auditor, say they respect their daughter’s wishes and are angry that the hospital brought the action. Hannah has been in and out of hospital after having leukaemia diagnosed at the age of 5. The chemotherapy left her with a hole in her heart and, as her body has grown, her heart has been unable to keep pace. However, doctors have warned her that a heart transplant is risky and that, even if it succeeded, the drugs used to prevent her body rejecting the new heart could prompt a recurrence of the leukaemia.

Hannah, from Marden, near Hereford, made her decision after talking to doctors at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where she had a pacemaker fitted earlier this year, and Great Ormond Street, which would have performed the transplant. The family believe that it was a locum doctor at their local hospital in Hereford who reported the case to the child protection unit after Hannah had been taken home by her parents.

The first the family knew about the action was when they received a phone call telling them the hospital was applying for an order removing Hannah from the family home on the grounds that her parents were “preventing her treatment”. Mrs Jones, 43, said that the locum doctor had wanted to give Hannah a drug to facilitate her transfer to Great Ormond Street for the operation. “The doctor wanted to give her a drug she had already said she didn’t want again . . . The family was in tears thinking she was going to be taken from us against her wishes.”

However, Great Ormond Street told the family that they would not admit the teenager without her consent. After the incident the Joneses wrote to Herefordshire Primary Care Trust complaining about its intervention. In his reply, Chris Bull, the PCT’s chief executive, described Hannah as a “brave and courageous young woman” but defended the doctor’s decision. But after a nurse from the child protection team interviewed Hannah it was decided not to apply for a court order.

In the letter to the family, Mr Bull concluded: “Hannah appears to understand the serious nature of her condition . . . Treatment options were discussed and Hannah was able to express her clear views that she did not wish to go back on a pump or to go into hospital for cardiac treatment.”

Hannah’s father said he was not sure exactly what his daughter had told the child protection officer at their private meeting, “but it must have been powerful enough to convince some very high-up people that she was right”. “Hannah has been through enough already. To have the added stress of a possible court hearing or being forcibly taken into hospital is disgraceful.”


British council bans staff from saying 'singing from the same hymn sheet'... in case it offends atheists

We read:
"A council is to launch a probe to find out how it banned its staff from using the phrase 'singing from the same hymn sheet' because it could offend atheists. Salisbury District Council instructed officials to stop using the centuries-old saying to avoid upsetting non-believers. The council also recently told employees to replace saying 'colour blind' with 'colour visual impairment'.

The advice read: 'Avoid office and council jargon wherever possible, including phrases such as "moving forward" and "singing from the same hymn sheet". 'Not everyone understands these phrases - some can actually cause offence (what would an atheist want with your hymn sheet?).'

Yesterday, Salisbury council leader Paul Sample vowed to investigate and put an end to the ban. 'I think whoever did it probably did not think of running it past elected politicians and if they had we would have helped them to see common sense.


Must not imply that blacks chuck spears

We read:
"Jim Rosenthal has been forced to apologise to black Olympic javelin star Tessa Sanderson after describing her as a 'spear chucker'.

The 60-year-old sports commentator was denounced as a 'racist' by critics. They bombarded internet forums with angry messages, claiming that the phrase was insulting to ethnic minorities because of its supposed associations with 'uncivilised' tribes.

But Sanderson's former rival, Fatima Whitbread, defended Rosenthal. She said that the phrase 'spear chucker' was common in athletic circles and did not carry any racist connotations.


Britain lifts ban on civilian nuclear exports to India : "In a significant development, Britain on Monday said it has lifted six-year-long ban on export of sensitive nuclear technology to India for civilian purpose. "Since March 2002 UK policy has been to refuse all licence applications for Trigger List items to India," Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said on Monday. "That policy has now changed and we will now consider on a case by case basis licence applications for peaceful use of all items on the NSG Trigger List and NSG Dual-Use List when they are destined for IAEA safeguarded civil nuclear facilities in India," Rammell told the House of Commons in a written statement."

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