Friday, January 16, 2009

British Labour's children fail to make the grade at GCSE: Half leave school unable to read, write or add properly

Fewer than half of teenagers finish compulsory schooling with a basic set of GCSE qualifications and one in five fails to gain a single C grade, official figures revealed yesterday. Results for the first pupils to go through their entire education under Labour show that more than 340,000 16-year-olds failed to meet the Government's secondary school benchmark - five GCSEs at C grade or higher including English and maths. More than 135,000 failed to achieve even one C grade last summer.

The figures also show that more than 375,000 secondary pupils - around one in seven - are being taught in comprehensives which Gordon Brown has threatened with closure unless their results improve. A total of 440 schools face being shut down or taken over if their GCSE performance fails to get better by a 2011 deadline. Nearly a third of these schools expect to remain in the doldrums at least until 2010 - putting them at grave risk of closure, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Last year, just 47.6 per cent of candidates finished compulsory schooling with a basic mastery of the three Rs and three other GCSE subjects or their vocational equivalent. Results were up on 2007 but progress is half what it needs to be if ministers are to meet a 53 per cent Treasury target set for 2011. The figures also showed that 21 per cent of pupils failed to achieve a single C grade in any GCSE subject, although five per cent achieved C grade standards in vocational qualifications deemed equivalent.

At the other end of the spectrum, one in seven schoolchildren - 14.2 per cent - achieved three A grades at A-level. Grammars, faith schools and part-private academies were revealed as more effective at raising exam standards than so-called 'bog-standard comprehensives'. But the figures for GCSEs suggested attainment in the core subjects such as the three Rs is rising more slowly than for other subjects. The proportion gaining any five GCSEs rose almost four percentage points but the numbers able to count English and maths towards those five qualifications - the Government's preferred measure - went up just 1.3 points. Fewer than one in three students achieved at least a C in a modern foreign language.

The national data, was published ahead of school-by-school tables due out today. The Prime Minister set a minimum standard in 2007 requiring schools to ensure at least 30 per cent of pupils achieve the secondary performance benchmark, and identified 638 schools which fell below the threshold. Under the National Challenge scheme, they are given extra help and monitoring - sometimes including conversion into academies - to ensure they meet the deadline. A total of 440 schools, educating some 375,000 youngsters, remain below the threshold and figures from local councils show that 59 out of 214 schools for which predictions were made are expected still to be languishing below 30 per cent in 2010.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls will attempt to reinvigorate the National Challenge programme today. 'We need to continue to concentrate on the remaining schools and ensure we are giving them the support and challenge they need to make sure no child is left behind,' he said. But Tory schools spokesman Michael Gove said: 'Sadly, too many children are still being educated at schools which the Prime Minister classes as failing, and the gap between richer and poorer schools is widening.'


And these are the schools that Britain's sub-moronic socialists want to abolish:

Grammar schools are taxpayer supported but their pupils are selected for admission on the basis of proven scholastic ability, which is only partly true of private ("independent") schools

Grammar school pupils outperformed their privately educated counterparts at A level by a record margin last summer, piling more pressure on the beleaguered fee-paying sector. As the recession forces many middle-class families to question whether they can afford private education, new figures reveal that the average grammar school pupil attained 73 more A-level points than those educated privately. The points system, in which an A grade is worth 270 points, is used by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service to assess applications to higher education.

The latest statistics, based on last year's results, show that a quarter of all grammar school pupils achieved at least three A grades at A level, the highest level to date. The average A-level score achieved by grammar pupils was 966, compared with 893 in the independent sector. Independent schools still have a higher percentage of straight-A pupils, but the gap has narrowed.

It was another record crop of exam results, with the largest annual increase in GCSE top grades in almost 20 years. Nearly two thirds of pupils (65.3 per cent) were awarded five good GCSEs (A* to C), up from 63.3 per cent and the biggest jump since 1990.

Comprehensives scored an average of 727.8 A-level points per pupil, while the average for the state sector as a whole was 757.4. The proportion of pupils passing the Government's tough new threshold of at least five C grades including English and maths rose 1.3 percentage points to 47.6 per cent. It still means that fewer than half of all pupils achieved the standard. About 100,000 pupils failed to gain at least one Grade C. Only half of pupils attained two science GCSEs and only a third passed a modern language. Girls strengthened their dominance. Almost 70 per cent gained at least five good GCSEs, compared with 60.9 per cent of boys.

About one in eight A-level candidates achieved at least three A grades. More girls got A grades in A-level maths, further maths, physics, chemistry and economics than boys. Boys did better at A level in modern languages, usually a female strength.

Nearly a third of the schools threatened by the Government with closure last summer face a reprieve after improving. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, categorised 638 schools as "National Challenge" institutions last year because fewer than 30 per cent of pupils achieved five good GCSEs. That has dropped by a third to 440. John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "The focus on raising achievement in these schools, particularly in maths and English, is producing results and it is regrettable that the task was made more difficult by the . . . torrent of consultants, plans and meetings that followed."

State school successes included Perry Beeches, in Birmingham, named last year as one of the worst performing schools but now one of the most improved. It went from having 21 per cent of pupils achieve five good GCSEs to 51 per cent.


Britain's black Archbishop of York deplores the failure to integrate immigrants

Immigrants to Britain in the past five decades have been treated like hotel guests who 'do not belong', the Archbishop of York said yesterday. Dr John Sentamu said the failure of migrants to integrate had contributed to the collapse of a common British culture and the lack of a national sense of direction. He called for recognition of the Christian heritage which used to bind the nation together and for a revival of the civic values once represented by myriad local clubs, churches and trade unions.

The Archbishop's powerful attack on uncontrolled immigration and on the Left-wing interpretation of multiculturalism that encourages migrants to ignore traditional British values, was made in a speech to Gordon Brown's think tank, the Smith Institute. Dr Sentamu, a trustee of the Institute, has previously criticised multiculturalism and official neglect of the importance of Christian thinking and history. But yesterday's speech was the first admission from a senior Church of England figure that large-scale immigration has brought serious problems as well as benefits.

Ugandan-born Dr Sentamu, who came to Britain in the 1970s, said it was important to remember that Britain had always provided refuge for economic migrants. He said 250,000 Jewish people had come before the First World War, and had integrated and been accepted. 'What happened after the Second World War was a different phenomenon,' Dr Sentamu continued. 'For the first time, significant numbers of immigrants from a non Judaeo-Christian background settled in the UK.'

He referred to the view of Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks that until the 1950s immigrants were like guests in a country house, who were expected to assimilate British values and to belong to the existing society. But with the decline of empire and the growth of Commonwealth immigration, the pattern had become more like a hotel. 'Guests are entitled to stay if they can pay their way and receive basic services in return for their payment,' he said. 'But they are guests - they do not belong. In the same way, migrants to Britain from the 1960s onwards have made their home with their cultural rights protected under legislation framed under a multicultural perspective. 'Consequently, any sense of a shared common culture is eroded, risking increasing segregation.'

The Archbishop, who is second in the hierarchy of the Church of England, was speaking at a time when Mr Brown and his ministers have been increasingly prepared to acknowledge problems linked to immigration. Dr Sentamu praised Mr Brown's view of Britishness but warned that the Prime Minister's vision 'flounders if it does not allow for participation, involvement and commitment from individuals and communities'. He also blamed leaders of the Church of England for failing to speak out over the future of the nation as well as ignoring 'the voiceless and the unheard in the market square'.

Dr Sentamu said that since 2001 there had been no fewer than five 'major government reports on social cohesion' all attempting to 'address the problems of a multicultural approach'. But few aims had been achieved. This was, Dr Sentamu said, because the Government has been wedded to central control and had been reluctant to see local communities have power. And, he said, 'there has also been a reluctance to acknowledge the strong Judaeo-Christian heritage which has shaped our language, our laws, our education and our hard-won civil rights.'

The Archbishop lamented the collapse of the vision of Britain developed in the 1940s that underpinned the creation of the welfare state. 'It is a tragedy to me that we have increasingly lost this big vision,' Dr Sentamu said. 'Memory loss has made Britain sleepwalk on streets supposedly paved with gold but sadly littered with promissory notes whose cash value is the credit crunch and the economic downturn as well as becoming a country that is not at ease with itself.'

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has said since the New Year that many poorer white people feel betrayed and ignored by authorities and that they fear losing out in the share-out of public benefits. She has also admitted that Labour allowed a 'free-for-all' in immigration since it took power in 1997.


NHS patients face indignity of mixed-sex hospital wards

Men and women in hospital are still being treated on mixed-sex wards with little or no segregation, despite government promises to improve privacy for patients, the Conservative Party says. In April ministers claimed that they were close to abolishing mixed-sex accommodation in the National Health Service. Figures obtained by the Conservatives suggest that 15 per cent of hospitals in England still use mixed, open-plan "Nightingale" wards, while a similar proportion (16 per cent) have wards where patients are segregated only by curtains. The party said that nearly a third of trusts did not have separate bathrooms for men and women.

There were 997 complaints about lack of privacy and dignity in hospital trusts and 135 complaints in mental health trusts in the past year, a poll of 132 acute trusts and 55 mental health trusts showed.

Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, accused the Government of breaking its promises on the issue. "Patients have enough to worry about when they go into hospital without having to suffer the indignity of being placed in accommodation that affords them too little privacy at such a sensitive time," he said.

Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, told a nurses' conference last year that there was a "bit of a political distinction" between the terms mixed-sex accommodation - where men and women are in separate rooms or bays and have their own bathrooms and lavatories - and the larger, mixed-sex wards.

The Department of Health responded: "We are reducing mixed-sex accommodation to an absolute minimum and have made significant progress. Some hospitals and local NHS areas still have more to do and they are now required to publish and implement ambitious plans to improve." A spokesman added that only 2 per cent of patients complained about lack of privacy in the latest official audit.


Midwives' workload surges under Labour - putting mothers and babies at risk

The decline of maternity care under Labour was highlighted last night by figures showing that midwives are more overworked than they have been for at least a decade. NHS midwives are delivering far more babies per year than stipulated by safety guidelines - putting mothers and babies at risk. For the sixth year running, the number of births each midwife handles has risen, and it is now higher than at any time since records began in 1997.

The workload being heaped on maternity wards was blamed for the recent doubling in the number of payouts for medical blunders - and for the fact that rising numbers of women are being left alone and terrified during labour. Experts believe up to 1,000 babies a year die needlessly because doctors and midwives are too overstretched or poorly-trained to detect warning signs.

Safety guidelines, laid down by the Royal College of Midwives, say that midwives should deliver an average of 27.5 babies a year - one every 13 days or so - to ensure mother and child have the best quality of care. But figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats from a parliamentary question show that in 2007, the average midwife in England delivered 34.0 babies - one every ten or 11 days, and almost 25 per cent more than they should under the safety standard. This was up on 2006, when the midwife to baby ratio was 33.7, despite the launch of a major maternity strategy designed to turn things round and even offer all women onetoone care with a midwife. The number of babies delivered is 10 per cent higher than in 2001, and is higher than at any time since records began in 1997, when the ratio was 33.7.

Critics blame a continuing shortage of midwives and ministers' failure to anticipate a soaring birthrate. More babies are now born in England than at any time in the past 26 years; largely the result of immigration. They say the figures prove the Government has no chance of honouring its pledge that all women should have one to one care from a named midwife during the entire pregnancy by the end of this year. The number of babies a midwife is expected to deliver is less than one a week because the job is much wider than dealing with the birth: they look after women over the whole pregnancy and afterwards.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'After 12 years of empty promises the Labour party will have left maternity care in a state of near crisis. 'Last year it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of women are being left alone during their labour causing worry and distress to many. We also know that the number of safety incidents is on the rise and that millions are being paid out in compensation for medical blunders. 'To find now that midwives are at their most over-stretched since records began, adds to the shameful failure of the Government. 'We must increase the number of midwives and cut back on managers so the health service can cope, especially with a birth rate set to rise.'

Last year, the Healthcare Commission watchdog found that more than a quarter of women were left worried and alone during labour or shortly after birth. Other figures showed that the numbers of medical blunders on NHS maternity wards has doubled in two years. In 2007, 70,108 cases of blunders or abuse of mothers on neonatal units were passed to the National Patient Safety Agency, compared with 35,428 in 2005.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: 'The UK is one of the safest countries in the world to have a baby. 'There is no evidence to suggest a lower ratio of births to midwives is needed. The number of midwives is actually increasing.'


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