Thursday, January 22, 2009

The nonsense never stops in Britain

Now music teachers are ordered to wear earmuffs by health and safety watchdog. There must be a heckova lot of stone-deaf music teachers around according to this

School music teachers have been warned to wear earmuffs or stand behind noise screens to protect their hearing. This is because beginners tend to blast away much louder than professionals. The most potentially deafening instrument is the cornet, with just one honk being enough to cause permanent ear damage. And standing in the direct fire of instruments such as the flute, oboe and saxophone can become risky after just 15 minutes.

Standing next to a school band is even more dangerous, the Health and Safety Executive warns. 'Sound levels produced by groups of student instrumentalists are likely to be higher than those produced by a professional group of players because of less-developed technical abilities and natural exuberance,' the organisation said. 'Damaging sound levels have been measured at the conductor's position in school bands.'

The warning has been posted on the HSE website. It sets the lower safe daily limit for exposure to a prolonged noise at 80 decibels. This level takes account of the actual volume of sound and how long it continues. Noise exposure is not the same as sound level, which is the noise measured at a particular moment. After just 15 minutes of a saxophone lesson, teachers can reach their safe daily exposure limit.

Conducting a brass, woodwind and percussion orchestra can be done safely for just 19 minutes. For a one-off sound, the lower safe limit is 135 decibels and 140 decibels must not be breached.

When officials visited a school, they found that noise in a cornet lesson hit 140 decibels. In comparison, a pneumatic drill makes a 100-decibel sound and 140 decibels equates to a plane taking off. A school that allows staff to be exposed to the cornet without protection would likely be in breach of noise regulations, the HSE warns.

'Sounds peaking above 140dB are liable to cause immediate and lasting damage rather than accumulating over time,' the HSE warns. 'It is therefore crucial that a thorough noise control strategy is in place before any exposure to loud noise might occur.' To avoid overexposure, teachers can stand behind screens, ensure they do not stand in the line of fire of an instrument or, as a last resort, wear ear protectors.

If they do use acoustic screens, they must be careful not to place them so that the sound reverberates back to the child, putting them in added danger. The advice is aimed at protecting workers. But the HSE says: 'Consider the use of hearing protection for both teachers and students to protect hearing during "loud" lessons.'


Another triumph of British bureaucracy

Fifty child-sex offenders were cleared to work with children, new probe reveals

At least 50 sex offenders who pose an 'ongoing risk' to children were cleared to work in schools, an inquiry has found. Some were approved by ministers or senior officials to continue working with children despite evidence they had committed sex offences. A small number were free to seek work in schools three years after a teacher scandal highlighted the loopholes that can allow paedophiles to gain positions of trust.

An investigation - instigated in January 2006 by then Education Secretary Ruth Kelly - this month ordered the barring of 50 offenders initially permitted to work with children. Whitehall officials declined to say whether any had committed sex offences against children since an initial reprieve from the blacklist of those banned from working with children, known as List 99.

But, in a written statement to the Commons yesterday, Children's Secretary Ed Balls said in some cases the decision to bar had been based on 'further information' from police.

During the crackdown on sex offenders working with children List 99 grew to an unprecedented 13,000 names, Mr Balls said. Numbers surged by 60 per cent in just a year mainly because laws have now been tightened so that all those added to the sex offenders register - for cautions as well as convictions - are automatically put on the list.

A review of historical cases has also swelled the list. Mr Balls said 2,560 cases of sex offenders dating to 1940 had been re-examined in a review by a panel led by Sir Roger Singleton. Fifty more individuals were placed on the list as a result of the review, 46 of them by March last year. Officials are unsure how many, if any, worked in schools and for how long. They said schools' own background checks would probably have prevented them from being employed.

Liberal Democrat schools spokes-David Laws said: 'Ministers must explain why at least 50 people now thought to pose a risk to children were originally excluded from the official list.' There were 'still far too many unanswered questions', he added.

Ministers have already admitted 33 offenders had slipped through the net and were banned after loopholes came to light in January 2006. These included 32 individuals on the sex offenders' register not referred to the Department for Children, Schools and Families by police.

The row over loopholes allowing sex offenders to work in schools threatened to engulf Miss Kelly's career. The first case to get widespread attention - that of Paul Reeve - highlighted how individuals cautioned for sex offences might still be cleared to work in schools. Reeve was placed on the sex offenders register after a caution from police in 2003 for accessing banned images of children on the internet.

Legally, in accepting a caution, guilt is admitted. But the decision was taken at ministerial level not to put the teacher on List 99. He was appointed by a school in Norwich but resigned after eight days when police raised concerns.

Mr Balls said the Government was transferring administration of List 99 cases to the new Independent Safeguarding Authority, which will hold a list to replace List 99.


Foolish British crackdown on LEGAL immigrants

The REAL problem, hordes of illegals, is too hard -- so pointless diversionary tactics are being resorted to by BritGov

Britain's Home Secretary Jacqui Smith wants to create more jobs for British workers. She doesn't want them going to these nasty foreigners who keep coming over here and snapping up the best placements. So she wants to make firms advertise job vacancies at JobCentres first, and try that, before offering a job to non-residents. The government says that this could mean 60,000 or more jobs going to Brits rather than foreigners.

This smacks of posturing, like Gordon Brown's famous 'British jobs for British people' speech of a year back.It took about twenty seconds for the European Union to point out that such a policy was illegal - jobs in any EU country have to be open to residents of any other EU country. (Though try to get a good job in France and you will quickly find whether the reality matches the rule.)

The trouble is that government officials tend to treat politicians' headline-grabbing soundbites seriously, and actually try to put them into practice. Doing so this time would be a very bad thing.

Smith is focusing on all those people who come from non-EU countries - the sort who cause her department so much trouble, even at the best of times. Firms, she thinks, should be forced to discriminate against them, and hire them only when there is no alternative.

This is a Jacquboot policy. We are supposed to be opposed to discrimination. And I can't see what business it is of the government who firms choose to hire. Left to their own devices, businesspeople will hire the workers they think are best for the job. So the job will be done better, or cheaper, and British business will benefit from it - which means the nation as a whole becomes more competitive, trade expands, and we all benefit. If firms are forced to hire particular workers just because politicians demand it, then they'll be getting second best. Already, many companies hire foreign workers because they find them not just willing to work for less, but willing to work harder or longer than many of their British counterparts.

Perhaps the possibility of being pipped to a job by some non-Brit might be a useful lesson to us all, that in Brown's fake boom we all got rather flabby and lazy, but the key of keeping a job in this competitive world is hard work. [It is certainly a common Australian impression that Brits are a lazy lot. "A Pom wouldn't work in a iron lung" is a common, if paradoxical, saying in Australia. Australians visiting Britain certainly find employers eager to hire them precisely for their better work attitude]


British Parents want more men to be school teachers, survey shows

Parents are calling for more men to become teachers because they fear their children lack male role models, research showed yesterday. Demand is even stronger among single mothers, who told the survey their children had little contact with men in caring roles. The study found one in six children living with a single mother spends less than two hours a week with a male role model, such as a father figure, relative or teacher. One in three of these children has such contact for under six hours a week.

Over the past 20 years there has been a dramatic decline in the number of men working in schools and nurseries and a growing trend for children never to be taught by a man. The slump in male recruitment has been blamed on a perception among men that teaching, especially of young children, is 'women's work' and that they risk false allegations of child abuse.

But 55 per cent of parents in yesterday's poll said they wanted to see male staff working with the youngest children. This rose to 66 per cent among single mothers. More than a third of all those polled agreed that male teachers give boys someone to look up to and set a good example. A quarter believe boys behave better if taught by a man. A majority of parents told the survey that men and women have different skills to offer young children and that nurseries should better reflect the real world's gender mix. But despite the demand for male staff, almost two-thirds of the 1,000 parents polled said the childcare they use has no male worker.

The Children's Workforce Development Council, which commissioned the survey, said it wanted to encourage more men to see childcare and nursery work as a viable career. Campaigns are already underway to encourage more men into primary and secondary teaching. Thom Crabbe, the council's national development manager for early years education, said: 'Parents are right to want to see more men working in early years. 'It is important that during the crucial first five years of a child's life they have quality contact with both male and female role models.'

However, there are signs that the economic downturn may change the make-up of the teaching profession. The Teaching and Development Agency has seen the number of potential applicants shoot up 50 per cent on this time last year. In the past two and a half months, 424,802 people made inquiries through their website - up from 283,641 during the same period a year earlier. There is no gender breakdown but the increase is thought to be linked to rising redundancies in areas such as banking, manufacturing and transport, which have mostly male workforces.


Health-Care Rationing in Britain

Bruce Hardy probably doesn't have long to live. But he could live longer, if it weren't for the attitude and policies of the British government. As recounted in a New York Times article, Mr. Hardy has kidney cancer that has spread to his lung. His doctor wanted him to take an expensive but effective new drug that has been shown to delay cancer progression for six months.

But Her Majesty's government refused the request. The Times reports: "If the Hardys lived in the United States or just about any European country . . . Mr. Hardy would most likely get the drug, although he might have to pay part of the cost. . . . But at that price, Mr. Hardy's life is not worth prolonging according to a British government agency, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence." (In a supreme irony, the institute's acronym, NICE, is the same acronym C. S. Lewis used for the evil institute in his classic novel, That Hideous Strength.)

The Hardy case highlights many of the problems with socialized medicine: government rationing of health care, a lack of options, and an ultimate devaluation of human life. Remember, in most other countries, Mr. Hardy could have his treatment if he paid for part of it-but Britain isn't even giving him that choice. The government makes the health-care decisions. It's all out of his hands.

And the really scary thing is that other countries are starting to look to Britain as an example of how to manage health care!

Says the Times, "Top health officials in Austria, Brazil, Colombia and Thailand said in interviews that NICE now strongly influences their policies." And even here in the United States, some are calling for the adoption of some of NICE's practices, including officials with Medicare and Medicaid.

Way back during the Clinton era, I predicted that we'd have this kind of debacle here in America if the advocates of socialized health care got their way. As I pointed out then: "The truth is that capping costs will inevitably mean reducing services: Hospitals will have to stop using all the expensive medical technology. In plain English, they will have to stop treating so many people [that] people who are elderly, handicapped, or chronically ill will be pushed to the end of the line." Well, that's exactly what's happening to Bruce Hardy.

Yes, soaring health-care costs are a major problem, and we need solutions. But the great danger of systems like Britain's is that they invariably end up with the government performing a version of the old lifeboat exercise that so many children learn in school now: deciding whose life is worth saving and whose life should be thrown overboard. It doesn't matter how effective or efficient these systems may look on the surface. A government that takes upon itself the right to play God is a government that is not safe for its citizens.

"Everybody should be allowed to have as much life as they can," Bruce Hardy's wife, Joy, told the Times.

As we deal with our health care problems here in America, we would do well to remember her words. The goal of every government should be not to ration life, but to do everything possible to create a system that preserves it.


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