Only ten teachers have been struck off for incompetence in almost a decade despite a Government crackdown on poor practice, it emerged yesterday. This means only two teachers have been barred for every 100,000 working in the state system since the General Teaching Council was set up in 2001 to protect children from under-performing staff. The watchdog admitted yesterday the system for passing on concerns about weak teachers was 'virtually non- existent' in many areas. Councils are legally required to pass details of incompetent teachers to the watchdog but two-thirds have not made one referral in seven-and-a-half years. 'The issue for us is whether all children can be assured that the teacher in front of them is competent,' said chief executive Keith Bartley.
The revelation that only ten out of 500,000 teachers in the system have been removed makes a mockery of Labour pledges to root out the incompetent. A claim by former Ofsted chief Chris Woodhead that there were 15,000 incompetent teachers led the then Education Secretary David Blunkett to introduce a fast-track procedure for firing poor staff within a month. Labour also backed legislation setting up the GTC within months of taking power in 1997.
Ten years on, Schools Secretary Ed Balls admitted the system needs tightening up and in his ten-year Children's Plan, issued in December 2007, called on the GTC to root out teachers whose 'competence falls to unacceptably low levels'. In response, the GTC has begun an investigation to find out why so few under-performing teachers are being referred to it. In cases where a teacher is dismissed for incompetence or resigns when dismissal is likely, their employers are supposed to inform the GTC.
Figures disclosed by the GTC show it has received 155 referrals from employers in the past seven and a-half years, which resulted in 64 competency hearings. Of these, only ten resulted in the teacher being struck off. A further 39 entailed disciplinary sanctions including suspension or a reprimand. In 13 cases, the GTC ruled there was no case to answer. The GTC investigation will conclude later this year and is expected to lead to a crackdown on employers who shun their duties. Mr Bartley said: 'I am hopeful we can now address the issue in underperformance.' He told the Times Educational Supplement: 'I don't think we are talking about a broken workforce. It's the best qualified it's ever been, and the best trained.'
The number of incompetence cases emerged a few days after current Ofsted chief, Christine Gilbert, warned that ' boring' lessons were contributing to falling standards of discipline. The Policy Exchange think-tank concluded last year that it was likely that teachers are being ' recycled' around the system. Sam Freedman, the report's author, said 'no one believes' that there were so few incompetent teachers.
John Dunford, general secretary the Association of School and College Leaders, said some heads found it difficult to proceed against incompetent staff because a lack of support from local authorities.
Peter Hitchens joins the anti-Greenie fray
Like his brother Christopher, he doesn't mince words. He is referring below to a news report that a wind turbine was attacked and damaged by a UFO:
If visitors from another galaxy really are going round destroying wind turbines, then it is the proof we have been waiting for that aliens are more intelligent than we are. The swivel-eyed, intolerant cult, which endlessly shrieks - without proof - that global warming is man-made, has produced many sad effects. The collapse of proper education has made two whole generations vulnerable to rubbishy fads.
But the disfiguring of the country with useless windmills, and the insane plan to ban proper light bulbs, are supreme triumphs of this dimwit pseudo-religion. Both schemes override facts and logic. During the current cold spell, observant persons will have noticed that there has been very little wind, a rather common combination. Thus, at a time of great need for power, wind turbines would be almost entirely useless for producing electricity. They're pretty feeble anyway. Even when they are working, sensible power stations have to be kept spinning, so that they can be flung into gear at short notice if the wind drops.
Yet, over the objections of reasonable protesters fearing for the ruined landscape, or dreading the annoying whine and whirr, the authorities have marched over the once-lovely hills and moors of Britain, planting grotesque and futile engines. In intervals between erecting these daft objects, the Government (influenced by the awful EU) has also colluded in a plan to stop the sale of traditional light bulbs.
This is even though the supposed replacements are expensive, don't reduce electricity use anything like as much as claimed, won't fit many existing lamps, won't work with dimmers, in many cases give off a light as cheery and bright as the baleful glow emitted by a decomposing dingo, won't work in fridges, don't last as long as claimed, and when they do go phut, must be disposed of with tongs because they contain deadly mercury vapour. This is the price we pay for fanaticism, and for a low-grade political class without the courage to stand up against it.
True, it takes a little nerve to oppose this lobby. But if you don't have that sort of nerve, you shouldn't be in politics in the first place.
Strongest drugs `double risk of death' for dementia sufferers
This is pretty disturbing stuff. Unwitting iatrogenic illness is bad enough but we seem to be looking at deliberate iatrogenic harm here
Alzheimer's patients who are given powerful drugs to calm them down are almost twice as likely to die prematurely as those not given the medication, a study has found. It is estimated that more than 100,000 elderly people are given antipsychotic drugs each year, despite warnings that they should not be given to people with dementia.
The latest research found that, after three years, fewer than a third of people on antipsychotics were alive compared with nearly two thirds given an inactive placebo, suggesting that up to 23,500 dementia patients are dying prematurely each year. The sedative drugs are normally given to people with serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, and are not licensed to treat Alzheimer's. Campaigners say that the treatments are commonly prescribed unofficially as a "chemical cosh" to control agitation, delusions, sleep disturbance and aggression in difficult patients. Previous research has shown that the pills can accelerate mental decline and increase the risk of having a fatal stroke or developing symptoms of Parkinson's disease, prompting charities to call for their use to be curtailed.
In many nursing homes in Europe and North America, between 30 per cent and 60 per cent of residents with dementia are often prescribed antipsychotics for more than a year, the researchers write. The study, in the journal Lancet Neurology, is the first to look at the effect of giving the drugs to Alzheimer's patients over long periods. It involved 128 Alzheimer's patients in care homes, half of whom continued to take antipsychotic medications, such as risperidone or haloperi-dol, while the other half were switched to a placebo. The researchers found that the difference in survival rates between the two groups increased with time. After two years survival was 71 per cent for the placebo group and 46 per cent for the antipsychotics group. After three years 59 per cent of the placebo group were still alive compared with 30 per cent of those being treated with antipsychotics.
Clive Ballard, who led the study at King's College London, said that the research presented serious safety concerns. He added: "It is essential to reduce the widespread long-term prescription of these drugs by using more nondrug treatments, such as psychological therapies, and more research is urgently needed to establish more effective and safer drug treatments."
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the medicines watchdog, says that antipsychotic drugs should be used only in severe cases for short periods. Evidence suggests, however, that they are commonly prescribed for Alzheimer's patients for between one and two years in Britain. A report from the all-party parliamentary group on dementia stated last year that almost three quarters of those taking the drugs were given them inappropriately - at a cost of more than 60 million a year.
The study was funded by the Alzheimer's Research Trust. Its chief executive, Rebecca Wood, said: "The findings are a real wake-up call." Phil Hope, the Care Services Minister, said: "The inappropriate administration of medication is entirely unacceptable and this will be examined in the National Dementia Strategy which is due to be published shortly."
NHS Trust where 270 died of superbug STILL making 'serious' hygiene breaches
Undercover inspectors have found continued hygiene failings at the NHS trust where 270 people died of the superbug C. diff. Spot checks revealed evidence of 'serious' breaches of hygiene on a specialist ward where internal body cameras were not being properly decontaminated before being inserted into another patient. The Healthcare Commission said there was still a shortage of nurses at the trust and on one ward staff could not wash their hands because there was no accessible basin.
At least 90 people died as a direct result of C. diff, and a further 180 deaths were hastened by two outbreaks at three hospitals covered by the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust in 2006 and 2007. The trust's chief executive, Rose Gibb, resigned after being offered a 250,000 payout. It was later reduced to 75,000 - half her annual salary. Miss Gibb is appealing the reduced payoff through the High Court.
Now a follow-up investigation by the Healthcare Commission has said the trust - which runs the Kent and Sussex Hospital, Pembury Hospital and Maidstone Hospital - still needs to do better. A spot check in October found several breaches of the Government's-hygiene code.
The most serious related to decontamination of equipment in the endoscopy unit at Kent and Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge Wells. A special double sink for washing the internal camera equipment has now been ordered.
It was also found that although regular audits were being carried out on the effectiveness of infection control facilities, the recommendations were not being followed up across the trust. But specific wards have been allocated for the isolation of infected patients and there are better standards of cleaning and improved staff training. The latest C. diff figures were the lowest for three years.
Healthcare Commission head of investigations Nigel Ellis said: 'The trust's infection control system still needs further improvement.' Inspectors will visit the trust in July to check on progress. Geoff Martin of pressure group Health Emergency said: 'This was the biggest corporate failure in the history of the NHS. It is shocking that there are still problems this far on.'
British cabinet minister admits immigration `free for all'
A cabinet minister has admitted the government has presided over an asylum and immigration "free for all" and warned that the recession could be a recipe for racial tension. Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, said Labour had failed to manage the system effectively, allowing many people to enter the country under false pretences. "Initially it was a kind of free for all," she said. "We had a big surge of asylum seekers, a lot of people coming as economic migrants, but through the route of asylum seeking."
It is the first time a minister has made a bald admission that Labour mismanaged immigration in its first two terms. Blears's comments will be seized on by opponents of immigration policy and campaigners concerned at Britain's population growth. Official projections show the population will rise from 61m to 70m in the next 20 years.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Blears described the government's new points system as a "much more reassuring position for people".
Are abbreviations offensive?
In the story below they seem to be. "Paki" is a common British abbreviation for a Pakistani. In Australia "Aborigine" is commonly abbreviated to "Abo" and that is held by some to be offensive too
"Britain's Prince Harry apologised today after reports he filmed himself calling an Asian army colleague a "Paki." The News of the World said the recording was made in 2006, a year after the prince was pilloried for wearing a Nazi uniform at a costume party, a gaffe that sparked international outcry. The paper said Harry, 24, and third in line to the British throne, could be heard saying: "Anyone else here ... ah, our little Paki friend ... Ahmed" as he zoomed onto the face of an Asian cadet while waiting at an airport to fly to Cyprus.
A royal spokesman said there had been no racist intent in Harry's words. "Prince Harry fully understands how offensive this term (Paki) can be, and is extremely sorry for any offence his words might cause," the spokesman said. "However, on this occasion three years ago, Prince Harry used the term without any malice and as a nickname about a highly popular member of his platoon.
"There is no question that Prince Harry was in any way seeking to insult his friend."
Aggressive British peaceniks: "Protestors clashed with hundreds of riot police in central London as an anti-war demonstration turned violent. One officer was knocked unconscious and two others received facial injuries as the mood turned sour at what had been a mainly peaceful protest. A small group of protestors turned on mounted police and riot officers on foot, throwing missiles and smashing windows in Kensington, close to the Israeli Embassy. A crash barrier set up to help control the crowds was hurled through the large windows of a Starbucks Coffee shop. Police were forced to charge at the group, mainly made up of young men, in an attempt to disperse them. But sticks, stones and shoes were thrown back before the crowds were brought under control. Thousands of people took part in the huge rally and march through to protest against Israel's continued attacks on the Gaza Strip. A heavy police presence lined the route of the march from Hyde Park to the Israeli embassy as demonstrators chanted "free, free Palestine. " [Mostly Muslims, presumably]