Thursday, February 26, 2009

Amazing British discovery: "Back to basics discipline in school would curb bad behaviour"

Schools should adopt back-to-basics discipline methods to curb bad behaviour and improve results among pupils, according to the Government's education watchdog. Traditional rules such as banning children with shaven heads and those wearing designer trainers or gang colours have proved effective in maintaining order at the best comprehensives, according to a report by Ofsted. Formal assemblies, regular patrols of corridors, frequent school trips, strong values and appointing good teachers are also successful methods of raising standards, the study says.

The report examined how state schools in the most deprived areas improved standards, describing how one head teacher tackled troublemakers by suspending 300 pupils in a week. Parents of all children barred from school were also ordered to meetings - often at anti-social hours such as 6am or 11pm - to be given a dressing-down. Ofsted said the approach had proved successful and that poor-performing schools in England should mimic the methods to turn themselves around.

According to the watchdog, four in 10 secondary schools in England are still not good enough. Christine Gilbert, chief inspector of schools, said: "Although there has been some improvement in the last year, two secondary schools out of five are still judged to be no better than satisfactory. I commend this report to those who lead and govern these schools."

Michael Gove, the Tory shadow children's secretary, said: "These schools demonstrate that disadvantage should not mean low standards. Schools that have excellent head teachers with strong discipline policies and high expectations can help children thrive regardless of their economic background. We should celebrate this achievement and give parents the power to ensure that these approaches are adopted more widely across the state sector."

The Conservatives claim attempts by many heads to control pupils have been undermined in recent years with some parents over-turning heads' decisions to expel.

Figures published in December showed police were called out to deal with 40 violent incidents in schools every day, while a separate report suggested gang membership among pupils had become "more overt" in recent years.

In its report, Ofsted investigated 12 successful inner-city state secondary schools with high numbers of pupils from "poor or disturbed home backgrounds" and examined how they had approached school discipline. Inspectors said they ensured "the street stops at the gate" by imposing tight rules on behaviour and focusing on the basics. Many of the schools had police officers permanently stationed within the grounds, inspectors said.

Middleton Technology School, Rochdale, which is surrounded by neighbourhoods "beset with alcohol and drugs in one direction and gangs in the other", imposes strict uniform rules, said Ofsted. It bans students with "shaven heads or emblematic patterns in their hair, trainers with brand marks and conspicuous designs and other manifestations of group or gang culture".

Inspectors said Robert Clack School in Dagenham dealt with troublemakers "swiftly and severely". Some 300 were suspended in just a week and Paul Grant, the head teacher, once personally drove the school minibus around nearby streets looking for truants. The head also introduced formal assemblies "to explain to students how he expected them to behave".

At Greenwood Dale School, Nottingham, staff are "smartly dressed as professionals, and students reflect as well as respect this", said the report.

Margaret Morrissey, from the campaign group Parents Outloud, said: "Most parents will be pretty shocked if this sort of thing is not already happening in other schools. If schools don't have good discipline and expectations of youngsters then something is going very wrong. Teachers in many schools are clearly not being allowed to get on and do their jobs - they are spending too long being tied down by Government edicts."

Ofsted said all the schools in its study also focused on a system of praise and rewards for outstanding work. Other schools improved behaviour and exam results by focusing on the basics of literacy and numeracy in the classroom and refusing to "jump on bandwagons" by introducing every Government initiative. It said the schools had "generally not been rushing into" the Government's new diplomas, which are being introduced as an alternative to GCSEs and A-levels, although "this is likely to change".

Ofsted said the regular exodus of good teachers was "the scourge of many urban schools" and was one of the most "disruptive influences" on children's education. But these schools, including Bartley Green School in Birmingham, Harton Technology College in South Tyneside and Lampton School in Hounslow, London, reversed the trend. Some embarked on "worldwide recruitment" drives to find the best teachers.

Jim Knight, Schools Minister, said: "We should never shy away from celebrating success, especially when that success has been achieved in challenging circumstances. "We should continue to learn from our variety of successful schools in this country - this moment is theirs to enjoy."


Senior citizen trying to report burglary turned away from British police HQ... as all the officers were playing POKER

They take very little interest in burglaries anyway. It takes insults to blacks, Muslims or homosexuals to get them moving

A pensioner trying to report a burglary was turned away from a police headquarters - even though officers were inside playing poker. Retired financial adviser Graham Hall, 69, walked to the head office of Thames Valley Police after discovering thieves had broken into a rental property he owns nearby. But after first asking Mr Hall if he was there for a card game involving 14 officers that was about to start in the social club, a security guard on the front desk told him no one could help.

Instead he was informed that the station was not open to the public and was handed a fridge magnet with the force's non-emergency telephone number, which he was told to ring. Mr Hall spoke to an operator who promised that a police officer would get in touch - but he was still to hear back from them, nearly a week later. The father of four said: 'When I got there a security guard popped up from behind the desk and said, "Good evening, are you here for the poker?". 'I said, "I've got it wrong. I thought this was a police station, not a casino". 'I told him I had come to report a crime, but he said I couldn't do that here. I said, "I'm sorry I wasted your time" and left.

'I was flabbergasted - you can't even report a crime at the police headquarters. 'The fact is that a crime had been committed on their doorstep but not one person could be bothered to come out and talk to me because they were gambling. At first I thought it was a joke but it really is no laughing matter. I've got no confidence in the force whatsoever.'

Mr Hall, of Oxford, discovered the break-in when he visited a rental property he owns in nearby Kidlington at 6.45pm last Wednesday. The thieves had smashed into a games room annexe and made off with hundreds of pounds' worth of snooker equipment. The semi-detached house was empty at the time after his daughter Joanna, 38, who had been letting it, moved out a few weeks earlier.

Mr Hall first went to Kidlington police station but a sign on the door said it closed at 5pm every day, so he went 150 yards down the road to Thames Valley Police HQ. The pensioner - who will have to fork out 150 pounds to replace both doors and a padlock - is furious. He said: 'Not only do I have to pay for new snooker balls and cues as well as the two doors but no one from the police has even bothered to contact me. 'I was going to leave the doors for the police to examine but it doesn't look like they're bothered. 'I feel extremely let down by the police who would rather play cards than catch criminals.'

A spokeswoman for Thames Valley police has confirmed that a poker game had taken place with a maximum stake of 2.50 a game. But she said that players at the regular event were off-duty. As for reporting a crime, she said the headquarters was not an 'operational police station' and that this was stated on a sign below the entry buzzer, along with directions to the nearest stations and opening times. The spokesman added that officers had not been dispatched to the scene as a matter of urgency because the incident is classed as a 'non-dwelling burglary'. However, an officer will now be in touch with Mr Hall as soon as possible, she added.


British policeman hauled before court and suspended for 20 months for defending himself against yob who headbutted him

Another example of British prosecutors being on the side of the criminal

A police officer told of his anger yesterday after being taken off front-line duty for a year and hauled before a court for defending himself against a suspect who he thought was about to headbutt him. Sergeant Bob Woodward spoke out after the case against him collapsed at the start of his trial when it emerged the supposed victim would not appear - because he was on the run after skipping bail over a separate violent attack.

The officer, a married father of three with 30 years' unblemished service, retires in April but said the episode had soured his last year in the force. Condemning the criminal justice system, he claimed his experience - the second time he has been wrongly accused of assaulting a drunken suspect - would make other officers think twice about confronting violent individuals.

Sergeant Woodward, 52, said Ashley Pearson had lashed out at him in July 2007 as they stood together in a custody suite at Cannock police station in Staffordshire, where Pearson had been taken after being arrested for an alleged breach of bail. The 6ft 8in policeman said he blocked the blow and pushed his attacker on to a desk, chipping Pearson's front tooth.

Pearson did not make a formal complaint but Staffordshire Police launched an investigation following an anonymous tip-off. Details were passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service which decided to prosecute Sergeant Woodward. He was taken off front line duties early last year when formally summonsed for assault and has since been doing other work or been on sick leave. The officer has now been fully reinstated after the case against him collapsed at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday.

Sergeant Woodward had previously been acquitted over an incident in July 2002 when he tried to stop a drunken yob spitting at him by pushing his face away. On that occasion, he had to endure seven months of anxiety before he was cleared.

The sergeant, from Hednesford, Staffordshire, said yesterday: 'There is something wrong when police officers end up in the dock for doing their job while thugs are left free to laugh at the justice system. They were ludicrous prosecutions. When they told me I was being charged I could hardly believe my ears. 'I had to keep it secret from my 80-year-old mother or it would have worried her to death.'

Announcing the CPS would offer no evidence against Sergeant Woodward, Zaheer Afzal, prosecuting, told Judge Sean Morris on Monday: 'Regrettably our main witness is not here today, and we have not been able to find him.'

David Mason, defending, said he found it ' staggering' that the case had taken so long to get to court, telling the judge: 'The officer thought he was going to be headbutted and was using reasonable force to protect himself from a clearly drunk, violent and aggressive man.' Pearson, from Cannock, Staffordshire, ended up in jail for an unrelated matter. He was released and has been on the run since February after being bailed on suspicion of being involved in a pub 'glassing' attack.



Britain must build new nuclear power stations if it is to meet climate change targets, according to leading environmentalists.

It is the first time the green lobby has decided to embrace the technology after years of opposition. Campaigners have traditionally been against nuclear power because of the fear of proliferation of weapons and the problem of disposing of waste. However with Britain facing a major energy crisis in the next few years - as coal-fired power stations and old nuclear power stations close down - and with the UK Government committed to cutting greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050, many in the environmental movement are changing their minds. They argue that while nuclear power still has problems, climate change is a greater threat and that nuclear is a better option for keeping the lights on than building new coal-fired power stations.

The four leading environmentalists who have come out in favour of nuclear power are Stephen Tindale, former director of Greenpeace; Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury, the chairman of the Environment Agency; Mark Lynas, author of the Royal Society's science book of the year, and Chris Goodall, a Green Party activist and prospective parliamentary candidate. Mr Tindale, who described his turn-around as a "religious conversion", said many more in the environment movement think "nuclear power is not ideal but it's better than climate change".

Around 10 power stations could be built in the UK in the next 30 years. The Government is currently consulting on sites that might be suitable for new nuclear stations and companies have expressed interest in starting to build in 2013, with the first plants coming on stream in 2018.

However environmental groups remained adamant that nuclear power can't solve the problem of climate change. Greenpeace argue that even if new nuclear stations are built it will not stop countries like China and India burning huge amounts of coal and the only way to reduce the threat of climate change is to improve efficiency and revolutionise energy generation with cheap and green renewables.

A spokesman for Greenpeace said: "Imagine if the billions wasted on the nuclear industry had been spent instead on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Then we'd really be matching our big problems with big solutions."


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