Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why, instead of chasing criminals, are British police asking children to write essays about 'gay pride'?

It takes pride in its reputation as one of the most gay-friendly employers in the country. But the Kent Police force has been accused of going too far after inviting children under the age of 14 to write about their feelings on homosexuality and transsexuality as part of a competition. The force is offering a 25 pound prize to the child who submits the best 200-word essay on the subject. Its website says: 'Join us to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) history month.'

Children are told the essay title must be 'All Different, Same Respect' - the slogan for a series of events being organised by the force to mark LGBT history month. There is also a dinner dance with a gay or transsexual 'artiste', a gay quiz night and a seminar dubbed 'From Outcast To Out'.

But it is the essay-writing competition that has provoked the ire of campaigners, who accuse the force of demonstrating a blind obsession with the politically-correct agenda. Ann Widdecombe, Conservative MP for Maidstone and the Weald, said: 'I would have thought the police had other things to worry about, like catching burglars. 'Why don't they get kids to write an essay on combating crime? It strikes me as an extraordinary waste of police resources.'

The essay-writing competition has an under-14s, 15-to-17s and an 18-plus section - with the winners receiving a o25 book token and a Kent Police shield. There is also a category for Kent Police staff.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive at the TaxPayers Alliance said: 'While this initiative is no doubt well-intentioned, the job of the police is to fight crime, not run essay competitions or organise dances with a politically-correct agenda. 'It is a question of spending priorities. All available resources should go to frontline policing.'

Kent Police is ranked the fourth most gay-friendly employer in Britain by gay campaign group Stonewall. It rose 22 places this year for its 'proactive lesbian, gay and bisexual support network that meets regularly with the chief constable and other chief officers to discuss relevant issues'. On its website the force proudly displays the Stonewall logo and explains it has set up a 'new equality and diversity structure'. For the whole of this month it will be holding an exhibition of LGBT history in its training college for young recruits to study.

A spokesman for the Campaign Against Political Correctness added: 'Police can get very obsessed about this sort of thing. 'To have even one event to mark the month would be bad enough but to have a whole series is a waste of police time and resources. I am sure the people of Kent would have different priorities if they were asked how the money should be spent.'

But Stonewall last night backed the force. A spokesman said: 'One in five gay people has been a victim of homophobic hate crime in the last three years. 'Stonewall encourages the police to work with communities to drive down all crime.'

Last night Kent Police was unable to offer a convincing explanation of what the competition has to do with policing. Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Leppard said: 'This contest complements work being done in schools around diversity through the national curriculum. 'It is also part of Kent Police's wider diversity programme to raise knowledge and awareness, and increase respect and understanding of LGBT issues.'


Top British civil servant attacks Leftist education policies

Professor Adrian Smith, one of the Government's top education officials, has launched a devastating attack on Labour schools' policy, suggesting reforms focused on "the masses" at the expense of bright students. In an extraordinary outburst, Prof Smith, the second highest-ranked official at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, said plans for new diploma qualifications to replace A-levels were "slightly schizophrenic". He also said:

*School science lessons had been undermined by "insidious" health and safety legislation

*The Government may have exaggerated the success of a drive to get more teenagers to study science seriously

*Universities "won't touch" a new elite A* grade at A-level for fear of recruiting too many sixth-formers from independent schools

*So-called "golden hellos" to attract teachers would be better spent on higher salaries for staff

Prof Smith also said a refusal to complete a review of student tuition fees could lead to universities going bankrupt.

The comments will come as an embarrassing blow to Gordon Brown who has pledged to prioritise education and training in an attempt to kickstart the economy. It also suggests discord at the heart of the Government as Prof Smith breached official protocol which says civil servants should avoid public statements on policy.

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills was formed in 2007 when Mr Brown split the old Department for Education and Skills in two. It now shares education responsibilities with the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Prof Smith, director general of science and innovation, joined the department five months ago following a decade in charge of Queen Mary, University of London. He was giving a speech in central London on the future of science, technology, engineering and mathematics when he made the outspoken attack. The official, who led a Government review of maths education in 2003, highlighted issues which required the Government to "pause" and consider "whether we are thinking them through carefully enough".

It included plans for diplomas, which combine practical training with classroom study, he said. They are initially offered in vocational subjects, such as media and construction, but will be expanded in coming years to cover the traditional academic disciplines of humanities, languages and science. Ministers believe they could replace GCSEs and A-levels altogether. But Prof Smith branded the science diploma as "slightly schizophrenic", claiming it fell between the twin aims of pushing the brightest and aiding weaker students.

In comments quoted in the Times Educational Supplement, he said the Government should focus on "getting GCSEs and A-levels right first". "In core subjects like maths and physics we already have a shortage of qualified teacher cover," he said. "Are we wise in adding different bits of curricular offerings, each of which will require additional teacher input? "Are we thinking in a joined-up way when we plan curriculum developments and new programmes, whether we have the teacher power, planning and recruitment? Might we not be better getting GCSEs and A-levels right first?"

He said an overall increase in the number of teenagers taking A-levels in science looked encouraging. But the official said it could be explained by rises in subjects such as sports science and psychology, claiming those studying "hardcore" science at universities remained static. In a similar vein, he said there were "serious questions" about whether education inspired the most talented pupils. "We have a tension in the education system," he said. "We are educating everybody - the masses - for citizenship, for (mathematical) competences and functionality. "Higher education and the innovation and high tech industries of the future involve those at the end of the spectrum who are capable of achieving and aspiring to more professional levels of mathematics. "There are still serious questions in the system about whether we have really cracked that balance."

On science in schools, he said teachers had toned down experiments for fear of breaching health and safety laws. "If you ask a lot of scientists, chemists and engineers what turned them on in the first place, I am afraid it was things like making bombs," he said. "I think both in terms of funding, in terms of qualified teachers, and the insidious effects of health and safety legislation, we may have done something rather damaging to that fundamental curiosity. We need more explosions in schools."

The comments have been seized upon by Opposition MPs. David Laws, the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, said: "This is a damning criticism of the Government's education policy. Ministers cannot simply ignore these comments from someone working at such a senior level in their own department. "These comments totally undermine what little faith there was in the new diplomas and there must now be an even greater concern that our education system is failing to stretch the most able children. The fact that such a senior civil servant believes that ministers are exaggerating improvements will shatter confidence in the Government's entire education strategy."

Adam Afriyie, the Conservative shadow science minister, said: "It is extraordinary that such a senior civil servant should launch such a blistering attack on the Government's failure on science. "It is a desperate act of a failing Government if ministers are deliberately exaggerating improvements to hide their failure. We need a robust qualifications system in our schools and a stronger presence for science in government."

Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said: "It is great that someone in his position has finally spoken out."

A DCSF spokesperson said: "The idea in this day and age that education policy should not focus on "the masses" and instead only on an elite minority is out of date and wrong-headed. "We were surprised to read and totally disagree with the comments about diplomas, golden hellos for science teachers and on our reforms to the new A-level, all of which have been widely welcomed."


The intolerance towards Christians in the British public sector is an affront

By Archbishop John Sentamu

Wherever I am in the world, my day begins with prayer. It was Dom Helder Camara, after Martin Luther, who said: 'I find these days that I am so busy I have to spend at least four hours each morning in prayer.' While I cannot claim to have the discipline of Camara, I understand what he means. Prayer is important. At its best, it ushers us into the very presence of God. We come before him in our frail humanity with our worries, hopes and fears as well as our requests. Sometimes our prayer is silence, perhaps awed by the majestic and mystical nature of God, or perhaps because we have been silenced by the incomprehensible suffering of the innocent and we no longer know how or what to say.

In recent days, prayer has found its way into the headlines for other reasons altogether. Last week, community nurse Caroline Petrie was suspended as a result of offering to pray for a patient's recovery. Yesterday, Jennie Cain, a primary school receptionist, was facing disciplinary action as a consequence of sending out an email asking friends to pray for her daughter. The facts of the cases differ in their contexts and circumstances, but at their heart is a seeming intolerance and illiberality about faith in God which is being reflected in the higher echelons of our public services. In neither case was the woman in question seeking to convince others of the rightness or doctrinal purity of her religion. They were not waving placards or burning books. In their actions, they were as far away as it is possible to be from the caricature of a proselytising fundamentalism that seems to lie behind the views of those seeking to discipline them.

However, the suspension of one of these women and the continued disciplinary action faced by the other leads us to questions about how it is that those who share or express a trust in God - or more precisely, in these cases, in the Christian faith - are deemed worthy of discipline.

I am grateful that in Caroline Petrie's case her employer has seen sense and has reinstated her, and that the North Somerset Primary Care Trust said that it recognised she had been acting in the 'best interests of her patients' and that nurses did not have to 'set aside their faith' in the workplace. I am hoping that Jennie Cain's employers may take a similarly enlightened view.

Asking someone to leave their belief in God at the door of their workplace is akin to asking them to remove their skin colour before coming into the office. Faith in God is not an add-on or optional extra. For me, my trust in God is part of my DNA; it is central to who I am and defines my place in the world. It informs my whole life, not just a weekly service on a Sunday. It is the failure to grasp this basic understanding of what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ that lies at the heart of the problem of which these two cases are just symptoms.

There is a deep irony at work here, and not simply because the first free schools and hospitals operating in this nation were run by the churches in our land. Those who display intolerance and ignorance, and would relegate the Christian faith to just another disposable lifestyle choice, argue that they operate in pursuit of policies based on the twin aims of 'diversity and equality'.

Yet in the minds of those charged with implementing such policies, 'diversity' apparently means every colour and creed except Christianity, the nominal religion of the white majority; and 'equality' seemingly excludes anyone, black or white, with a Christian belief in God.

This was strikingly illustrated in the recent case of the dedicated foster mother who had cared for foster children for more than 20 years, but who was recently struck off by her local council. What was her crime? Did she harm or allow harm to be caused to her ward? No. Rather because her 16-year-old foster daughter decided - of her own volition - to convert from Islam to Christianity, the local authority struck the foster mother from its list of approved carers.

Of course, as a modern, forward-looking nation, we should be able to work and live together, black and white, male and female, without fear of harassment or indignity based on gender, ethnicity or disability. However, such policies also rightly point to the fact that neither should a person's religion be the basis upon which they are subjected to any prejudice.

Why then, while our children are encouraged to celebrate the religious festivals of all the major faiths, are there those in public office who seem to be ignorant of how this country's established religion gave birth to this nation?

In the 8th century, the Venerable Bede, the father of English history, wrote not only of how the English were converted to Christianity, but how the Gospel played a major social and civilising role in this country by uniting a group of warring tribes and conferring English nationhood upon them.

The opening clause of Magna Carta in 1215 acknowledged the importance of the Church and its right to propagate its views. Christianity has been at the heart of the history of this nation. British history, customs and ethos have been gradually shaped by Christianity. A recent correspondent suggested that, like it or not, Britishness is rooted in the Christian religion. Consider our national anthem beginning with the word 'God'; consider the English flag: designed using the Christian cross. Its red colour symbolising the blood of Christ shows it is not simply a cruciform by chance.

Go back a century or more and the church will be found at the centre of English village life. The definition of a city was that it had a cathedral. People were born, married and buried in a Christian setting. Then there are the British architects, artists, explorers and scientists whose faith gave them a basis. Christianity is the tapestry upon which our country's heritage was woven. All of this is lost to those who would deny Christianity any place in our nation today.

Those employed as public servants and charged with running our local services, be they schools, hospitals or councils, receive their public authority only under a system of governance which is constitutionally established from the 'Queen in Parliament under God'. For public servants to use their authority to deny the legitimacy of the Christian faith, when they receive such authority only through the operation of that same faith, is not only unacceptable but an affront.

For the millions of people in this country who profess a trust in God, these recent stories represent not only an insult to their common sensibility but also a sign of a growing gap between the mindset of the governing and the governed. The requirement of common consent that underpins any operation of the democratic contract is being placed under strain by those who, with the best of motives, are making the worst of mistakes.

My challenge, then, to the 72 per cent of this nation who marked themselves as 'Christian' in response to the census of 2001 is that if they wish to safeguard that same Christian tradition, they must renew their faith and become actively involved in their local church. For those who despair at the treatment meted out to these Christian women, the message is clear: wake up, Christian England!


Migrant children are wandering 'destitute' and 'spreading disease', says British report

Citizens of many EU countries -- such as Slovakia -- are legally permitted to migrate to Britain

Eastern European immigrants living in shocking poverty have put a major strain on a city's health services, an official report said yesterday. Families living in desperately overcrowded conditions have led to the spread of diseases including Hepatitis A and thread worm among children causing 'enormous' problems for health workers in Sheffield. The report by city's council and Primary Care Trust painted an image of Dickensian life among the136 Slovakian families who have settled in the Yorkshire city since 2007, in search of work and building a better life for their families.

Many of the migrants barely earn enough to buy food and their children are so poorly nourished that they are losing their hair. Destitute youngsters wander the streets 'inadequately-clothed and dishevelled' with their poverty 'apparent for all to see', the report said. Several families are often forced to live together in one house with children sharing beds to try to make ends meet. 'Overcrowding and poverty increases risk of accidents,' the report warned. 'There have been incidents where children have been scalded or fallen down stairs. 'It also significantly increases risk of infectious disease. There have been outbreaks of impetigo, head lice, Hepatitis A, severe gastrointestinal infections and thread worm infestations amongst children. 'Limited finances impacts on ability to provide nutritious diets. Childhood anaemia is common as is chronic vitamin deficiency, resulting in hair loss.'

Health visitors were 'currently struggling' with resources and 'unable to take on additional work generated by the families', the report said. But it found the full extent of health problems was difficult to assess because many families had not registered with GP practices while others are 'defensive and suspicious of visitors'. The report also reveals problems with 'noise and mess' from the new arrivals and young children not being sent to school because families believed the starting age was six or seven, as in their home country.

There is also 'ongoing conflict' between Eastern European and Pakistani residents which it said led to 'severe violence, with cars burnt out, bricks thrown and verbal and physical abuse. The report concluded: 'Needs of Eastern European migrants are not being adequately met by local services. 'This is primarily due to the lack of resources in areas where they are living - parts of the city that have high deprivation, poverty and population with increased health needs. 'New migrants have increased demand on services in terms of numbers and complexity of problems.'


Time to scrap Britain's banking watchdog: "So ex-HBOS banker Sir James Crosby has quit his job at the UK's bank regulator, the Financial Services Authority. It happened just 30 minutes before Gordon Brown faced questions in Parliament, so I guess he was pushed. But the surprising thing is that Brown appointed him to the FSA in the first place. The Authority is now saying that it had been concerned about HBOS's risky investments since 2002. And then Brown makes it's head poacher into one of the gamekeepers! Absolutely bizarre. The Financial Services Authority is no good and should be closed down."

British PM vows to 'claw back' bonuses amid backlash against the bankers: "Gordon Brown promised moves to "claw back" bonuses from bank executives yesterday, as a poll showed a big public backlash against the banks. The Prime Minister foreshadowed changes to the bonus system that would ensure it was no longer a "one-way bet". Banks should be able to recover bonuses from staff who ended up losing them money, he said. The public will clearly back such moves. According to a Populus poll for The Times, executives responsible for the near-collapse of rescued banks should be forced to repay the bonuses they have received in previous years." [Hard to disagree with that]

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