Monday, March 16, 2009

Mother of rugby suicide damns NHS

Slothful care left her son paralysed

JULIE JAMES, whose son Dan was paralysed in a rugby training accident and took his own life in a Swiss clinic last autumn, has spoken for the first time of her anger at the “disgraceful” care he received from the NHS in the hours after the accident. James believes the indifference with which her son was treated at two hospitals in the Midlands wasted 30 vital hours after the accident, in March 2007, which led to the 23-year-old becoming paralysed from the neck down. “If he had been treated differently perhaps Dan would have ended up with an injury he could have lived with,” she said.

When he was taken to hospital after a scrum collapsed on him, dislocating two vertebrae and trapping his spinal cord, James says “the terror on Dan’s face was apparent” but he still had the use of his arms and hands. Some 30 hours later, his hand function had disappeared after he had been moved unnecessarily, put last in the queue for an MRI scan and waited for four hours for an ambulance to transfer him to the spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville hospital.

As she launched a fundraising drive in Dan’s memory, James, from Sinton Green, near Worcester, spoke about her “feelings of helplessness and despair” as she watched her son, who played rugby for England as a teenager, reduced to a state of “fear and loathing of his living existence”.

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Do boys need boys schools?

In today's Times 2 I have an article about the problems with boys and schools. It came about because of a fascinating book I read recently, The Trouble With Boys: A surprising report card on our sons, their problems at school, and what parents and educators must do. The book is written by Peg Tyre, the mother of two boys herself, and a specialist in education journalism. When Tyre started looking into this whole issue, she was amazed by the response. Parents across America contacted her to thank her for bringing this issue - fears for boys, of all backgrounds - to the forefront.

There is so much to talk about when it comes to boys and education, and it's something which the government (and all the political parties and educationalists) are well aware of. Girls are doing better than boys these days, in GCSEs and A levels, and also entering university in greater numbers. The government has launched "Boys into Books" to help "build a platform for boys' educational success" and last year launched the Gender Agenda, a national year of gender action research. There is now a whole "industry" being built on the differences between girls and boys. People argue that boys should be taught differently, treated differently, and helped an awful lot more in the classroom.

Some feminists are now asking whether people are getting excited simply because girls are being given the chance to achieve. "In some ways it's nice to see women on top," admits Tyre. But she still thinks that this is a "massive cultural shift" and we do need to be concerned. It's difficult to pay justice to this huge area in one blog post. That's why I'm going to refer you to my feature (!), ask you for your thoughts on boys and education, and move onto one thorny issue in particular, single sex education.

A few months ago I posted a piece asking whether girls need girls schools. It had a phenomenal response, and comments keep on coming. This post was inspired by a speech from the then head of the Girls School Association, who thinks this issue is self-evident: girls, she argues, do better in their own environment. Girls Schools also perform exceptionally well in the league tables.

But what about boys? Graham Able is the master at Dulwich College, an independent school which boasts 1460 boys. Not surprisingly, he also thinks that separate schooling is vital. "Is there a gap or difference between boys and girls? Obviously, there is," he says. "Girls mature at a much earlier age than boys, and in any classroom, the greater the range of ability and maturity, the more difficult it is to teach well." Mr Able is convinced that boys also learn differently to girls - more visually - and that they need to "run around more and let off steam." "Go and look at any primary school playground and you'll see lots of little girls working together, while little boys run around at great speed," he says. "There's something about the male brain which seems to find motion appealing."

But while Peg Tyre might agree with some of Mr Able's arguments (the running around, for example), she's not convinced that single sex schooling is the answer. Instead she calls for more research to be done in this area and is keener on changes to be made to the existing set-up - to understand boys better.

Dr Alice Sullivan, from the Institute of Education, has looked at the impact of single-sex education, and is not convinced that it is vital for girls or boys. "I don't think there's any evidence that boys do worse in co-educational schools," she says. "It's very fashionable to say that they have different brains and need different teaching styles, but there's very little evidence to support it." Yet Dr Sullivan does admit that there is some truth in the idea that single sex schools don't stereotype students as much. Boys are more likely to do humanities and modern languages, while girls are encouraged to take maths and sciences.

On a purely anecdotal basis, I asked a number of people what they thought of boys and girls schools. Many were happy with the thought of sending their daughters to girls schools, but unhappy with the idea of educating their sons in a boys school. "Boys at secondary school need girls to civilise them," one mother of three boys told me. Another said that she wanted her sons to get used to being round girls, and was worried about the "social disadvantages". I found this fascinating.

Graham Able, naturally, would hope to persuade these parents otherwise. "I don't see any problem with the boys here when it comes to relationships with children of the opposite sex," he says. "In isolated boarding schools, that may be a danger, but there it is total nonsense. We are inner-city boys school."

But Angela Phillips, who wrote her own book called The Trouble with Boys back in 1993, strongly disagrees. "The social importance of putting girls and boys together outweigh anything else," she says, although she does add that "middle-class, single sex schools do well, especially girls schools."

Of course, this class argument is one which shouldn't be ignored (there's so much to say on this topic!). One of the main reasons girls - and boys - schools do so well is because of the intake (i.e selective nature) of the pupils. In America, however, there are all sorts of experiments going on. The Eagle Academy, an all male public (i.e. state) school in the South Bronx is just one example. Here boys from disadvantaged African-American backgrounds are taught together in a single-sex school with the aim of receiving a better education.

Graham Able thinks that we need a lot more research on how children learn and what's best for them. But he's concerned that social conventions (the idea that boys shouldn't be separated from girls) might mean that boys aren't given the chance to shine. "We shouldn't restrict ourselves because of some social conventions" he says. "Undoubtedly it helps to be in single-sex schools."

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British clergyman beaten after clashing with Muslims on his TV show

A Christian minister who has had heated arguments with Muslims on his TV Gospel show has been brutally attacked by three men who ripped off his cross and warned: `If you go back to the studio, we'll break your legs.' The Reverend Noble Samuel was driving to the studio when a car pulled over in front of him. A man got out and came over to ask him directions in Urdu.

Mr Samuel, based at Heston United Reformed Church, West London, said: `He put his hand into my window, which was half open, and grabbed my hair and opened the door. He started slapping my face and punching my neck. He was trying to smash my head on the steering wheel. Then he grabbed my cross and pulled it off and it fell on the floor. He was swearing. The other two men came from the car and took my laptop and Bible.' The Metropolitan Police are treating it as a `faith hate' assault and are hunting three Asian men.

In spite of the attack, Mr Samuel went ahead with his hour-long live Asian Gospel Show on the Venus satellite channel from studios in Wembley, North London. During the show the Muslim station owner Tahir Ali came on air to condemn the attack.

Pakistan-born Mr Samuel, 48, who was educated by Christian missionaries and moved to Britain 15 years ago, said that over the past few weeks he has received phone-in calls from people identifying themselves as Muslims who challenged his views. `They were having an argument with me,' he said. `They were very aggressive in saying they did not agree with me. I said those are your views and these are my views.' He said that he, his wife Louisa, 48, and his son Naveed, 19, now fear for their safety, and police have given them panic alarms. `I am frightened and depressed,' he said. `My show is not confrontational.'

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We demonise all boys as feral .... then wonder why they turn into hoodies



We demonise all boys as feral .... then wonder why they turn into hoodies. When did head covering become such an issue? Hoods and hijabs both cause enormous anxiety. Hoods more so - but no one is forced to wear them. Hoodies really want to be hoodies. I saw that when talking to a group of teenagers about the representation of teenage boys in the media last week. The fact that another generation finds hoods scary is remarkable. The kids themselves, hooded or unhooded, were just bemused that their clothing could cause such a fuss.

We were there to discuss new research that measures how boys are seen by the rest of us. A photograph of a boy in a hood is now the symbol of urban decay or the end of the world. Teenage boys - when not knifing each other or fathering children - are hanging around drinking and drugging. Or they are in their bedrooms playing violent games, which is anti-social.

What the research commissioned by Women in Journalism highlighted was that there are very few good stories about teenage boys. Reality TV and shows such as Pop Idol are about the only place where we might see them in a positive light.

Does it matter if we label what we have reproduced ourselves as feral scum? I think it might. If every teenage boy is a potential mugger or knife-wielder then every teenage boy must carry a knife to protect himself. There is a horrible logic to it. I have had enough boys in and out of my house, thanks to teenage daughters, to see that the mumbling, gangly ones virtually wearing balaclavas are doing so partly to intimidate, partly out of fashion and partly because they are shy.

Yes, I know when one encounters a group of hooded youths on the street who won't step aside, one doesn't immediately think `poor shy little boys' - but sometimes these hoods are their security blankets. Eve Pollard, not a woman easily scared, was also in the discussion and asked some of the boys to remove their hoods. `But I can't see your faces,' she said. You could see the boys cowering as she spoke. When challenged as to why they wouldn't by the ultra-reasonable Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider series, one even came up with `My ears are cold'. There are an awful lot of cold ears about, then.

This fashion is also, surely, a deliberate, if unconscious, response to the surveillance culture of CCTV. It is, of course, in some boys' interest to keep their faces covered, but not the majority. So why have we criminalised an entire generation? It is as if we fear for our children too much and then we begin to fear them.

This divvying up of kids into angels or devils is not new. Think back to James Bulger's murder. Children killing children. I will never forget the mothers with toddlers in buggies outside the courtroom screaming that the ten-year-old murderers should now be killed as `killing children was wrong'. Ever since then, relentless images of underclass feral youth have been pumped into our consciousness. Most kids go to school, go through a bit of a dodgy stage and turn out OK in the end.

The madness of the Myerson saga reveals parents who could not accept their golden boy was growing up, no longer the sweet baby. He turned into a great, hulking manchild who didn't know what to do with himself for a while. It's really not the Jake Myersons of this world we need to worry most about but the white, disaffected working-class kids.

In demonising boys we make them afraid of each other. It is scary out there. But if we are afraid of our youths and their silly hoods, then we make them frightened of each other. That is a dangerous thing to be doing right now.

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Low-energy bulbs 'worsen skin disorders' and those at risk should have medical exemption, say doctors

The phasing out of traditional light bulbs could cause misery for thousands who have light-sensitive skin disorders, medical experts warned yesterday. Dr Robert Sarkany said some low-energy bulbs gave vulnerable people painful rashes and swelling. He backed calls by patient groups for the Government to give medical exemptions for those at risk. The warning comes as British shops start to clear their shelves of traditional bulbs, which are being replaced by more energy-efficient versions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Large retailers have already stopped selling conventional 100-watt bulbs, the most popular size. They will be banned from September along with frosted 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs, followed by most others before 2012. Shoppers will then be able to buy only halogen bulbs - which resemble normal bulbs but use 70 per cent of the energy - or compact fluorescent ones, which use just 30 per cent of the energy.

Although low-energy bulbs cut household electricity bills, the move has proved unpopular with shoppers. Halogens are more expensive - costing around œ1.99 each - while critics say the fluorescent type have an unattractive harsh light and take up to a minute to warm up to full strength.

But medical charities say the light from low-energy bulbs triggers migraines, epilepsy and rashes. Dr Sarkany, a photodermatologist at St John's Institute of Dermatology, St Thomas' Hospital, in London, said he has treated patients for rashes caused by exposure to low-energy lamps. Some suffer from lupus, a disease of the immune system that can cause skin to become hypersensitive to sunlight. But Dr Sarkany said lupus sufferers were also reporting an adverse reaction to fluorescent lights. He added: 'Patients with lupus feel strongly about this. They feel their skin deteriorates with fluorescent lights and have taken this issue to Parliament.'

A spokesman for Skin Care Campaign said: 'The main concern is over the intensity of the ultraviolet light from low-energy bulbs. 'Particularly for people with skin conditions such as lupus, eczema and psoriasis, it causes a lot of problem with burning. 'There are also more unusual conditions where people are completely light-sensitive. 'At the moment, they can use a traditional incandescent light bulb because the ultraviolet light is so dim. 'But low-energy fluorescent lights are a problem.'

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English people MUST understand Scottish accents?

This is a real lulu. Anybody who has been there will know that a Scots accent can be hard to understand
"The most senior Labour Party official in Britain was caught up in a bizarre racism row last night after he was accused of insulting people who speak with a Scottish accent. A formal complaint of racism was made against Labour General Secretary Ray Collins when he asked for a `translation' of comments made by a man from Glasgow.

The race row started when Labour's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, took a question-and-answer session at the party's gathering at Dundee's Caird Hall. After some exchanges with delegates, it became clear she was struggling to understand and asked her audience if they were also having `problems with the acoustics'.

When no one agreed, she took a question from a Labour activist from Motherwell. Ms Harman appeared confused by his strong Lanarkshire accent and complained she could not hear what he had said. Mr Collins intervened and said to Scottish Labour Party General Secretary Colin Smyth: `Can you translate that for me?' He then turned to the audience and said: `I have asked Colin to join us, so he can translate.'

Mrs Fee, a Glasgow-based shop steward with shop workers' union USDAW, told The Mail on Sunday: `I heard Mr Collins's remarks clearly. I was upset by what he said and considered it to be racist. The man had a normal Scottish accent and most people could understand him perfectly well.' Several delegates were said to have complained that Mr Collins's conduct was `anti-Scottish'.

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There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

1 comment:

Alan Healy said...

I don't think English people Must understand Scottish accents , or vice versa . I think the problem here is with Harriet Harman , the politician in question .

She is an ultra-left social liberal who has managed to crawl her way up to being deputy leader of the Labour Party .
She is also very upper-class , being the niece of an Earl and well-connected in the upper reaches of London society .

Claiming to represent the workers and common people of Britain , she has shown so much interest in them that she cannot understand the speech of a delegate from one of the staunchest heartlands of her party .

Instead she has pandered to fashionable causes such as feminism , anti-racism , homosexual rights , etc.,.

Would she claim to be unable to understand a recent immigrant from Algeria or Ghana ?

If not , why has she felt able to ignore the natives of Scotland for her entire career , despite relying directly on their votes for her survival .

The answer to this question explains so much about how many areas of Britain , areas once the heart of the country , have been ignored and marginalised by our political class , especially the Labour Party .