Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Britain employing nightclub bouncers as teachers

Bouncers are being employed by schools to take classes when teachers are not available. One London school went to a doormen’s agency for “cover supervisors”, who watch over lessons when teachers are away, and gave jobs to two bouncers, one of whom is still at the school.

The National Union of Teachers conference in Cardiff heard that schools were advertising for cover supervisors with military or police experience. Andrew Baisley, a mathematics teacher at a secondary school in Camden, North London, told delegates that head teachers were hiring almost anyone provided they had been checked by the Criminal Records Bureau.

Cover supervisors hand out worksheets and make sure that children behave. They have no teacher training and work is normally set by a teacher who does not stay in the classroom. Mr Baisley said: “The idea is that it’s about crowd control and childminding. If they’re stern and loud, that’s what is necessary to do the job.” The wage, half that of supply teachers, was an incentive for supervisors to be used, he said.

In Birmingham an education recruitment agency posted an advert online saying: “Hard core cover supervisors needed now!” and offered £50 to £70 a day. It said: “Aspire People are on the hunt for dynamic, inspiring, hard core cover supervisors. You might be an ex-Marine, prison officer, bouncer, policeman, fireman, sportsman or actor. We need someone who thinks they can get involved in a school environment and control the kids in schools.”

Mr Baisley said: “I know of a school which went to an agency to employ bouncers. They were taken on as permanent members of staff. One ended up with a disciplinary issue within the first term. The bouncers were monitoring lessons. They were big guys who had no teaching experience.”

The school was a secondary in a “not particularly tough area”, he said. “Some adverts for cover supervisors ask for applicants with ex-military or police experience. I think there’s something questionable about thinking that is an appropriate skill for the classroom.”

Cover supervisors are paid up to £20,000 a year; experienced supply teachers earn twice as much. The NUT wants all classes to be taken by qualified teachers when the regular teacher is ill or away preparing for lessons. More cover supervisors are likely to be recruited after September, when rules barring schools from asking teachers to cover for colleagues other than in emergencies come into force.

One teacher discussing the issue on a web forum said that his former school had “full-time security on the corridors and on call for classroom and playground fights. These security were actually nightclub door staff, topping up their income with daytime hours — and believe me they were needed.”

Sarah McCarthy-Fry, the Schools Minister, said: “Heads should ensure that the people they employ have experience and training — and that checks are carried out. Cover supervision should only be a short-term solution. “Pupils should continue their learning through pre-prepared lessons and exercises supervised by support staff with appropriate skills and training. It is up to heads to determine systems for cover in their schools.”

The behaviour expert Sir Alan Steer, asked by the Government to examine behaviour in schools, is to report this week that disruptive children should be removed to “withdrawal rooms” and taught in isolation.


British Christian charity worker suspended over opposition to homosexual rights

A charity worker has been suspended after telling a colleague about his Christian beliefs against homosexuality, even though he says he is not homophobic and was merely responding to questions from a colleague about his beliefs. David Booker, 44, who works at a Christian hostel in Southampton, a charity whose patron is the Archbishop of Canterbury, was asked about his faith by a colleague, Fiona Vardy during a late shift last month. He told her he was opposed to same-sex marriages and to homosexual clergy but denied being homophobic and said that he had homosexual friends.

The next evening, Mr Booker was suspended from his £19,000-a-year post as a hostel support worker with Society of St James, where he has been employed for the last four years. The hostel told him the action was taken for “events that happened last night”. A few days later he was told he had “seriously breached” the charity’s code of conduct “by promoting your religious views which contained discriminatory comments regarding a person’s sexual orientation”. The action had been taken “to safeguard both residents and staff”, he was advised.

Mr Booker, an evangelical from Southampton, who is being advised by the Christian Legal Centre, now faces an enquiry and a disciplinary hearing.

It comes just weeks after a Christian nurse suspended for offering to pray for the recovery of a patient was reinstated. North Somerset NHS Trust suspended nurse Caroline Petrie for failing to show a commitment to equality and diversity after she offered to pray for the recovery of an elderly patient. The patient did not complain.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, barrister and director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “This case shows that in today’s politically correct, increasingly secularised society, even consenting reasonable discussion on religion between two employees is being twisted by employers to discriminate and silence the Christian voice and freedom of expression.”

She said the charity English Churches House Group, which was recently taken over by the Society of St James, was largely funded by churches throughout Hampshire whose followers would be “shocked at the attitude and action taken by a Christian organisation towards a Christian employee.”

She added: “The Archbishop of Canterbury, as patron, has confirmed the Church’s teaching on marriage, same-sex relationships and homosexuality and that is in the public domain. We are interested to know whether his patronage is now under threat under the charity’s Culture and Diversity Code of Conduct.”


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