Easier to pay off responsible parents than to fix a disastrous school, apparently. Too bad for the kids at the school concerned
Parents who refused to send their children to one of the country’s worst schools have been paid a £10,450 State grant to teach them at home. Essex County Council made the one-off payment to six families who kept the four boys and two girls away from Bishops Park College in Clacton-on-Sea and hired home tutors. It is believed to be the first time an education authority has provided funds to families who opt out of traditional school.
Under normal circumstances, parents who remove their children from schools are responsible for paying for their education. The payment was described by the council as ‘exceptional’, but it may encourage others in similar circumstances to apply for State funding.
The parents, who include a garden furniture manufacturer, a florist, a market trader and a former cafe owner, were offered places for their children at the failing secondary school despite refusing to name it on a list of preferred choices. For the past six months, they have been paying £100 a week in tutor fees and other expenses. The 11 and 12-year-olds are now doing so well their tutor is considering entering them for an English GCSE this summer, four years early.
The offer of financial help came after the parents had a meeting at the House of Lords with the council’s Conservative leader Lord Hanningfield. At a further meeting with director of education Terry Reynolds, they were told that if they looked into starting up their own school they could be given a cash payment. However, so far the parents have not done this. Under Government policy, town halls do not fund parents who educate their children at home but can provide money for groups who want to establish their own schools.
Holly O’Toole, who has kept her 12-year-old son Harry at home, said: ‘We were given no other option than to send our children to Bishops Park but it is chronically under-achieving. 'It is bottom of the tables and teachers from that school have even warned us not to send our children there. ‘The money is to help educate all the children. I was surprised when it happened because we had been told the money was not there. It is by no means enough and we have been told that there will be no further payments but at least it is a start.’
Another parent, Mark Hulstrom, said: ‘We were told that the funding was a very rare occurrence and that it was a one-off payment. I think they just wanted us off their backs and we didn’t have to fill out any forms.’
Earlier this year, Bishops Park slumped to the bottom of the GCSE ‘value added’ league table after axing traditional subjects for ‘themed’ lessons. Only eight per cent of pupils met Government targets. The school, housed in £15million state-of-the-art buildings opened by Tony Blair in 2005, has now reintroduced specialist teaching for science and maths.
The families learned this week that there are no further places at any of their other preferred schools next year either, and they will have to go on teaching the children at home.
Essex County Council said: ‘The payment followed an initial discussion around parents establishing their own school and we are pleased to be in a position to assist. 'We have always considered and will continue to consider any requests from parents for financial support on their merits.’
Three Rs courses late in life “ineffective”
Adult basic skills courses have been a waste of millions of pounds, an educationalist will tell a conference. Professor Anna Vignoles, from the Institute of Education, believes that good basic skills must be learned early to improve attainment later in life.
The government spent £995m between 2006-07 on one such programme in England, called Skills for Life. The government says it will not "write off" adults with poor basic skills, and that this is "money well spent".
Roughly five million adults still have the literacy levels which would be expected of an 11 year old, and the government has targeted its further education funding largely at extending the availability of literacy and numeracy courses. Colleges have in turn complained that training places in other areas are under serious threat.
But 2.8 million people have been through a Skills For Life programme. "It is well known that an individual's basic skills level affects how much they earn, but research shows that the three Rs are best acquired in childhood," Professor Vignoles will tell the Institute for Fiscal Studies conference. "Policies and qualifications to help adults develop them have proved largely ineffective."
Professor Vignoles will argue that there is a place for short training courses of up to 20 hours, as they can reach those who have not taken up any other opportunity to learn. And she acknowledges that adults who take basic skills courses may then go on to other courses. But she will say the "array of low-level courses available to adults has not boosted productivity and earnings". "Adult basic skills training might increase equality of opportunity, but unfortunately it won't boost economic competitiveness."
A spokesperson for the Department for Innovation and Skills said it was important for adults to develop these skills for a number of reasons, not just to try to increase their earnings. "Professor Vignoles may argue that good basic skills are best acquired in childhood but we have no intention of writing off the 12 million adults who struggle with literacy or numeracy," she said. "We will continue to invest so that even more adults can get a qualification, improve their self-confidence, get work, boost their earning power and help with their children's education.
"The £5bn we have spent since our Skills for Life strategy was launched in 2001 has enabled 5.7m people to go on 12m literacy, language and numeracy courses with over 2.8m achieving first qualifications. "This works out as £660 per achievement. "We consider it money well spent."
Number of NHS tooth extractions soars by 30% in four years
Thousands of Britons are having teeth needlessly pulled out, it was claimed yesterday. The number of extractions has soared by 30 per cent in four years, according to figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats. The party claims this demonstrates how much dental care has deteriorated under Labour, leaving thousands missing out on treatment that could save their teeth. More than 175,000 Britons had their teeth extracted under general anaesthetic in 2007/08, up 40,000 on the 2003/04 figure, a parliamentary answer revealed.
Of these, 44,300 were aged between six and 18 and 14,200 were under five years old. LibDem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'The extraordinary number of people needing their teeth extracted under general anaesthetic could well be the result of the appalling access to NHS dentistry.' He pointed the finger at the general difficulty in finding a Health Service dentist since the Government introduced a 'botched' contract in April 2006.
Designed to increase access to NHS dentistry, the deal actually saw hundreds of dentists leave the NHS. The number of patients seeing a dentist fell by 1.2million, leaving thousands without the treatment that could have stopped their teeth getting so bad that they had to be pulled out. But dentists' salaries have soared by 11 per cent since the change – to an average of more than £96,000.
Mr Lamb added: 'The dental contract was supposedly designed to improve the situation, but the staggering rise in tooth extractions proves the massive failures of thisbotched initiative. The crisis in NHS dentistry is one of this Government's most shameful legacies.'
Although the rate of extractions increased throughout the four-year period following April 2003, it gathered pace after the new contract for NHS dentists was introduced. In 2005/06, the year before the new contract, the number of extractions stood at a little more than 149,100. Two years later it had risen to just over 175,400 – an increase of 18 per cent.
The contract also changed how dentists were paid. Experts have warned that the incentives it offers make it more profitable for dentists to take a tooth out than to try to save it with complex treatments such as crowns or bridges. A patient has to pay £45.60 for a tooth to be taken out, and £198 for crowns, bridges or dentures. Before the contract dentists were paid per procedure, but after it came in they were paid to provide a specific rate of procedures in the coming year. With the money already in the bank, the fear is that some dentists may feel less inclined to carry out complex and expensive procedures and instead choose the cheaper option of taking the tooth out.
Last year MPs concluded that patients were having teeth pulled out unnecessarily as a result of the dental contract. The Commons health select committee found that the number of complex treatments such as crowns, bridges and dentures had plummeted by 57 per cent since 2006, at the same time as the number of extractions were rising. It said this happened because dentists had no financial incentive to give appropriate treatment. In Scotland, which did not bring in the new contract, the number of complex operations has gone up.
The British Endodontic Society said the contract provides dentists with a 'financial incentive to persuade a patient to have a decayed tooth extracted rather than undergo the more complex procedure of restoring it'. The soaring number of extractions under general anaesthetic comes even though the British Dental Association advises that such strong anaesthetics should only be used in hospitals.
Britain's uncaring "carers" again
Aint socialism wonderful? It is until you see it in action. Centralization of power trumps all else. Power matters to Leftists -- not people
Forget the G20 circus. On Saturday afternoon there was a politer protest meeting, in the old railwaymen's club in Oxford. Only a hundred or so people (small children skidding about in the next room too mobile to count) but a microscope is a better diagnostic instrument than a fisheye lens. The theme of the meeting chimed with the wider unease: a huge, arrogant, yet strangely incompetent body was gratuitously messing up ordinary lives. Not a bank this time but Noms, the National Offender Management Service: founded 2004, revamped 2008.
Under government policy of controlling everything from vast distant HQs, run by frazzled people who don't get out much, Noms brought together HM Prison and Probation Services in the name of “coherence” and blethers about a “vibrant mix” of “service-level agreements”. But in effect, in January last year the Prisons element more or less took over the Probation Service, which became a Cinderella.
According to Napo, the probation officers' union, Cinderella must cut its budgets by between 13 and 25 per cent and lose more than 2,000 jobs over three years. The national post of director of probation no longer exists, and in the Ministry of Justice business plan the amount spent at Noms headquarters is, the union claims, as high as the cost of the entire Probation Service for England and Wales. Yet you would think, given government rhetoric, that probation officers would be a priority. What they do is to supervise, mentor and (really quite often) reform the lives of the paroled and criminals on community sentences.
So much for the wider picture. Zoom back in on the Railway Club and the neighbourhood of Mill Street, Oxford. This - where I spend a fair amount of time - is not one of those chic addresses in the leafy North or a modish Jericho. It is a long cul-de-sac, a terrace of brick houses on the edge of the city beyond the railway. These are small homes for young families, new couples and lone pensioners.
Pleasant but not posh. There is one pub, and at the far end a small office block by the river, needing refurbishment. But a week ago Mill Street learnt that the Probation Service is about to sign a lease on this building, extending it into a “mega-centre” of 100 staff, replacing the city office and others in neighbouring towns. Thus every week 350 clients, from petty thieves to violent and sex offenders, would arrive for their interviews or group sessions. That's 70 a day from all over Oxfordshire, walking the long quiet street or approaching by a track through a churchyard and past two nursery schools.
No notice was given: this was a leak. The Probation Service confirmed it when pressed, but coyly refuses to meet residents. City planners are told it is just an office, class B1A under the Town and Country Planning Act, so no change of use is needed. You could argue that by covering “non-resident adult learning” it is actually category D1 - but then, of course, there would have to be democratic public notification, which the Ministry of Justice's agency seems keen to avoid. Mill Street is not amused, though there was shocked laughter when Evan Harris, the local MP, read out the response from Noms: “We doubt the value to the residents of meeting with us before we sign the lease.” Which is a bit like selling the house before mentioning it to your wife.
The protest is not sensationalist or illiberal (indeed, one leading campaigner got so interested in the Probation Service that he plans to volunteer with ex-offenders). It breathes reasonable anger at arrogance, secrecy and a cavalier attitude to citizens' concerns. The local councillor Susanna Pressel, the Lord Mayor of Oxford, confirms that such an office should be in the city centre, near courts and police. Dr Evan Harris concurs, though drily admitting that he has often in his right-on Lib Dem way taken sides against residents' groups (including his own parents) over unpopular but vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers and council tenants. But even he is on Mill Street's side. This is a bum idea: its only merit must be cheapness. For all the mission statements about “focusing on individuals at a local level” it is a secretive and probably false economy of scale.
False? Well, consider the offenders' plight too. A powerful voice at the meeting was Joe, a veteran former prison officer and mental health worker who - not living locally - spent 48 hours worrying whether to stick his head above the parapet. But he did, and is worth hearing. Offenders, he says bluntly, dread having conspicuously to “run the gauntlet” of a quiet street for appointments.
Sex offenders, ordered to keep away from children, will find it difficult to do so up this street. Moreover, Banbury is nearly 30 miles away, Bicester 15, Abingdon a long bus ride. Promises about local needs are oddly served, Joe reckons, by “taking probation officers away from their communities, where in the past they had good relationships with police, even with offenders' families. The work is about building relationships.” Sadly, he predicts many missed appointments: in chaotic or addicted lives a long round trip is not simple. Nor is taking a full day off every week if you're lucky enough to have work.
People will bunk off, and be chucked back into prison for failing to meet probation conditions. How much of a public economy is that, eh?
The whole thing is a bit nuts, reeking of panicky, furtive, distant decisions unrelated to reality. Curiously, it brought to mind the equal nutty waste-through- centralisation I saw when out with the Metropolitan Police for a night of stop-and-search in London. Our vanful of elite officers spent two thirds of its time crawling miles through traffic with the latest felon sulking in the passenger seat, just to find the last vacant cell in a distant mega-station “custody suite”. The police were visibly frustrated. Once there were small local stations, Dock Green-style, with a couple of handy cells each.
But in the past decade more than 650 stations have been closed nationwide. I am told that when you get arrested in Penzance you now score a 45-minute ride to Truro to be locked up. Your mates can continue fighting undisturbed while the cops rack up their carbon footprint.
So there you are. Economies of scale that in the end cost money... managerialist bean-counting from plush London offices... ideas that look good on spreadsheets and lousy on the street.
Hooray! A lying bitch jailed for once
Estranged wife jailed for falsely accusing husband of rape. Women don't lie about that, say feminists. But facts never have mattered to feminists. Only their rage matters
A man has told of the pain and humiliation he endured when his estranged wife falsely accused him of rape. Anthony Scoones, 27, spoke out after Gemma Scoones was jailed for a year for perverting the course of justice. He described how he was arrested at his home - he was watching TV in bed when police arrived - and spent 16 hours in a cell. His clothes were taken for forensic examination and he was left naked so that DNA samples could be taken.
Mr Scoones said: 'I wasn't just stripped of my clothes, but of my dignity. I was stood there naked, with two police officers at one side of me and a doctor at the other side, having swabs taken from all over my body. 'It was humiliating and degrading. I don't blame the officers for investigating, but it is a heinous crime to be accused of and I'm still having nightmares now.' To add to his ordeal, even some people he thought of as friends doubted his innocence.
The rape accusation was part of an 'acrimonious separation' from his 26-year-old wife. Durham Crown Court heard that she told police Mr Scoones followed her home from a shop, forced his way into the house and raped her in a downstairs toilet. She claimed she was hurt but had not been able to call police immediately because he threatened to petrol-bomb her house.
It was only after discrepancies emerged in a police interview with her that Mr Scoones was told he was in the clear and his ex-wife was charged with committing an act intended to pervert the course of justice. Jailing Scoones, who had pleaded guilty, Recorder Neil Davey told her: 'The course you embarked on was one of sheer wickedness.'
Mr Scoones, of Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, said after the hearing: 'My family and my girlfriend have always believed me, but when the word rape is used, it changes the atmosphere. 'People did question me and this has opened my eyes up to who I can trust. 'Right up until she admitted her guilt in court and justice was done by sending her to prison, she was muddying the water and I've been worried about how people look at me. 'She's taken away my trust, self-esteem, pride and confidence with one attention-seeking, spiteful lie.'
The court heard that Scoones, also of Newton Aycliffe, made up the allegation after reading claims against her in a letter from her estranged husband's solicitor. Scott Smith, mitigating, said Scoones' actions arose from an acrimonious separation after a nine-year relationship. Mr Smith said: 'She was upset and this built up in her as time went on. She accepts there was a degree of planning and she considered her actions for several weeks.'
Jailing her, Recorder Neil Davey told Scoones: 'In my judgement, the course you embarked on was one of sheer wickedness. 'You decided to take revenge on your ex-husband, by falsely accusing an entirely innocent man of rape, giving a lurid account of how it was inflicted. 'He was strip-searched, intimate samples were taken and he was humiliated, held in custody for more than 16 hours, and still you persisted in your claims. 'It was only the skill and expertise of the police that forced you to break down your story and prove your allegations were false.'
Mr Scoones said that although his parents and girlfriend have stood by him, some friends had doubted his innocence. He said: 'Throughout the time Gemma and I were together, my family took her under their wing and supported her, but she would regularly take off and tell lies about me. 'My friends and family always believed me. But when the word rape is used, it changes the atmosphere. 'People did question me and this has opened my eyes up to who I can trust.
PC Elizabeth Graham, of Durham Police's domestic abuse investigation team, said the force was very victim focused and that the allegation of rape had been taken seriously and fully investigated. It was only when the truth emerged that Scoones stopped being treated as the victim.
PC Graham said: 'This was a calculated and malicious allegation made by a frustrated ex-partner who had an aim of discrediting her former husband and subjecting him to the indignity of a police investigation into an allegation of rape. 'The sentence imposed reflects the gravity of the offence committed and takes into account the trauma the true victim of this incident experienced, as well as the significant waste of police time and money spent investigating a crime that never occurred.'
PC Graham said she hoped the incident would not deter genuine victims of rape and sexual assault from reporting crimes to the police.
British politicians allowed to censor details of their claims for expenses
The farcical British Labour Party reaction to revelations about illegitimate use of expense accounts by their members of parliament:
"Members will this week be shown copies of thousands of receipts and other documents due to be published under the Freedom of Information Act. They will be invited to redact the documents, blacking out information they do not want to disclose.
The Commons is spending thousands of pounds paying security-cleared specialist contractors to remove any sensitive information like bank details from receipts.
But even after the contractors have vetted the documents, MPs will review their claims and make further changes of their own. Harriet Harman, the Leader of the Commons, says the redaction process is harmless and necessary to preserve the privacy of MPs.
But the editing process has raised fears that MPs will use the opportunity to keep some information secret and even to delay the whole publication, which is supposed to take place this summer.
Must not criticize teeth
"The BBC has apologised to Grand National winner Liam Treadwell after presenter Clare Balding made fun of his teeth. In a post-race interview, Balding urged the jockey to show his teeth and told him he could afford to "get them done" after winning the biggest race of his life.
Balding urged Treadwell "just give us a big grin to the camera". When he smiled, keeping his lips firmly closed, she told him: "No, no, let's see your teeth. "He hasn't got the best teeth in the world, but you can afford to go and get them done now if you like."
Treadwell, who looked embarrassed, replied: "Well I could do, but I ain't complaining. It might be bringing on bad luck if I do that, though."
It was a bit crass but we have come to expect that of the BBC these days
Prominent British black sabotaged by arrogant black wife: "When Paul Boateng became Britain's first black High Commissioner it was hailed as a major breakthrough in the white, middle class, pubic school dominated diplomatic service. The Daily Telegraph has now learnt that the former head of the Equalities and Human rights Commission has been lined up to replace him in the prize posting of South Africa. The disclosure that Mr Boateng, 58, is returning to Britain comes only months after the Daily Telegraph reported that the Foreign Office was investigating allegations that his wife Janet, 52, had bullied the black domestic staff. Ministers were alerted about the inquiry because of the sensitivity of the complaint against Mrs Boateng, a former Lambeth social worker, in post-apartheid South Africa. The complaints of verbal bullying against cooks, cleaners, gardeners and security staff poisoned the idyllic atmosphere at the High Commissioner's sumptuous residence in Cape Town. Saying goodbye will be a serious wrench for Mr Boateng who became Britain's first black Cabinet minister when he was made Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2002... When Mr Boateng was sent to Cape Town by Tony Blair after the 2005 general election senior foreign office officials were appalled as he had no experience of the diplomatic service or Africa."