Sunday, July 12, 2009

Report: 'White flight' causes growing school segregation in Britain

White parents are pulling their children out of schools where they are outnumbered by ethnic-minority pupils, according to a report that shows increasing segregation in Britain. The Institute of Community Cohesion (iCoCo) studied 13 areas, including Bristol, Bolton, Sunderland and Blackburn, and questioned parents. Middle-class parents — who are usually white — were removing children from schools with growing populations of ethnic minorities because they didn’t want them to stand out, the authors of the report said. “We heard strong evidence of ‘white flight’ in some areas,” the report said.

It concluded: “Despite the fact that most people we spoke to in focus groups wanted their children to have a mixed education, parental choice tended to push people to what they saw as the safe option, where children with similar backgrounds went.” The report also found that in areas where schools were monocultural, parents sent their child to the school dominated by pupils from their own ethnic background.

Nick Johnston, one of the authors and a policy director at the iCoCo, said that parents did not want their child to be odd ones out. “People don’t mind a diverse school but what they do mind is their kid being in a visible minority. This trend has increased in the last few years,” he said.In one school in Blackburn, once the number of non-white pupils rose above 60 per cent, white parents started saying that they did not want their children to feel different.

At another unnamed school, 85 per cent of the pupils were white British at the end of 2005. During the next two terms pupils from 15 to 20 Somali families joined.

Johnston suggested that councils should consider using lotteries to increase school diversity. [i.e. the bastard wants to thwart attempts by the parents to keep their kids safe]


The dumbing down of British education never stops

Academics condemn the maths A-level made easy

A 'dumbed down' maths A-level which includes questions on personal finance and allows advanced calculators has been criticised by more than 60 leading academics. The new A-level in 'use of maths' could be introduced in schools from 2011 alongside traditional maths courses. Draft papers reveal that pupils will be allowed to use graphical calculators for the first time and have to answer questions about converting pounds to euros while on holiday.

Dozens of top mathematicians fear the exam will 'cannibalise' the existing qualification and end up replacing it in many schools. They are concerned that pupils will be steered towards the 'easier' qualification to help schools meet exam targets, only to find many universities do not accept it. The academics are calling for the Government's Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to abandon the exam. Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove has also attacked it as a 'bluffer's guide' to A-level maths.

In a letter to the QCA, the group Educators for Reform warns that the compulsory units covering topics such as algebra and calculus are 'considerably less demanding' than the traditional exam. The optional units are a 'hotch potch' which will not give pupils a solid foundation in the subject, they say. Instead of sketching graphs, pupils will be able to copy them from the screen of a graphical calculator.

Academics say the course also provides pupils with data sheets that lead to a 'sat nav' approach to examining, rather than letting them think for themselves. There is also a greater emphasis on practical activities and personal finance, including, in draft papers, a question on the cost of hiring a car in France. Professor Nick Shepherd-Barron, of Cambridge University, said there was a danger that British youngsters would be less well educated than competitors abroad.

But Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: 'We cannot continue teaching an outdated 19th century curriculum. This is simply turning many children off education because it is completely not relevant to them at all.'


More official British racism

Gipsy and traveller children get priority at popular state schools

Gipsy and traveller children are being given priority admission to popular state schools, it emerged yesterday. Schools are being told to offer places to such children even if they are full or have a long waiting list. They must take in the pupils even if travellers 'are camped on the roadside and may not be here long', according to Government guidance.

Traveller children can also be registered at two schools at once, with their place at a 'base' school kept open for as long as they might need it, even if other children are on a waiting list. Further guidance states that schools should 'doubly scrutinise' any decision to expel a traveller or gipsy child.

Teachers warned that the rules - which are intended to help children who have traditionally suffered a fragmented education were being 'very rigorously applied', fuelling resentment among local taxpayers.

Concerns were raised in the wake of news that doctors have been told that gipsies and travellers should be given priority in NHS hospitals and GP surgeries. Health Service guidelines state they should be fast-tracked to see doctors, nurses and even some dentists. GPs have also been told to see any travellers who simply walk in without an appointment, even if all consultation times for the day are taken up.

According to mandatory Government guidance, traveller children must be considered under 'fair access protocols' when they request school places. These protocols also extend to several other groups, including children of UK service personnel and other Crown Servants, as well as those with special educational needs and young carers. They also cover youngsters who attended special units for expelled pupils and are now ready to be reintegrated into ordinary schools.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: 'The vast majority of children get a place at their first choice school, but it is absolutely right that disadvantaged groups can get back on track with their education quickly when they move to a new area. 'Everyone, regardless of background, should have fair and equal access to a place of their choice.' [Well why is that denied to many white British middle-class families?]


Fury as NHS trust says only women between 39.5 and 40 years old can have IVF

Which, aside from anything else, makes it most likely to be futile. You wonder if it's human beings who are making these decisions. It shows you how low bureaucratically-run medicine can sink

Infertile women have been told they can only have IVF treatment if they are aged between 39 and a half and 40. The 'cruel and bizarre' restrictions were put in place by NHS managers in North Yorkshire struggling to deal with a huge deficit at their health trust. It could mean women with severe fertility problems to wait years for one cycle of IVF treatment. Between the age of 35 and 40, the chance of conception for women halves - and the heart breaking delays will further reduce the chance of having a baby for dozens of women.

The rules were greeted with incredulity by charities. Susan Seenan, from Infertility Network UK, said: 'This policy really is one of the worst we have ever encountered amid the postcode lottery for IVF. 'We have seen some bad policies in other parts of the country, but this is not just cruel, it is bizarre, and it flies in the face of the medical evidence that the best treatment for fertility is to start early.' 'If you seek fertility treatment, and you are told to wait until you are almost 40, at a point when your chances of conception will be massively diminished, if there is any way you can manage to pay for it, you will seek private care. 'The tragedy is for those couples who do not have that option.'

The severe restrictions were put in place by NHS North Yorkshire and York in order to cut its spending. Two couples said they were forced to go private because the health trust would not fund the IVF. They had their treatment at Leeds General Infirmary, alongside couples who lived in a neighbouring primary care trust area who received their treatment for free.

One couple from Harrogate, who now have a three-week-old daughter, following private infertility treatment, said they were 'incredulous' when their consultant explained why they could not receive NHS treatment. The man, aged 40, and his wife, who is now 33, said that even their GP was not aware of the policy. Guidance from the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence says women should be offered three cycles of IVF treatment free on the NHS, if they have had fertility problems for three years, are aged between 23 and 39, are not obese and do not smoke. The cost of three cycles is around £15,000.

But around three quarters of primary care trusts are providing less IVF treatment. Many reduce to pay for IVF treatment to women below the age of 30. But none are as restrictive as North Yorkshire and York primary care trust, where just 16 women were given IVF treatment in the last year. The PCT said the vast majority of those cases involved women aged between 39 years and six months and 40, but said it was possible for younger women to be granted the treatment if their circumstances were deemed to be 'exceptional'. Managers would not define exceptional, although families in North Yorkshire said it only covered occasions where one of the prospective parents was terminally ill.

NHS North Yorkshire and York PCT said decided to stop routinely funding IVF treatment in May 2007, as part of a plan to tackle its financial problems. All women who were on the waiting list for treatment at the point it was frozen have now been scheduled to have IVF by September of this year. The trust said it was currently reviewing its policy covering women referred since May 2007, and future patients. It said it aimed to ensure that by next April it could remove its age restrictions on treatment, and offer all couples one cycle of treatment.

PCT strategy director David Cockayne said: 'As part of our financial recovery plan, which began in early 2007, the PCT's board had to take some very difficult decisions on what clinical priorities it would pursue.'

Of the 32,000 people who have fertility treatment each year, around three-quarters pay privately for the treatment, which has a success rate of around 25 per cent per cycle.


More child abuse by Left-trained and hate-filled British social workers

I want to come home mummy: Aged five, 'Jenny' was torn from her parents by social workers after an RSPCA raid. Now a court says she must be adopted... We reveal disturbing questions about the fate of this bewildered child who faces fears of abandonment for years to come but who just wants to come home to mummy and daddy. It all began when parenbts weren't humble enough during a misdirected police raid

The recording begins with the sound of a child's voice. It belongs to a little girl and she is clearly bewildered and distressed. At one point she begins to cry. At other times she is sobbing uncontrollably. 'Have you seen the judge yet?' she can be heard asking pitifully in between the tears before pleading: 'I want to go home with [you] Mummy and Daddy.' The recording - and dozens of others just like it - was made during a supervised meeting between the youngster and her parents after their daughter was taken away from them by social workers.

They are known as 'contact visits' in the soulless vernacular of the care system, and took place in a room with a table and chairs and a few toys. One hour. Once a month. That's the extent of the relationship now between this little seven-year-old girl and her traumatised parents.

There are some parents who do not deserve to see their children more than once a month. Irresponsible parents. Neglectful parents. Abusive parents. According to care workers, the mother and father of this little girl were found to fall into this category after their home was raided by the RSPCA and at least 18 police officers to deal with a complaint about supposed mistreatment of dogs.

But what if social workers have got it wrong? In the light of Baby P and so many other scandals, it's hardly impossible is it? Certainly, the recordings stored on a computer at the family's home on the South Coast seem to contradict the damaging claims by social services that the girl, whom we shall call Jenny - the girl's real identity has been suppressed by the courts - did not wish to return to live with her parents.

Jenny's father spent months taking down every word of the recordings by hand, only to be told by a judge that they had to be professionally transcribed. By the time they were, it was too late. Moves to put Jenny up for adoption were under way. This week, after 74 separate court hearings over two harrowing years, the family finally lost their fight to have Jenny returned to them. The Court of Appeal in London ruled that their daughter must be given up for adoption. If and when she is, they may never see her again.

Jenny was five when she was taken away, and seven now. Before we examine the peculiarly troubling details of this case, it is worth considering the comments of the family's MP, Charles Hendry. He says: 'This case has concerned me more than any other in my 13 years as a member of Parliament.' And, he went on to describe Jenny's mother and father as 'devoted parents'.

Furthermore, one of the experts brought in to examine the child's removal, a psychiatric social worker, concluded the local authority had 'mismanaged the case'. Needless to say, his advice was ignored.

They are not lone voices: more than 200 local people, including neighbours, friends and members of the couple's church, planned to take part in a march through their village shortly after the family's ordeal began in April 2007. Posters were printed, which read 'Social Services Have Kidnapped Our Daughter. Please Help The Fight To Get Her Back Where She Belongs.' Above the words was a picture of Jenny. Of course, you won't have read about the protest, because it never took place. The march was just about to begin when the police, acting on the advice of social services, stepped in.

They warned Jenny's parents they risked being jailed, as they had broken the law by identifying their daughter on the placards. Just another example of the terrifying lack of transparency that now surrounds the removal of children from their families. Reforms to open up cases such as Jenny's to public scrutiny were introduced earlier this year. But the truth is, an almost Stalinist culture of secrecy still exists in family courts.

Jenny was never physically harmed, and was 'thriving and happy before being taken away', the Court of Appeal was told. One of the reasons for the decision was that Jenny's father had been unwilling to undergo a further assessment. Wouldn't other parents in his position have done the same? After all, the case had already dragged on for two years and he believed yet another 'assessment' would delay the tortuous process even more.

Yet, here we are today on the cusp of Jenny being spirited away from her family for ever. No one suggests that Jenny's parents - whom we'll call Susan and Richard - are perfect. But over the past few weeks, our reporters have come to know the family. And one thing seems undeniable - their love for their daughter, and her love for them.

Jenny is a beautiful child with a mop of chestnut hair. She loved ballet, swimming and Susan and Richard paid for her to have private tennis lessons. Her bedroom - with her own ensuite bathroom - in the family's home is almost unchanged from the day she last slept there. Her favourite pink teddy bear is still sitting under the windowsill. And a collection of her videos are on a shelf. 'She loved Grease and pretending to be Olivia Newton-John,' her mother told me last night as her eyes filled up with tears. 'It's hard to come into my daughter's room without crying.'

Susan, in her 40s and involved in her local Conservative Association, used to be a beautician before becoming a fulltime mother - that was how important her child was to her. Her husband Richard, 32, runs a dog breeding business from their home. They have been married for 13 years.

They were just a normal, happy family, it seems, until the RSPCA, backed up by 18 police officers, arrived at their house early one April morning in 2007, following a tip-off that dogs were being mistreated, and that there might be guns in the house. No guns were ever found. No criminal charges were brought, nor does Richard have a criminal record. He was later, however, convicted of docking the tails of his puppies. But the raid was to have far more catastrophic consequences.

Both Richard and Susan were arrested for failing to cooperate with officers. By the time they were released from custody later that day, Jenny was the subject of an emergency protection order. So an operation which had begun for entirely different reasons had ended with the heartbreak of their daughter being taken away.

There were two reasons for what happened, and both have been bitterly contested by the family. The first was the state of the house. Police said it was covered in rabbit entrails - used as food for the dogs they raised - and animal excrement. The couple claim most of the mess was caused during the raid. They say, the doors were left open, allowing the dogs in. Normally, they insisted, their home was 'clean and tidy'. Only a few weeks earlier a policewoman had visited them - after a puppy had been stolen - and backed up what they said. She also said that Jenny was 'happy'. Their home, it should also be stressed, was always immaculate when we visited the couple.

Attention was drawn to the fact that there was a hole in a downstairs bedroom ceiling. But the family point out that a pipe had recently leaked and could not be repaired until the beams had dried out. It has now been fixed. Nor, it was claimed by the authorities, were there any clothes for Jenny in her wardrobe. Did the police look in the wrong wardrobe - the one in her parent's bedroom? The wardrobe in Jenny's own bedroom, her parents say, was full of her belongings.

'We always put Jenny first,' said Susan. 'We have receipts from Monsoon [the fashion store] proving we spent hundreds of pounds on Jenny in the couple of months before she was taken from us. If anything, we spoilt her.'

The second reason, according to social services, that Jenny was not returned to her parents, was that she had apparently made it clear she didn't want to return to the house. But why would she? Jenny was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following the raid. 'They were raided like criminals, it is disgusting' In fact, it would be impossible to imagine a more traumatic situation than the 'chaotic scenes' which unfolded at the house that morning and which culminated in her mother and father being led away in handcuffs. In other words, not wanting to return home didn't necessarily mean she didn't want to be with her parents.

Those tapes made during 'contact meetings' in which she tearfully begs to be returned to her 'Mummy and Daddy' would seem to confirm this. 'She was hysterical when the police came in,' says Susan. 'It's the damage they have done to our little girl which really concerns us. I fear she will never be the same.'


Britain's obesity capital resists health drive

Officialdom have tried it all but people still insist on eating what they like

On the front line of Britain’s fight against obesity lies a town with a guilty secret — it has an abiding passion for pork pies. Stockton-on-Tees eats more of them than anywhere else in the region according to suppliers, who sell off surplus pies to local butchers. Perhaps that’s one reason why the town was named as the country’s capital for childhood obesity in Department of Health figures released this week.

One in six children starting primary school in the borough is obese and by the time they leave for secondary school, 20 per cent of pupils fall into the same category. More than one in three 11-year-olds are either overweight or obese.

Another community confronted by such statistics might have shuffled away behind closed doors into chipmunching, couch-potato denial. However, when the scale and cost of the problem became apparent two years ago, Stockton’s leaders decided to tackle the issue head on. Treating diseases related directly to obesity cost local NHS trusts £26.9 million in 2007. By 2015, unless action is taken, the bill could rise to £33.5 million.

To visit this post-industrial town today is to encounter a testing ground for every conceivable initiative designed to help people to lose weight. Whether any of them will work remains to be seen, but almost every public or private body with an interest in the long-term health of the population seems to be on board. So are some, but not all, of the residents.

Elizabeth Shassere, Stockton’s director of public health, says it is imperative to move beyond the excuses for poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Pockets of significant social deprivation? Yes, but Stockton has fewer than many of its neighbouring boroughs. What about the majority, even in the poorest communities, who manage to stay fit and healthy? And affluent families who struggle with their weight? Ignorance of a sensible diet? Educate them. Nowhere to exercise? Provide it. Specialist help for the clinically obese? Provide that, too. Can’t afford to use the leisure centre? Give the children free admission. It is a whole-life approach that begins with ante-natal visits by midwives.

Advice is offered on nutrition and cookery, physical activity programmes for pregnant women and the importance of breastfeeding, which, at 54 per cent, is below the national average in Stockton. Young women are also encouraged to join Fit to Push, a programme of organised walks for mothers with prams and buggies. School initiatives include Clean Your Plate. Stickers are awarded for a clean plate at the end of every meal and the pupil with the most stickers wins a prize. Evidence shows this has reduced portion sizes. There are healthy workplace programmes, free leisure facilities for 7,400 children and Sporting Start, which gives children aged from 3 to 16 a free introduction to activities including gymnastics, badminton and street dancing.

In the past two years 8,150 pedometers have also been issued to Stockton residents in the hope that a third of the borough’s 189,000 population will be walking 10,000 steps daily by 2010. Attempts are being made to curb the proliferation of fast-food outlets, improve the physical environment and cycling routes and create more safe areas for children to play outside.There are even “walking school buses”, in which children are led by adults on walks to and from school.

It all sounds admirable. The reality, on a sun-dappled afternoon this week in the old railway town from which Harold MacMillan took his title, was not quite so inspirational — though there were some true believers. Young mothers Jill Herbert and Tracey Watson emerged from the Splash Centre, where their children had enjoyed a free swimming session, to evangelise about diet and exercise. Nathan, 4, eats a lot of fruit, fish and pasta, while three-year-old Isabelle loves “all sorts of vegetables, even broccoli and cauliflower”.

Enter the Castlegate shopping centre and the picture changes. Here is the world of the budget shopper: Pound World, More4Less, Poundland and Home Bargains. Les Meynell, who runs a family butcher’s shop and delicatessen, says that his business has survived, while rivals have been forced to close, by selling hot, rich, juicy pre-cooked meat and poultry, which vastly outsells his raw, fresh products.

“It’s all changed. The young ’uns don’t want to go home and cook fresh joints. They can manage a pan of chips and that’s about it. People want their meat already cooked and that’s what’s kept us afloat,” he said. Mr Meynell was visited by a well-meaning health official, who encouraged him to use low-fat mayonnaise in his sandwiches. He tried it for a week and gave up. “The regulars came back and asked us what the hell we were doing? They said the low-fat sandwiches were tasteless, and they were right. Ask most of my customers and no one gives a stuff about healthy eating, except well-to-do people who want to look after their figure. They buy a salad sandwich, we charge them the earth for it and they go away happy.”

Warming to his theme, Mr Meynell confided Stockton’s best-kept secret. A company well known nationally for its pork pies often turns to butchers such as Mr Meynell to offload bulk deliveries deemed surplus to supermarket requirements. “I can sell £1,000-worth of pork pies in my shop every week. The supplier told me that in Newcastle they can’t sell them for any money. Nowhere else in the North East eats pork pies like we do in Stockton,” he said.

Around the corner, Brian Peacock, a greengrocer, says many young people do not even recognise many of the vegetables he sells. “It’s only older people who buy the veg. And the students. As for the rest of them, they don’t know what half of them are called, let alone how to cook or eat them.” Stockton’s target is to cut child obesity rates back to their 2000 level by 2020. If the council and health authorities fail to deliver, it will not be for want of trying.


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