Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Why was Robert Green arrested?

Robert Green, campaigner on behalf of Hollie Grieg, has now been in prison for over two months but still does not know on what charge. He was due to appear at court as a witness to the defence at fellow campaigner Tim Rustidge`s trial when he was arrested. That may have been one of the reasons for his imprisonment.
There is another. Robert Green had been blogging about the Violate Club which has premises in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. This club caters for different perversions and provides life-size dolls of children for their customers according to Robert Green. The Scottish government is aware of this organisation as the link shows.

Among the club members there are four sheriffs (equivalent to English judges), two ex-partners of sheriffs, two High Court judges and partners, two procurator fiscals and partners, six ex-partners of procurator fiscals, sixteen court staff, thirty seven staff from Scottish government departments and seventeen primary school teachers. Is this why the Scottish establishment wanted to confiscate Robert Green`s computer?

It is interesting how a formal petition, brought about by Peter Cherbi, (Diary of Injustice) - to ensure members of the Scottish judiciary have a duty to publicly disclose information about their interests, if there might be a conflict - has been resisted by the Lord President. What is it he would prefer to hide?

Meanwhile no Scottish member of Parliament will respond to requests to look into the matter including Alex Salmond who has twice breached the law in defying the Information Commissioner over questions about his conduct in the Hollie Greig case.

Robert Green has written a letter which appears on the Free Robert Green blog:

Dear S

Thank you for your message [on Email a Prisoner . Yes I do have some medication now, which does help although I feel my health is deteriorating. Still, I receive the most wonderful support from around the world and remain, as usual, in good spirits.

The wing of the prison in which I am held is very old-fashioned and I am in solitary confinement, locked up, for around 19 hours each day. The food is basic but adequate. We do not eat together but collect our meals and eat in our cells. There is around one hour’s exercise in the yard provided every day, but few facilities beyond that. Virtually all the books I have are ones that have been sent in by kind supporters.

UPDATE: It has been reported on UKColumn News 18 June 2014 that the Violate website is no longer responding to emails, etc. It looks like they have gone underground.

Minister in Tony Blair`s government suspected of child abuse

"POWERFUL people tried to cover up a suspected children’s home abuse ring said to involve a Labour minister and a convicted paedophile, it was claimed yesterday."

"A 16-month investigation has revealed that former residents at the London home told detectives a group of paedophiles attacked children there."

"But soon after a former social services manager told police about the politician’s alleged evening visits in the early 1980s, the Met’s inquiry was suddenly halted."

"And experienced detective Clive Driscoll, who had been heading it, was moved to other duties.

"Yesterday, two former social services employees involved in the case claimed there appeared to have been a cover-up when Driscoll was removed."

"One – the former manager who alerted police in 1998 – said: "One wonders why Scotland Yard would be so desperate to stop it being investigated."

"I believe it was stopped because somebody in power was trying to prevent any further investigation into the politician and his possible involvement in unlawful activity."

More cover ups

"Could Sir Cyril Smith be to the Lib Dems what Jimmy Savile is to the BBC?"

"The Rochdale MP was a larger than life character whose popularity stretched all the way from his northwest constituency into the heart of Westminster. A political figure who – following his death in 2010 – is at the centre of allegations detailing decades of physical and sexual abuse against boys and young men."

"Yet he is also a man who was nominated for a knighthood by Lord Steel, the Lib Dem peer and former Liberal Party leader, in the 1980s. And who had praise lavished on him by Nick Clegg via a public message on his 80th birthday."

"Now the Lib Dem president, Tim Farron, has admitted that his party must "answer serious questions". Who knew what, and when?"

"One shocking revelation is that the Director for Public Prosecutions was passed files containing allegations about Smith three times. In one of those cases in 1970 Lancashire police said it was "impossible to excuse his conduct", arguing that Smith had used his "unique position to indulge in a sordid series of indecent episodes with young boys to whom he had a special responsibility". He appears guilty of "indecent assault", but has always sheltered behind a "veneer of respectability", officers concluded."

"Yet no prosecution was ever taken."

"Now Greater Manchester police and a Rochdale Council-commissioned independent inquiry are investigating if there was a cover up at Rochdale council."

"The Lib Dems insist that they have only ever known what was in the public domain. Before Smith's death that amounted to just two articles, one in Private Eye and one in a local Rochdale publication."

"And that, they say, was linked to events that took place before Smith switched from Labour to the Liberals."

"Mr Clegg, they say, knew nothing of it."

"Yet claims by Simon Danzcuk – the current Rochdale MP who has co-authored the book that contains most of the allegations - claims swirling rumours about Smith's behaviour were rife in Rochdale and Parliament throughout his political career."

"Lord Steel says those rumours never reached his office – but he is prepared to speak to police."

"The Lib Dems have rejected an independent inquiry, saying it is for the police to look into these matters. But they won't be able to avoid all the questions as these shocking revelations keep tumbling out."

Parental involvement and Children and Families Act 2014

Suesspiciousminds comments on the Family Justice Review of the Children and Families Act 2014 who were asked to consider parental involvement in relation to the welfare of the child. Should a non-resident parent have equal access to the child, for example?

There were four options consulted on (none of them being the presumption of equal time or shared time that the media reported on, and that the fathers’ rights lobby were asking for. I’ve tried in this article to not split it on pure gender lines – I think that all parents who don’t live with their children would like the Court to have in mind that spending a lot of time with both parents is better for a child than artificially restricting one parent’s time with their child)...

The Government decided that the court should work on the presumption that a child`s welfare is likely to be furthered through safe involvement with both parents but the nature of that `involvement` has been watered down over time.
...there`s a presumption that it is good for a child to have involvement with both parents (unless it would cause harm or risk of harm to the child), but that involvement can be `of some kind, direct or indirect, but not any particular division of a child`s time`.
It is probably worse for non-resident parents than the current Act, which tended to be interpreted that direct contact for both parents is a good thing for the child, if it can be done safetly.

Monday, 28 April 2014

More than 96,000 people have contacted First4adoption

First4Adoption is an information service which puts prospective adopters in touch with adoption agencies in their areas of interest. It is a partnership managed by the charities Coram Children’s Legal Centre, Adoption UK and Coram and is supported and funded by the Department for Education.

Dr Carol Homden, CBE of First4Adoption is celebrating the fact that since its launch a year ago the organisation has received 96,000 enquiries from people interested in adoption. However, she still urges that with local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies they must redouble their efforts. According to the Government website, these figures build on the successes of 2013, which saw a 34% increase in adopters and a record 15% rise in adoptions.

Sit Martin Narey has recently been appointed as the Chair of the Adoption Leadership Board - a new national initiative jointly developed by government, councils and voluntary adoption agencies to help them stay on track and drive the agenda forward. The board has a key role to play in providing independent advice to ministers we are informed which seems a strange claim to make given the board`s membership and how it was set up.

Sir Martin Narey, who for many years worked in the prison service,  moved to the charity sector to lead Barnardo`s through a period of growth making it once again the UK`s biggest children`s charity with a £250m turnover. He has said: "I am delighted to see that many of the recommendations I made to ministers in 2012 about adoption and siblings, adoption and contact, fostering before adoption and ethnicity and adoption matching have now found themselves in law as part of the new Children and Families Act."

Yes exactly. We can see why Sir Martin Narey was appointed Chair of the new Adoption Leadership Board.

Along with the £19 million adoption support fund to help adoptive families access the support they need, the adoption reform grant has been extended into 2014 - providing £50 million to councils to help support them in implementing the changes in the Children and Families Act. These changes speed up the adoption process and make it more difficult for parents to fight the system. The intention is clear. The pendulum has swung against keeping families together and the number of adoptions are sure to rise. 

Interestingly, the University of York researchers are launching a new multi-disciplinary project to examine what works best for abused or neglected children – going into care or staying at home with support. It will run from April 2014 to March 2016.  Professor Nina Biehal, from York’s Department of Social Policy and Social Work, is leading the project. She said:  "We do not yet know enough about whether abused and neglected children who go into care do better or worse when compared to similar children who are supported at home, rather than to all children in the wider population."  It appears the Government is rushing ahead anyway.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Councillor Ford makes an apology for remarks

"Parents, Mencap and the National Autistic Society have complained about Cllr Ford’s remarks during meetings where Cheshire West and Chester Council decided to bill parents of special educational needs (SEN) children £880 a year towards the £5,200 school transport costs."

"Pupils up to four-years-old or between 16 and 19 years or with medical needs are eligible for the charge from September, which is reduced to £660 for the first year only. Low income families pay half."

"Cllr Ford (Con, Helsby), who has since apologised for any offence, told the April executive meeting: "We have a burden, as everybody does, when you have a person like this in one’s family."

"Parents were also offended by the phrase ‘the state of that child’, when he told the March executive meeting: "Every parent has a duty to get their children to school, irrespective of the state of that child, whether it be SEN, autism or whatever."

"Explaining why he used the term ‘burden’, Cllr Ford told The Chronicle : "It’s our burden, not theirs, because we have to pay for these people."

Friday, 25 April 2014

Dr Hibbert seeks revenge on mothers

"Dr George Hibbert was regarded as one of the country’s leading experts on child abuse, had lectured at Oxford and had advised MPs on the family courts system."

"When Keira agreed to work for him, it was at one of his Family Assessment Centres — places where families who had come to the attention of social services departments were referred. They were placed under round-the-clock observation while it was determined what should happen next."

"It was a very intrusive set-up, but Keira assumed that Dr Hibbert — who was highly trusted (and very well paid) by a string of local authorities — knew what he was doing."

"But protecting children is one thing. Ripping families apart — apparently for little reason — is another. Yet this is what Keira claims Dr Hibbert did, and on a scale that is staggering."

"Alarm bells first started ringing when she felt Dr Hibbert wanted his staff to concentrate on recording only the negative aspects of what they observed. And she became dismayed when the parents were set bizarre and, she felt, unfair tasks, to assess how they coped..."

"Quite how routinely babies were removed from their parents as a result of Dr Hibbert’s practices is not yet known. But Keira was not the only one to fear that her boss was abusing his powers."

"Earlier this year, Dr Hibbert offered to surrender his doctor’s licence when the General Medical Council launched an investigation over accusations that he had deliberately misdiagnosed mothers as suffering from mental disorders to fit in with the view of social services."

"The GMC refused to accept Dr Hibbert’s offer, and is investigating his fitness to practise."

Updates can be found on Researching Reform:

Thursday, 24 April 2014

FBI investigation of child abuse at Southbank International School

An elite London school has become embroiled in an FBI-led international child abuse investigation into a highly regarded teacher who is believed to have molested more than 90 boys.

William Vahey, a 64-year old American who taught at the Southbank International School in Westminster between 2009 and 2013, killed himself in Minnesota in March after confessing to drugging and molesting children while on field trips.

He had been found with a memory stick that contained sexually graphic images of at least 90 boys who appeared to have been drugged...

The FBI said that Vahey was jailed in California in 1969 for child molestation, but Woodhead said that nothing showed up on criminal record checks or references taken in the UK and abroad by the school, where Vahey had taught history and geography.

No criminal record checks for teachers from overseas

HUNDREDS of teachers from overseas who want to work in Scottish schools will no longer be required to provide criminal records checks under controversial proposals. The regulatory body for teachers is considering plans to scrap the requirement because of the difficulties in securing checks from some countries.
More than 500 teachers from overseas have applied to work in Scottish schools over the past five years. Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "The regulation around disclosures for anyone working with children in Scotland is something we often say is overdone, but in this case we believe parents expect that anyone working in a school would be checked.
"Parents would be surprised that some teachers coming from other countries would not be asked to provide criminal-records checks. "There may not be a level playing field, but removing checks from those who can provide them does not seem to be a reasonable solution."
Iain Ellis, chairman of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, added: "We believe that checks should be as robust as possible for all teachers working in all Scottish schools and that no-one should be exempt from these checks."
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union, also expressed concern. "Clearly, the suggestion of some overseas applicants to the GTCS register potentially not being criminal-record checked is an issue that raises concerns.
Scottish parents are being monitored and data mined by the named person before a child is born and all the way up to the child`s eighteenth birthday. It makes no difference whether or not they have a criminal record. The proposal to forego criminal checks for teachers from overseas cannot be justified but does make a nonsense of keeping children safe with the GIRFEC approach.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

McKenzie friends to pay court costs


An American woman, crippled after being beaten up by staff in Holloway Prison, was deported by the UK Border Agency, to be left in her wheelchair at Washington airport without money or a passport.
Since Sir James Munby stepped up last year to become head of our family courts, he has been making heroic efforts to restore sanity and justice to what had become an indefensibly secretive and dysfunctional system. His latest move, just when cuts in legal aid are forcing ever more parents to represent themselves, aided by unpaid legal advisers or "McKenzie Friends", has been to issue new guidelines to ensure that this does not leave them seriously disadvantaged against the serried ranks of taxpayer-funded lawyers on the other side. But the latest recruit to his High Court team, Mrs Justice Ingrid Simler, has now issued a ruling that threatens to tilt the scales of justice against such parents more than ever.
Last September I reported the case of an American woman, crippled after being beaten up by staff in Holloway Prison, who was deported by the UK Border Agency, to be left in her wheelchair at Washington airport without money or a passport. She was originally imprisoned for taking her mildly autistic son from foster care, after social workers had removed him because they said he needed speech therapy which she thought unnecessary. Because she and her son had different names, after she changed hers to avoid detection for overstaying her UK visa, she was charged with having abducted someone else’s child, to which her state-funded barrister advised her to plead guilty. Although DNA tests later confirmed that she was the mother, it was this damning false allegation that led to her being beaten up. Photographs of the boy show how, after a year in "care", her once happy, healthy son now looked lost, miserable and ill. 
After being stuck for weeks at Washington airport, sleeping on benches because she had no money or the documents that would have allowed her to apply for accommodation or look for work, the mother was advised by friends in Britain, including Sabine McNeill and Belinda McKenzie, who run the Association of McKenzie Friends, to apply for a judicial review of her case, which an experienced lawyer told them was full of legal irregularities. Unable to return to the UK without a passport, she drafted a statement with the help of her advisers, which they presented to the High Court in December. A judge adjourned the hearing for them to "validate" their right to speak for her.
This month, however, when none of them could be present, Mrs Justice Simler ruled not just that their case was "totally without merit" but that the lay advisers were now considered to be "parties to the case", and must pay more than £4,000 in court costs. They would have a chance to challenge this, but were told that, if the court found against them, their costs would be even higher. In effect, the judge was sending a warning to all such lay advisers that, by offering help to litigants, they now risk severe financial penalties if their case is lost. As John Hemming MP recognises, "if lay advisors are to be threatened with hefty costs merely for helping victims of a miscarriage of justice, then the rule of law is under threat". This ruling appears so flatly to counter Lord Justice Munby’s latest attempt to achieve a fairer balance between lawyers paid by the state and those "McKenzie Friends" that it would be very interesting.
As well as cuts in legal aid to parents, limits to expert evidence allowed in court, and the intimidation of McKenzie Friends through financial penalties, other family justice reforms also ensure that the system is being streamlined to allow children to be removed from their parents faster than ever without parents having the means to defend themselves or their children.
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, said: "Today marks the largest reform of the family justice system any of us have seen or will see in our professional lifetimes.
"Taken as a whole, these reforms amount to a revolution. There has been, indeed there had to be, a fundamental change in the cultures of the family courts. This is truly a cultural revolution."

Many are surprised that Sir James Munby has not spoken out against these draconian reforms that work against parents and their families given his previous pronouncements.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Data from the National Pupil database is being sold off

Thanks are due to the Vox Political reader who flagged up the fact that, while plans to sell British citizens’ health records and tax details are currently delayed or in consideration, confidential information about our children is already being sold on to private companies.
Researchers and third-party organisations can apply for detailed information from the national pupil database (NPD), covering pupils at schools and colleges in England.

This includes test and exam results, details of prior attainment and progression at different key stages for pupils in the state sector, attainment data for students in non-maintained special schools, sixth-form and further education colleges, and information on pupils in independent schools, where available.

The database also includes information about pupils’ characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, first language, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs (SEN), and pupil absence and exclusions.

Why would anyone want to use such information commercially?
Extracts of this data are available for use by any organisation or person who, "for the purpose of promoting the education or well-being of children in England", are conducting research or analysis, producing statistics, or providing information, advice or guidance. To whom?

Turning 120,000 troubled families around

4Children is the national charity which runs Sure Start Children`s Centres as well as family and youth services across Britain. They are the Government`s strategic partner for early years and co-produce policy with the Department of Education. It is no surprise therefore that 4Children finds an important place for their services in the `early interventions` approach approved by the Government.

Commenting on the charge from the Public Accounts committee that the Government are not going to be `turning around` 120,000 troubled families by 2015 Anne Longfield, Chief Executive of 4Children, still backed the idea:

The Troubled Families Programme is an important programme which has the potential to transform the lives of some of the most vulnerable families in the country who have multiple, complex needs.

Without clarifying what is meant by turning a family around, she goes on to say that it is not clear how many families have been `turned around`. "The Government needs to publish the results in the interests of transparency."

The Troubled families programme needs to be at the heart of local programmes for change for families and communities. Families are helped best when services and professionals, including social services, health, housing and Job Centre Plus, work closely together to provide the joined-up and personalised support that families need. 

In `Removal as Class War` Portes reveals the official definition of a `troubled family`. It is one with at least 5 of these 7 features
(a) no parent in work (b) poor quality housing, (c) no parent with qualifications, (d) mother with mental health problems (e) one parent with longstanding disability/illness (f) family has low income, (g) family cannot afford some food/clothing items’. 
He observes, ‘… none of these criteria, in themselves, have anything at all to do with disruption, irresponsibility, or crime. Drug addiction and alcohol abuse are also absent. A family which meets 5 of these criteria is certainly disadvantaged. Almost certainly poor. But a source of wider social problems? Maybe, but maybe not – and certainly not as a direct consequence. In other words, the "troubled families" in the Prime Minister’s speech are not necessarily "neighbours from hell" at all. They are poor.’ 

Professor Ruth Levitas in `There may be `Trouble` Ahead: What we know about those 120,000 `Troubled` families` has said: 
… Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is reported as saying: ‘120,000 families are a big problem for this country. If you live near one you know very well who they are.’ …  The original research on which these figures are based is a report for the Social Exclusion Task Force. the survey the actual numbers of families with five or more of these disadvantages was very small and the figure assumes an accuracy that is spurious:

As we have seen, ‘troubled families’ discursively collapses ‘families with troubles’ and ‘troublesome families’, while simultaneously implying that they are dysfunctional as families. This discursive strategy is successful in feeding vindictive attitudes to the poor.

Read the full PSE paper: There may be 'Trouble' Ahead: What We Know About Those 120,000 'Troubled' Families, by Ruth Levitas.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Frightening children about climate change

Eco-Schools Scotland, part of the Keep Scotland Beautiful charity, introduces itself:
Eco-Schools is an international initiative designed to encourage whole school action on sustainable development education issues. It is an environmental management tool, a learning resource and a recognised award scheme. It empowers young people to take action towards an economically, socially and environmentally just world...
Over 98% of Scotland's local authority schools now participate in the initiative, as well as many more independent and early years establishments.

`CLIMATE CONTROL: Brainwashing in Schools` discusses eco-activism in more negative terms:
We find instances of eco-activism being given a free rein within schools and at the events schools encourage their pupils to attend. In every case of concern, the slant is on scares, on raising fears, followed by the promotion of detailed guidance on how pupils should live, as well as on what they should think. In some instances, we find encouragement to create ‘little political activists’ in schools by creating a burden of responsibility for action on their part to ‘save the planet’, not least by putting pressure on their parents.
The National Curriculum has recently been reviewed by the government, but the proposed changes seem unlikely to prevent such practices. Surveys show that many children are upset and frightened by what they are told is happening to the climate.

Some teachers appreciate that climate change, and what policy makers should do about it, is still a contested issue amongst scientists. Is climate change driven by the sun or is it more likely to be the consequence of the build-up of greenhouse gases? That is a simple question which at the moment has not been resolved but the question is totally ignored by those in charge of the education of children. 

Instead, schools are encouraged to use resources from charities which ensure that children are alarmed from the earliest age about an impending global catastrophe.

A compassionate teacher who has blogged about the issue explains how children`s fears about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were allayed by providing them with more information. Never having been taught that carbon dioxide is actually essential for photosynthesis and is an important building block for life, these facts brought great relief to the children.
It seems important that climate change is taught in schools, but surely it must be taught in context. To teach it to primary school children, who are still incapable of grasping the underlying science, is pedagogically ignorant and therefore negligent. At the very least, climate change should be taught as a secondary science unit, after students have learnt basic biology, chemistry and physics. Only then do they have a chance of accurately assessing the issue, and only then can they receive a safe, healthy psychological upbringing.
How not to teach climate change
Apart from the impoverishment of their education, it is abusive to instill fear into vulnerable children that the planet upon which all life depends is under great threat. Even if it were true, which many reports suggest not, children are actually powerless to do anything about it. Since wellbeing is at the heart of Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) and Curriculum for Excellence - this should not be happening in Scotland. 

See Climate change reconsidered II

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Dumbing children down

THE theory behind the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence is so vague and woolly it is said that pinning it down is like trying to nail jelly to the wall. Unlike the 5 - 14 curriculum for which the resources were supplied there is none available for CfE and teachers are encouraged to supply their own; so standards vary from school to school.
The notion of active learning is at the heart of the new curriculum and is about encouraging children to work together. They become very good at working co-operatively but few can now work on their own for more than 10 minutes.
As the children move up the school, we have noticed a lack of thinking skills and a deterioration in written work. They find difficulty transferring what they have learned to the written page. For example, they know a sentence begins with a capital letter and ends in a full stop but, when you put the paper in front of them, they don’t do it.
The new curriculum discourages the use of textbooks in the classroom. Absolutely...Now they want us to download resources from the internet which are not tried and tested and adapt them to lessons.
"What is actually happening with the lowering of standards of children’s literacy and numeracy skills is being hidden by these fixed levels — for example all pupils moving into secondary school are classed as level 3 developing, regardless of ability.
"The new qualifications are a dumbed down version of Standard Grades so don’t stretch more able pupils.
"Only having one school year to complete work means less able pupils can’t keep up with work, or have the chance to improve as they could with Standard Grades."
An SQA examiner agreed with the "dumbing down" notion. He said: "The old system worked well — there were good courses that kids enjoyed. I feel the new exams have been dumbed down."
And an education worker from Aberdeen said: "CfE’s undoubtedly worse than Standard Grades. Activities and examinations are dumbed down. Some pupils will leave school without sitting an exam. Teachers have vague guidlines to work from.
"Employers and universities will be unhappy about the standard of pupil schools are producing."
The University of Stirling report found the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) "does not clearly articulate questions of what should be learned and why" and warned against pupils being taught "skills" instead of academic knowledge.
Many teachers are worried the first pupils experiencing the new system are "guinea pigs" whose education will suffer, it concluded.
More teachers agreed than disagreed the CfE will harm some children’s prospects, according to an accompanying survey, and less than a third of teachers said they were "positive" about the curriculum’s development.
New National exams, replacing Standard Grades and Intermediates, are supposed to start in 2014 to complement the CfE. Both elements are less prescriptive about using traditional academic methods and focus on teaching pupils life skills.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Biometrics banned in Florida schools

Kevin Townsend in his blog comments on Florida`s decision to ban the use of biometrics in schools.

We do not need biometrics to provide secure identity. However, once it is widespread within a system, its value is less as an access or identity device, but more as a tracking device. Consider movement around a campus. If students need an eye or palm or fingerprint scan to enter the library, board a bus, or buy a snack in the cafeteria, then the system knows who is where all of the time.
Then imagine this writ large across the nation. The authorities will know where everyone is, all of the time. The problem with introducing biometrics into schools is that we are breeding a generation that will be comfortable with and fully accepting of total government surveillance. And that is something we need to prevent now rather than redress when it’s too late.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Early childhood and school readiness

Ofsted endorses the view that not enough is being done to support and encourage disadvantaged parents and that the cycle of deprivation needs to be broken with early education and childcare. Following comments by Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw and the publication of Ofsted`s annual report on early years, General Secretary Deborah Lawson – a former local authority childcare commissioning manager – said:
"Though early childhood is recognised world-wide as a crucial stage in its own right ministers and officials in England persist in viewing it simply as a preparation for school. The term `School readiness` is now dominating policy pronouncements, despite considerable criticisms from the sector. The role of play is being down-valued in England`s nurseries."
"I am also concerned that we are moving towards a lowering of the school starting age – changing the landscape of schools and the early years sector. While some countries in Europe don’t start formal education until six of seven, the plan for England seems to be to start formal testing and schooling at four or even younger."
"If children are in school rather than nursery, that would reduce the cost of childcare for the state and parents, but it wouldn’t necessarily be in the best interests of children."

What PIE and the NSPCC have in common

The Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) has been in the news a lot recently with particular emphasis on the politicians and higher establishment figures drawn into it. For instance, HERE and HERE. Another article in Spiked looks at the issue from a different perspective and examines the connection between PIE and children`s rights during the 1970s.
The nineteenth-century child-savers movement was driven by a powerful sense of humanitarianism, justice and altruism. It sought to protect children from the many inequities confronting them. Unfortunately, significant parts of this movement, including the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), sometimes expanded their remit from protecting children to claiming moral authority over childhood itself. As a result, child-saving entrepreneurs often started to perceive their main aim in terms of saving children from their parents. And this has been the main intellectual and political legacy of the child-saving movement: it popularised the assumption that the interests of parents and children are either potentially or actually contradictory.
The assumption that what is in the interest of the child is different to the interests of the parent creates a conflict that can only be mediated by those possessing the moral and expert authority to pronounce on the dispute; namely, the child-saver... the 1970s was also the decade when the idea of children’s rights was articulated and gained cultural influence.
Kelly is right to point out the ease with which PIE could slot into the confused sexual-liberationist agenda of the 1970s. But PIE was not simply the radical wing of the GLF. PIE also expressed newly invented ideas about the need to liberate children. Like other supporters of this misguided ideal, the question of whom children needed liberating from was rarely made explicit. Not that it had to be made explicit, since the only agency that children could be liberated from was that of their parents and family.
No doubt PIE was entirely opportunistic when choosing which arguments it would use to justify its predatory obsession with children. But that doesn’t disguise the fact that the arguments it voiced about children’s liberation were consistent with the emerging narrative of children’s rights...These are not rights demanded by children; they are rights invented by adults who claim to best understand the real needs of children...‘Regrettably, a leading characteristic of the children’s rights movement is the propensity to separate children’s interest from their parents’’, wrote Martin Guggenheim in his compelling study, What’s Wrong With Children’s Rights.  Children’s rights do not empower children; rather, they disempower parents. They provide an ideological rationale for perceiving parent-child relations as fundamentally contradictory.

Ofsted inspector in charge of two academies in special measures

Ofsted has come under fire after it emerged that a lead inspector working for the watchdog is responsible for running two academies which have been placed in special measures.

Last February, Derek Davies was appointed executive principal at the troubled Richard Rose Federation in Cumbria. This came after one of its schools, the flagship Richard Rose Central Academy in Carlisle, became the first academy to be placed in special measures for the second time.

Since then, despite two further monitoring visits by inspectors, the school has remained in special measures; in the most recent report, the lead inspector claimed that it was "not making enough progress". In January, the federation’s other Carlisle academy, Richard Rose Morton, was also placed into special measures. Both schools were rated inadequate in every single category.

But despite Ofsted’s damning verdict on his own schools, Mr Davies continues to inspect schools himself, working for private provider the CfBT Education Trust.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Helping parents to bond

The Sutton Trust exemplifies the well tried formula of a third sector organisation acting as a think-tank, lobbying the Government to push forward the Government`s agenda, whilst the Government then refers to the charity to justify its actions. It is a formula that is beginning to wear a bit thin. As Nicola Horsley says (see below) it is increasingly the third sector which provides the evidence base to support government policy and not rigorous neuroscientific studies. However, this is not how the Sutton Trust sees it:
The Sutton Trust has funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages from low and middle income homes. We have published over 140 research studies that have had a profound impact on national education policy. Our work is highly influential among leading politicians and opinion formers, and attracts prominent coverage in the national news media.
Perhaps the Sutton Trust is part of the problem. Children and Young People Now reported the extraordinary claim by the Sutton Trust that 40 percent of children do not form strong attachments with their parents in the first few years of life. The Sutton Trust recommended that Children`s Centres should do more to help parents bond with their babies in order to narrow the school readiness gap and prevent problems arising in the future. Help should be given to troubled families even before the child`s birth.

"Its research also found that a quarter of children reported avoiding their parents when upset because they have ignored them in the past, and 15 per cent resisted their parents because they cause them distress.The report welcomes government-backed parenting support programmes, such as the Family Nurse Partnership and Troubled Families initiative, but concludes intervention needs to happen at an earlier stage in order to prevent children experiencing long-term effects of poor parenting."
- See more at:

The Sutton Trust report has been criticised by Nicola Horsley, Research Fellow on the Brain Science and Early Intervention Project.
"You might expect a claim like ‘there is a burst of brain development when attachment bonds are made’ to cite a neuroscientist but the reference supporting this quote is the work of Sue Gerhardt, a psychotherapist who is one of the founders of the OXPIP parenting programme; and her book Why Love Matters: how affection builds a baby’s brain, is core reading for practitioners delivering the programme.
The Baby Bonds report features only one neuroscientist in its bibliography and that is Jack Shonkoff, director of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, which is a partner of the UK’s Early Intervention Foundation. Increasingly, third sector organisations like the Early Intervention Foundation and ‘strategic philanthropists’ like the Sutton Trust, and not rigorous up-to-date studies or neuroscientific thinking, are providing the ‘evidence’ on which policy is based...
When nurses tell us that they are under pressure for their delivery of a parenting programme to be seen to have a direct effect on future prison populations, it is clear that family life has become atomised beyond all recognition. We are left with a science of parenting where family support used to be and this can only serve to further isolate those who are consigned to the 40%." Nicola Horsley

Monday, 14 April 2014

UK moves to block US Senate report

From a British diplomatic source I learn that Britain has lobbied the United States against the publication of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture and extraordinary rendition. The lobbying has been carried out "at all levels" – White House, State Department and CIA. The British have argued that at the very least the report must be emasculated before publication...

The unabashed collusion of two torturing security states in concealing the truth of their despicable acts – including complicity in the torture of women and minors – and blocking criminal prosecution of the guilty is a sign of how low public ethics have sunk. Fortunately there are still a few people in the British Foreign Office disgusted enough to leak it.

Children`s wellbeing - we`ve got the tools

You have to ask: Where do these non-governmental and unelected agencies come from? There are hundreds of them springing up around children. What makes them expert on other people`s children and their wellbeing and why are they allowed to pronounce on anything?  Having said that the Children`s Parliament proudly announces their plans for a survey:

The survey tool is unique because it is a subjective measure of wellbeing. [In other words it is unscientific] This means that it measures how the child or young person is now in the context of their environments and relationships – at home, at school and in the community. So, rather than count what children and young people do or don’t do, or focus on problems or challenges from an adult perspective, our survey looks at wellbeing and rights from a holistic, empowering and positive view of children and young people’s lives, as defined by them.
We have undertaken a first phase of work with the support of an intern funded by the Open University Third Sector Internship Programme. Extensive desk research and small scale piloting has evidenced the efficacy and validity of the tool we have produced in draft.
Now, with the support of a grant from the Scottish Government’s National Voluntary Organisations Support Fund (via YouthLink Scotland) we are undertaking further development work to April 2014. This will see us working with Aberdeen City Council and Midlothian Council to engage with a further 1000 children and young people between the ages of 8 and 18 to further test and then produce a final survey tool.

When checking out the patrons and board of trustees of these unelected bodies. there is sure to be a Baroness or two, and in this case there is no exception. The patron of the Children`s Parliament is Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill. I am sure we are now all reassured that the Children`s Parliament is an independent body with the best interests of children at heart. After all the Baroness is sure to know all about the wellbeing of ordinary children.

Among the other hangers-on is the trustee, Kate Smith, Corporate Governance Manager for Scottish Widows Investment (Yes, that makes sense) - and let us not forget the Friends of Children`s Parliament: actress Elaine C Smith and Robin Harper, a green campaigner and writer.

Well if the Scottish Government is pushing global citizenship and sustainable development on children, who else would you want?

Since the Scottish Government wishes to profile and database every child in Scotland (GIRFEC) why would they not provide the funding to this assorted group of nobodies or require consent from the rest of us?

(Children’s Parliament is a company incorporated in Scotland No. SC170891 | Recognised as a Scottish Charity SC 026247)

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Two`s plenty

"They want government action to limit families to just two children and propose a crackdown on immigration to slash Scotland's population by a quarter.
But radical green group the Optimum Population Trust - branded "eco-fascist" by opponents - has now won the backing of some MSPs and will today stage a major conference at the Scottish Parliament."

"SNP MSP Dr Ian McKee and Green MSP Patrick Harvie have given their support to the Holyrood conference, in which OPT members will call on Alex Salmond to launch a government campaign to limit family size, with the slogan "two's plenty".

"Prominent supporters of the OPT include its patron, BBC naturalist Sir David Attenborough and scientist Dr James Lovelock, whose "Gaia" hypothesis suggests that the Earth is a single organism and humanity is destined to be wiped out unless it reduces environmental damage."

"Government green adviser Sir Jonathon Porritt, who also briefs Prince Charles on environmental issues, is another top OPT figure."

Also read Real Street

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Childminder faces being banned

"A CHILDMINDER who drove kids to school in her car boot faces being banned after a legal battle was launched against her.

The Care Inspectorate say Hannah Chibanga also left children unsupervised, let them play inappropriate video games and lied about the number of kids in her care.

But the 47-year-old mum of five, of Glasgow, yesterday claimed the care watchdog had exaggerated her case and said her husband had driven the car with her two boys in the boot but not other people’s kids.

She added she would fight to keep her registration in court. But inspectors who visited her Garthamlock home in August said they had "concerns about the care, welfare and safety of the children".

They claim Chibanga tried to mislead an inspector about how many kids she was caring for."

Friday, 11 April 2014

Failings of Scarborough police

The four most important failures to arrest Savile all occurred at Scarborough Police Station and in the Force Intelligence Bureau at Force Headquarters:
The failure to arrest Jaconelli, from 1947/51 to 1999 which would surely have led the police to Savile.
The failure to investigate complaints about Savile in Scarborough from at least the 1970’s until his death in 2011, which would have led to his arrest and prevented decades of offending.

The failure to arrest Savile as a result of the allegation North Yorkshire Police now admits it received in about 2003 or even earlier.

The failure to pass on the intelligence to Surrey Police in 2007 that North Yorkshire Police now admits it had in at least 2003 (as Real Whitby has consistently alleged), which ensured the failure of the Surrey investigation. Again, had it been passed on, it would probably have led to Savile’s arrest, but would inevitably have revealed that North Yorkshire Police had protected Jaconelli for years, because he was a Councillor, Alderman, the Mayor, a millionaire and a prominent local business man. Something North Yorkshire Police were obviously at great pains to avoid.
Yet this has not been addressed in Operation Yewtree, the HMIC investigation, the IPCC investigation, the Cross Report or the Home Secretary’s statement to the House of Commons. Savile and Jaconelli’s blatant offending in Scarborough and the failure to investigate it properly by North Yorkshire Police have been immaculately airbrushed out of history and Operation Yewtree.

Also read Daily Mail

Profiling Scottish Children

There is a bewildering array of data-mining procedures at large. Practitioners are even encouraged to draw ‘genograms’ and ‘ecographs’ for children, detailing their aunts and uncles, siblings and grannies on both sides and mapping any associations they and their families have in their communities. The Shannari wellbeing indicators have been mapped onto a ‘wellbeing wheel’. Then there is the ‘Girfec Dashboard’, the ‘Resilience Matrix’, the ‘My World Triangle’ and flow charts galore.

More disturbing still are the ‘chronologies’ which chart life events for all children and move with them from school to school by dint of being attached to their records. SEEMiS has a handy ‘module’ for this, called a ‘Pastoral Notes Application’. The website enthuses: ‘As well as the ability to record minor events a chronology can be created for any event which could have a significant impact on a pupil.’

Between this and the Behaviour Tracking module where ‘class teachers, principal teachers and management can record and track instances of poor behaviour in real time’, the chances are that our pupils are already having highly sensitive personal data routinely recorded, tracked, analysed and profiled

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Cinderella Act is seriously flawed

The proposed law would have implications for those families willing to adopt. Would you be willing to adopt if you might be liable to criminal investigation for the emotional abuse of a troubled child?

The argument of "emotional abuse" and "risk of future emotional abuse" is often used in the care system when there has been a history of domestic violence.

It is undoubtedly the case that children can suffer emotionally when they witness conflict between their parents. However domestic violence is already illegal and anyone perpetrating domestic abuse can be prosecuted.

Campaign group Action for Children’s proposal for a change to the law defines emotional abuse as "including exposing the child to violence against others in the same household".

This would mean a domestic violence victim can be held liable for emotional abuse of the child. What kind of justice is that?

Rape victims and victims of domestic abuse are already finding this used as a reason for taking children into care.

See also:

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Early years practitioners forced out of Dundee primaries

"Education Scotland, through its work and the work of the online service, aims to ensure that teachers and early years practitioners are offered a range of continuous professional development opportunities to ensure that all children have the best start in life."
Some early years practitioners are not impressed that they are being transferred from primary schools to nurseries and do not recognise the move as either professional development or helping children: One Dundee spokesman for the council explained that reading, writing and numeracy skills are essential for pre-schoolers. Others see the situation as more like robbing Peter to pay Paul with little help now on offer for children requiring extra help in primary schools. Is this taking the focus on the earliest years one step too far?
"One of the early years practitioners (EYP) being forced to transfer from city primary schools to nurseries has claimed it will have a "devastating" impact on the pupils they help.
She also said the council’s education department had wasted money and effort training them in a new literacy programme.
The EYPs are being removed from 22 primaries as part of savings in the education budget for 2014-15. In the nurseries their wages will instead be paid by the Scottish Government.
The woman who contacted The Courier but did not want to be named, said: "I have been watching my fate unfold in the newspapers and it seems that the education department have sugar coated what is actually about to happen in the nurseries, when in fact we are not allowed to use our skills to teach reading, writing and numeracy."
One respondent had this to say:
"See 'Working for Scotland: The Government's Programme for Scotland 2012-2013.
It is stated:
Children and Young People Bill
The Children and Young People Bill will encourage early years support and intervention to improve the outcomes for all children and young people in Scotland, in particular the most vulnerable. This will help ensure all services work together to support children and young people at all stages of their lives. The Bill will also make real the rights of young people by increasing transparency, scrutiny and accountability around the public sector's approach to the realisation of these rights."
Note: 'all stages of their lives.'

Art subjects to be made tougher in exams

In September 2016 new GCSEs in art and design, music, drama, dance, citizenship, computer science, design and technology, PE and religious studies will be introduced.
Improved A-levels in music, drama, dance, design and technology, PE and religious studies will be introduced at the same time.
"I am passionate about great art, drama, dance, music and design, and I am determined to ensure every child enjoys access to the best in our culture," Mr Gove added.
"That is why I am delighted that new high-quality qualifications in creative and cultural subjects will be made available to all students."

Whilst no-one would want to deny children the enjoyment of creative subjects does making exams tougher, and therefore more competitive, really make sense?  Is this Mr Gove`s idea of an education fit for the 21st century? Or is this about steering children away from the more rational and `dangerous` subjects?

I think there might be a clue in the inclusion of `citizenship` in the list.

Police have access to Knowl View paperwork

"According to Exaro, the investigative website, detectives have been given access to 33 boxes of previously unknown paperwork as part of their investigation into historical claims that boys were sexually abused at a special school where Cyril Smith was a governor.

The archived documents include minutes of governors’ meetings, case notes and other sensitive material that relates to Knowl View special school in Rochdale.

Exaro identified the archive at Rochdale Borough Council after making a request to the local authority under the Freedom of Information Act for material related to the school.

The Council’s Deputy Chief Executive, Linda Fisher, replied by saying that she was refusing to supply the material partly because disclosure "is likely to prejudice the law enforcement or other regulatory activity carried out by the Council."

She continued: "The police have specifically stated that we should not disclose any documentation at this stage as they are concerned that the disclosure would have the potential to prejudice their inquiries."

Police confirmed to Exaro that they have asked officials at Rochdale Council to examine all the files that it holds on Knowl View. "

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Poll is against three parent children

New pollings released by the charity CARE supports the concern expressed by MPs that the Government is rushing ahead with its proposal to allow the creation of three-parent children without public support or the necessary public safety tests.

A new ComRes poll, commissioned by CARE, demonstrates that more women oppose the introduction of highly controversial techniques to help reduce the chances of women with human mitochondrial disease passing it on to their children than support it.

The hugely controversial procedures that the Government is proposing are not legal in any other country in the world and up until this point every country that has considered them has ended up expressly prohibiting them. They are also expressly prohibited by international treaties like the Council of Europe Convention on Biomedicine.

Brainwashing climate change

"The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] working group report, reported a range of possible warming that ranges for relatively un-alarming to really quite alarming. Now that range of different outcomes leads to very different conclusions. If warming is going to be slow and potentially even beneficial for the next 50 years, you adopt quite different policies to those you would adopt if we’re going to see very serious effects in the short term."

"Again, you see none of that is what our children are being taught in school. This is being mandated by the national curriculum and by the curriculum for excellence in Scotland. We traced it right back to the United Nations, who are promoting sustainable development as something that really can’t be disputed (although, if you read the academic literature, it is a disputed concept – it’s a rather nebulous concept at the best of times – but people certainly dispute whether it’s the right way for mankind to move ahead), but – yes - it carries on from the United Nations into the curricula and into the schools."

"We are calling for the ministers who are responsible for the curriculum to examine our report in detail and to institute inquiries into exactly what is going on. We’ve done a desktop review of what appears to be going on, looking at publicly available documents and trying to get a feel for what is going on in schools and this really needs a proper study to see just how bad it is. There are signs in the new English national curriculum that the level of environmentalism is being toned down. In Scotland, it appears to be getting worse, if anything. So there is a real cause for concern here, I think."

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