If I had waited a month for a scan, I would not be here
Ali Stunt is 45, the glamorous mother of two teenage boys who has interrupted her PhD on meteorites to campaign to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer. “Statistically, I should be dead,” she says. “I only narrowly qualified for surgery. If I had waited a month for a scan on the NHS, I would probably not be here today. After my operation, I learnt that only three per cent of those diagnosed survive for five years, but what really woke me up to the need for action was that this figure has not changed in 40 years.
Stunt was an apparently fit 41-year-old when the symptoms started. First, it was upper back pain and she thought she had strained something. “I felt I had a tennis ball strapped to the middle of my back. Then the pain began to radiate round to the front and to intensify. Eventually it stopped me from eating and I started to lose weight.”
Pancreatic cancer is notoriously difficult to diagnose because the early symptoms can be unspecific. In Stunt’s case, doctors wrongly and variously suspected dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, gallstones and pancreatitis before a scan – arranged privately – revealed a “mass” on her pancreas which tests later showed to be malignant. “I knew I had a pancreas and roughly where it might be, but that was about all,” she says. “The surgeon told me they ‘hoped’ to operate. It never occurred to me this might not be possible until the night before surgery. For the first time, I felt frightened.”
Eighty per cent of her pancreas was removed and as a precaution, all of her spleen. The surgery left her diabetic – though not all patients are – and chemotherapy brought on early menopause. A small price to pay, she feels. Three years on, a rare survivor of the disease, she has helped set up Pancreatic Cancer Action, a charity to raise awareness among clinicians, the public and government.
“The index of suspicion urgently needs to be raised among primary doctors,” she says, “and the public needs to know about the symptoms and the risk factors – obesity, cigarettes, diabetes and a family history. I had none of the risk factors. I was just unlucky. My great good fortune was to be fast-tracked through diagnostic tests by private medical insurance so that everything happened within a month.
“My doctors have never given me a prognosis and I have not asked. I probably ‘know’ as much as they do. They just look astounded when I come bounding into the consulting room. I realise the cancer could come back but I have to assume it won’t. Don’t get me wrong: it does scare me, especially when I’m waiting for the latest test results.”
She has put the degree on hold to concentrate on the campaign. With the help of specialists, the charity has already started an education programme and is also campaigning to increase funding for research into early diagnosis. “Pancreatic cancer has been pushed into the too-hard-to-deal-with category,” says Stunt. “It has been significantly underfunded for years.”
Mr Neville Menezes, consultant pancreatic surgeon at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford, is frustrated that, despite great progress in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, the survival rate remains stubbornly low and has not changed for 30-40 years. “The only potential for cure is to take the cancer out, if you can,” he says. But we pick up patients when the disease is so far gone you cannot operate. Only 10 in every 100 patients with pancreatic cancer can be operated on. The million-dollar question is: how can we get patients to us early? The only answer is greater awareness – among GPs, hospital doctors and the public.”
There is a fine balance, he warns, between frightening people into thinking that an indigestion attack may be pancreatic cancer and alerting them to the key symptoms, notably a combination of jaundice, back pain and weight loss.
“Sometimes when I am talking to people with a poor prognosis, I feel dreadful survivor guilt,” Stunt says. “But I feel I have been given a chance to help others. I want people to see me, three years on, and to have hope.”
NHS hospital scandal which left 1,200 dead ripe to happen again, warn campaigners
One of the worst NHS hospital care scandals – in which up to 1,200 patients died – could happen again, campaigners warned yesterday.
As a full public inquiry opened into the appalling standards of care at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, Julie Bailey said little had changed at the hospital and complaints were still being routinely ignored. Mrs Bailey, whose mother was one of the hundreds who fell victim to a regime at Stafford Hospital that left patients ‘sobbing and humiliated’, said: ‘The hospital needs to close and reopen bit-by-bit until it’s fit for purpose.’
A secret inquiry held last year found between 400 and 1,200 patients died after suffering routine neglect by hospital staff between 2005 and 2009.
Staff put cost-cutting and Government targets before care, and patients were caused ‘unimaginable suffering’, it said in findings published in February. Mrs Bailey has since set up the Cure the NHS campaign group, which has been at the forefront of the campaign for a public inquiry.
Yesterday, Robert Francis QC, chairman of both inquiries, said what he wanted to know was, ‘Why did none of the many organisations charged with the supervision and regulation of our hospitals detect that something so serious was going on and why was nothing done about it?’
He said the main purpose of the public inquiry at Stafford Civic Centre, which is expected to conclude in the middle of next year, was to determine why no action was taken by NHS management before the intervention of the Healthcare Commission and to identify what lessons could be learned.
The first inquiry found dying patients were left unwashed in their own filth for up to a month while wards were covered in blood and needles. It ruled that patients were neglected, bullied and subjected to ‘inhumane treatment’, while bullying managers deterred whistleblowers from coming forward.
Senior staff at the Trust – which was at the time officially an ‘elite’ NHS institution – were condemned for their fixation on waiting times to hit Labour targets.
But despite the catalogue of failings, no action was initially taken against staff. There are currently six trained nurses suspended pending disciplinary hearing. It is not known if anyone has been fired or has already faced disciplinary action.
Mrs Bailey’s mother Bella died in November 2007. She had been so concerned for the 86-year-old that she slept in a chair on the ward for eight weeks.
Yesterday, the 47-year-old said: ‘The Trust is still relying on a complicated system of self-assessment where it is up to the hospital to declare complaints. What’s happening at the hospital now is still as bad as it was before. I am still hearing complaints about care and treatment.’
Another victim of the scandal was John Moore-Robinson, who bled to death after doctors at Stafford Hospital failed to notice he had ruptured his spleen in a cycling accident. He was sent home with painkillers and later died. But nine months later, chief executive Martin Yeates wrote a letter to the 20-year-old’s parents saying they should ‘move on’.
Yesterday, his parents held a banner outside the civic centre where the inquiry was held that simply asked ‘Why?’ with a picture of their son and his birth and death dates. ‘The arrogance of it is despicable,’ said his father Frank. ‘The letter is an insult. I don’t for one minute think that he’s truly sorry. It makes my blood boil to think that Martin Yeates has got away with it.’
The public inquiry, announced by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley in June, is designed to build on the work of the first investigation.
The previous Labour government rejected calls for a full public investigation into events at the hospital, instead ordering the independent inquiry which published its findings in February.
Yesterday, in his opening statement, Tom Kark QC, counsel to the inquiry, vowed to leave ‘no pebble unturned’ to uncover the truth about what had happened. He said he had consulted more than 170 people, individuals and organisations and had received more than a million pages of documentation. He added: ‘In leading this inquiry, I have sought to ensure that we will explore every relevant nook and cranny in the health service.
Mrs Bailey said: ‘We’re not going to go away until we can get answers and ensure that this never happens again. It will be a legacy for people who have lost their loved ones unnecessarily in Stafford.’
New British immigration policy outlined
In her first major speech on immigration, UK Home Secretary Theresa May stated that her goal was to bring in more high-value migrants to the UK, such as investors and research scientists, while at the same time encouraging employers to fill vacant jobs with local unemployed workers.
“The government intends to control immigration by focusing on all aspects of the immigration system, not just the points-based system,” May said.
“So over the coming months action will be taken on students, families and settlement as well as people coming here to work,” she added.
According to a statement released by the UK Border Agency, her priorities include:
* encouraging entrepreneurs and investors to come to the UK
* stopping abuse of the student visa route
* ‘cutting the link’ between temporary immigration and permanent settlement
Encouraging entrepreneurs to come to the UK may come in the form of a new business visa announced recently.
May concluded her speech by stating that net migration will be reduced from the current level of hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands by the end of the Parliamentary term.
“It will take hard work and a great deal of political courage. But the British people want us to do it and it is the right thing to do. So we will do it,” she said.
A good reason not to buy Rowntrees confectionery
The radical cleric accused of inspiring the cargo bomb plot has been backed by a prominent British campaign group which has financial support from leading charities.
Cageprisoners, a self-styled human rights organisation, has a long association with Anwar al-Awlaki, who was last week accused of being one of the figures behind the terrorist plot to blow up cargo planes which saw a powerful device defused at East Midlands Airport.
The Islamic preacher, based in Yemen, was invited to address two Cageprisoners’ fundraising dinners via video link, one last year and one in 2008.
The group has now told its backers that it no longer supports the cleric and that it “disagreed” with him over “the killing of civilians”. But an examination of the Cageprisoners website last week suggested that its support for the cleric was as strong as ever.
Cageprisoners was set up to lobby on behalf of terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay and those monitored under control orders in the UK.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that it is being funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust, a Quaker-run fund set up by the chocolate-maker and philanthropist a century ago, and The Roddick Foundation, a charity set up by the family of Anita Roddick, the Body Shop founder, after her death three years ago.
The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust is giving Cageprisoners £170,000 in donations over three years – with the latest payment due this month – and The Roddick Foundation another £25,000.
In its website, recently re-branded with some of the charities’ cash, Cageprisoners carries more than 20 articles about al-Awlaki, describing him as an ‘inspiration’ and casting doubt on the evidence he is involved in terrorism.
Awlaki is believed by Western intelligence services to be an ideological figurehead of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group blamed for the cargo bombs. Last year he praised the Muslim US soldier who killed 13 colleagues at Fort Hood, Texas.
Yet despite the heads of both MI5 and MI6 saying Awlaki uses the internet to foment terrorism, the Cageprisoners website also contains video messages from the American-born radical.
Cageprisoners – a not for profit company – is headed by Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, and also employs Feroz Ali Abbasi, another detainee freed from the controversial US base.
As recently as last month its website highlighted claims by Yemeni politicians that they had “never been given evidence against [Awlaki]”.
Earlier in the year one leading activist wrote: “Anwar al-Awlaki’s contribution to Cageprisoners has always been positive, particularly when invited to our events he has only spoken from his experiences as a former prisoner.”
Mr Begg, born in Birmingham, was detained by the Americans for nearly three years after being arrested in Pakistan and accused of being an al-Qaeda terrorist.
He has interviewed al-Awlaki, and earlier this year he wrote that it “was evident that he commanded a large following and great respect amongst many Muslims”.
But Mr Begg added that, after Awlaki’s alleged torture while held in Yemen in 2006, “I am told, Anwar’s position on issues pertaining to the US foreign policy had started to become more hostile… “I wonder if it was terribly surprising if … after suffering abuse I know only too well US agents to be capable of, [he] now allegedly lauds the Fort Hood shootings as deeds of heroism.”
Other articles on the Cageprisoners website raise further questions.
One, on the death of Faraj Hassan, a former control order detainee, said he had died with a smile on his face “similar to the smiles we are used to seeing in videos of those martyred in the way of Allah while fighting in foreign war zones”.
Hassan, a Libyan who was accused of an attempted church bombing in Italy, was killed in a road crash in August. The Cageprisoners article added: ‘His death … may serve as the fertilizer that serves to revive the spirit of jihad in the Muslims of Britain.”
Despite the group’s views, it is still being provided with money by the Joseph Rowntree charity, to help with its “core costs”, and by the Roddick Foundation, which is run by the late businesswoman’s widower Gordon and other members of her family.
Cageprisoners has also received the backing of Amnesty International, which last year faced a public row when one of its staff was forced to quit after calling Amnesty’s links to Cageprisoners “a gross error of judgement”.
Cageprisoners also received a further £131,000 in donations last year from other undisclosed sources. It has used the money to pay for a rapid expansion of its work. It now has three full-time and one part-time staff members who are paid a total of £64,000 a year.
Last night Stephen Pittman, Secretary of the Joseph Rowntree Trust, defended his charity’s funding of the group.
British Think Tank Wins Libel Action Brought by Mosque
A UK think-tank has an announcement that it has defeated a libel action brought against it by a London mosque over the publication of its report “The Hijacking of British Islam.” According to the announcement by the Policy Exchange:
Policy Exchange is pleased to report that the libel action brought by the North London Central Mosque (NLCM) against it over its report The Hijacking of British Islam has now ended, following the dismissal of NLCM’s appeal against the order of Mr Justice Eady.
NLCM has paid a substantial contribution towards Policy Exchange’s costs.
A statement agreed between the parties appears on our website here. Policy Exchange has not apologised to NLCM for the publication of its report.
In September 2008, the North London Central Mosque sought to sue Policy Exchange for libel over claims made in its report The Hijacking of British Islam. Policy Exchange denied that the claims were libelous.
On 26 November 2009, Mr Justice Eady struck out NLCM’s claim on the grounds that the NLCM lacked the capacity to sue in respect of the report.
NLCM sought the Court’s permission to appeal. This was twice refused. It was granted by Lord Justice Sedley on 21 April 2010 on the third time of asking. Lord Justice Sedley nevertheless emphasised that he did not believe there was a realistic prospect of NLCM overturning Mr Justice Eady’s ruling.
In the meantime, in February 2010 the trustees of the mosque abandoned their individual claims in libel against Policy Exchange in respect of the same report and paid a substantial contribution to Policy Exchange’s legal costs.
In October 2010 NLCM discontinued its appeal and paid a substantial contribution to Policy Exchange’s legal costs. Following that agreement the appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 5 October 2010. Policy Exchange agreed to publish the statement which appears here.
Policy Exchange has not apologised to either the mosque or the trustees for the publication of the report. The case is now closed. A spokesman for Policy Exchange said: `We are delighted that this case has now been brought to a satisfactory conclusion.’
The Policy Exchange investigation found that radical material, much of it from Saudi Arabia, was available in 25% of the mosques visited including some of the most important mosques in the U.K. According to the report summary:
On the one hand, the results were reassuring: in only a minority of institutions – approximately 25% – was radical material found. What is more worrying is that these are among the best-funded and most dynamic institutions in Muslim Britain – some of which are held up as mainstream bodies. Many of the institutions featured here have been endowed with official recognition. This has come in the form of, official visits from politicians and even members of the Royal Family; provision of funding; `partnership’ associations; or some other seal of approval.
Within the literature identified here, a number of key themes emerge – many of which focus around the twin concepts of `loyalty’ and `enmity’. Simply put, these notions demand that the individual Muslim must not merely feel deep affection for and identity with, his fellow believers and with all that is authentically Islamic. The individual Muslim must also feel an abhorrence for non-believers, hypocrites, heretics, and all that is deemed `un-Islamic’. The latter category encompasses those Muslims who are judged to practise an insufficiently rigorous form of Islam. Much of the material is thus infused with a strident sectarianism, in which many Muslims – particularly the very large number of Sufis in this country and around the world – are placed beyond the pale.
More widely, Muslims are urged to separate themselves from people and things that are not considered Islamic; a separation that is to be mental, emotional, and at times, even physical. Western society, in particular, is held to be sinful, corrosive and corrupting for Muslims. Western values – particularly concerning the position and rights of women and in the realm of sexuality generally – are rejected as inimical to Islam.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella organization heavily dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, responded to the report by stating:
The Hijacking of British Islam’ plumbs new depths in the ongoing and transparent attempts to try and delegitimise popular mainstream Islamic institutions in the UK and replace them with those who are subservient to neo-conservative aims. The report cultivates an insidious programme of generating sectarianism amongst British Muslims by preferring some traditions of Islam over others.
Many of the mosques identified in the Policy Exchange report are members of the MCB.
The British Muslim Initiative (BMI), a U.K. Muslim Brotherhood organization claimed that the report itself was “wildly fabricated.”and called on the Conservative Party to “reconsider their close relationship with Policy Exchange.”
‘Race relation’ threat to British shopkeeper for selling a book that pokes fun at the French
When it comes to humour – and much else – the two nations have rarely seen eye to eye. And the British ability to rattle the sangfroid of the French still appears to be in good working order.
For when shopkeeper Alyson Jackson began stocking a book titled 50 Reasons to Hate the French, the joke apparently got lost in translation. As a result, Miss Jackson has received complaints from French families who have threatened to report her to `race relations’. However, the former policewoman has vowed to continue selling the popular book, which she says is `just a bit of fun’.
The controversial hardback, by Alex Clarke and Jules Eden, mocks the demise of Concorde, questions the merit of French food and describes the beret as `the devil’s own cowpat’.
Perhaps more pertinently, the Gallic sense of humour also gets a bashing. But it seems the French didn’t see the funny side. A week after the book went on sale in Mish Mash in Battersea, south London, a woman phoned the shop to voice her disgust. In a voicemail message, she said: `We found your book in the window in extremely bad taste. What are you thinking of? This isn’t the thing to do. We are a French family and offended. We have sense of humour about ourselves but, really, please.’
A second woman, who called herself Madame Duval, left a recorded message a week later, saying: `You may find it amusing but I’m afraid we do not. `We will be getting in touch with race relations about this. Now you may think this is a little heavy handed but it’s not, so if you would like to remove the books that would be something.’
Miss Jackson said she was shocked by the reaction. `I just thought I would put them in the shop as Christmas approached as a possible gift idea. I just thought it would be a little bit of fun,’ she added.
`We have always had a love-hate relationship with the French. Everyone knows we are supposed to hate the French and they are supposed to hate us. But it is a joke. If they read the book they would see that. `The fact is I actually like the French. All the French I have ever met have been quite lovely. `We just enjoy having a bit of a dig now and again. The striking recently is a good example. We all had a good grumble about that.’
She added that she has already sold half her stock of the book – and plans to get more copies in.
The British railway passenger told it’s too dangerous to take a cup of tea to his seat
A passenger was banned from carrying a cup of tea back to his seat on a train because of health-and-safety rules. Instead, one of the buffet staff carried Tore Fauske’s drink to his seat for him, walking two steps behind the bemused traveller.
Interpreter and author Mr Fauske was told that carrying the tea back through the carriage would pose a danger to other passengers because buffet car staff did not have a paper bag in which to put the plastic cup.
The 79-year-old was returning home to Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on the 12.30pm service from Birmingham New Street. He said: `I use this train service all the time and they normally give you a small paper bag to carry your tea in. But this time they didn’t have any. `The lady was very apologetic but she said I couldn’t have a tea because there were no bags.
When I asked her why not, she said it was for health-and-safety reasons. She said they wouldn’t be able to let anyone carry a cup of tea without a bag through the train. I thought it was a joke. `In the end the member of staff had to walk behind me carrying the tea in case I fell over. This is the first time I’ve had my own personal tea caddy. He walked two steps behind me the whole way back to my seat.’ Mr Fauske said the same thing had happened to other passengers.
A spokesman for CrossCountry Trains, which operates the service, said: `It was a health-and-safety issue. It’s to prevent customers pouring hot water over themselves or other people on the train. `We had run out of paper bags and a member of staff stepped in to help out.’
Out-of-control government schools in Britain
To my everlasting shame, I left a teaching job because I was scared of a child. Although he was only 13, Ralph was a well-built boy who was known for taking an irrational dislike to new teachers. Unfortunately, he displayed a greater antagonism towards me than to any of the other five supply teachers at his West Yorkshire school.
Retreating to the back of the class during lessons, he’d proclaim my failings to the other pupils — ‘Mr Carroll stinks of s***’; ‘Sir’s a virgin’; ‘Don’t listen to him. He’s only a supply teacher — he don’t know nothing.’
If I told him to be quiet, he spoke louder; if I ignored him, he laughed. I wished I could send him out, but the head had made it clear that once the pupils were in a classroom, we had to do our best to keep them there.
So I was left with no choice but to endure Ralph’s taunts as I struggled to stop the other pupils chatting and play-fighting. Until, one day, he walked out of the class during a lesson, closely followed by one of his mates. I found them both sitting in the corridor outside. As I approached, Ralph jumped to his feet. A vein throbbed in his temple. ‘I’m gonna break your f***ing jaw, you posh c***!’ he shouted, drawing his arm back to swing at me with a clenched fist.
I reacted on pure instinct, immediately raising my arms up to chest height with my palms facing outward. Submissive. Accommodating. ‘All right, all right, I’m going,’ I said, backing into the classroom, hands still in the same position.
As I sat down on the edge of a table, I realised I was shaking. Outside, I could hear Ralph still ranting about smashing my face.
Not many things intimidate me. I’ve been a teacher for four years — and I’ve been threatened and sworn at more times than I can count. But at that moment, for the first time, I believed a pupil could, and would, carry out his threat.
Just a few months earlier, I’d been living in Somerset, forging a successful career as an English teacher in a good state secondary school. I was 27, and I’d already started my slow climb up the hierarchy. Apart from a constant deluge of paperwork and implausible government targets, I enjoyed my work — yet I was uncomfortably aware that some teachers were less fortunate.
One former colleague had been ‘held hostage’ in front of his class by two boys from Year 11 — what used to be the fifth form — brandishing a very real-looking fake gun. Another had a door slammed shut in her face so violently that the glass window shattered over her. And I’d been shocked to discover that almost half of all England’s newly qualified teachers are now leaving the profession within five years.
What was it really like to teach in a school at the bottom of the league tables, I wondered? Before settling down in a decent job, I decided to find out for myself. I set myself the limit of a year: in that time, I’d travel to areas all over England to find work as a supply teacher. A week after making this decision, I handed in a letter of resignation to my headteacher.
My first job was at a technology college which had only just avoided closure after a series of visits from Ofsted education inspectors.
Before entering my new classroom, I peeked through a small window in the door. Students were sprawled across the tables, leaning from the open windows and throwing missiles at each other. I took a deep breath and walked in. ‘Morning, Year 10,’ I hollered over the din. ‘Time to sit down, please.’
Chairs were flung about, snatches of insults occasionally broke free of the hubbub, and no one appeared to have heard me. By the time I managed to get them all seated, seven minutes of the lesson had been wasted. ‘All right,’ I said. ‘My name is Mr Carroll. Today, we’re going to be working on….”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a heavily made-up girl lean over and snatch something from an adjoining desk. Her neighbour immediately exploded. ‘For f***’s sake, Michaela!’ she yelled. ‘Give it back, you bitch!’
More yelling, more chairs overturned as they fought over the stolen object. I tried to make the girls return to their seats, but they knew as well as I did that I couldn’t force them to obey me.
‘Look,’ I said. ‘We need to… ‘No one’s listening to you,’ one lad told me politely.
So I decided to assign them a task: Write a letter to your headteacher, persuading him to get rid of school uniform. The best approach, I thought, would be to urge the pupils on individually. I started with the front row. ‘Right, girls,’ I said. ‘What I need you to do is….’
‘I’m doing it!’ erupted one of them, Tracey. ‘God! Just f*** off, will you?’ ‘I can’t have you talking to me like that,’ I said calmly. ‘Please go and stand outside, and I’ll be out in a minute to discuss this with you.’ She clapped her hands, hoorayed, rushed out of the door — and vanished.
Soon after that, a fight erupted between two 16-year-olds outside the room, and the entire class rushed out to chant encouragement. Another five minutes were wasted.
Once they were all back inside, a dark-haired lad suddenly leapt across his table and began stabbing another boy in the back of the hand with a straightened paperclip, drawing blood.
Five minutes before the end of the lesson, the class unanimously decided to pack up and walk out, despite my protestations. Total teaching: zero.
At lunchtime, the other teachers and I twice had to surround groups of fighting children in the playground to stop an explosion of violence.
Our only weapons were words. The kids were aware that if we so much as laid a hand on them, we could be reported for assault.
I then moved to a secondary school in Birmingham where I witnessed a pupil throwing a water bomb that exploded on a table. He scarpered, but I managed to catch his companion in crime — a thickly built 16-year-old called Ben. When I confronted him, he thrust his face inches from mine. ‘Who the f*** are you talking to?’ he spat out. We held each other’s stares. A crowd grew around us, avid to see the stand-off between the new teacher and the school bully.
After a few tense moments, Ben gave a mocking chuckle and walked off. As I removed my jacket, I noticed two large sweat stains on my shirt.
The lessons at this school weren’t lessons at all: instead, I spent most of the time removing tables and chairs from the hands of teenagers and placing them back on the floor. Usually, I ‘taught’ from the door rather than the whiteboard — if I didn’t bar the way, the kids simply got up and left.
Assaults were common. One boy strode out of the classroom only to return a minute later with a long plank of wood with which he intended to ‘batter’ a girl. Fortunately, he was physically restrained by another pupil.
There were many evenings when I felt shell-shocked, not so much at the quantity of bad behaviour, which has probably always existed in the worst-performing schools. No, what struck me forcibly as I travelled from one chaotic school to another is that it’s the nature of the bad behaviour which is driving teachers away.
They’re up against behaviour that’s become personal, aggressive and vicious, dealing with outbursts that can’t be glossed over or laughed about later in the staff-room. Yet, at the same time, fewer pupils than ever are being excluded from school. Why? Because the Labour government brought in tough financial penalties for schools that use this much-needed last resort.
Chucking money at failing schools, I soon realised, made very little difference. One school near Chesterfield in Derbyshire, for example, was brand new, with state-of-the-art equipment and resources — yet a large percentage of its students were persistently vile to the staff and cruel to each other.
There was one boy who spent an entire computer studies lesson doing a porn search on a school computer until he found one picture that had escaped the school’s filter: a close-up of a large pair of breasts. Hitting the full-screen key, he shouted over to a quiet girl, ‘Hey! Bet you wish you had these, ya flat bitch!’
I lost count of the number of times a teenager shouted — no, screamed — in my face.
For me, though, the lowest point of the year was my confrontation with Ralph, the 13-year-old bully who threatened to break my jaw.
I’d had no choice but to back away when he faced me down, but the head’s response was to set up a meeting with Ralph and me. When the boy was asked why he’d threatened me, he said: ‘Because he’s a f***ing div. I hate him.’
He reluctantly promised he’d never threaten an adult again, but he refused to apologise. There was no punishment. As he walked out the door, he called over his shoulder: ‘Posh c***.’
Later that day, I resigned, telling the head that I couldn’t work in an environment where this kind of thing was allowed to happen. The head told me he understood, and offered to write me a reference…
BritGov goes to war with the teaching unions: Will allow heads to decide salary levels
Ministers are heading for a showdown with teachers over their pay deal and plans to rank schools by staff qualifications and sickness rates. The Coalition could break up national deals on teachers’ pay, allowing heads to dictate salary levels and severely weakening the power of the unions.
The plans emerged yesterday in a five-year blueprint issued by Education Secretary Michael Gove’s department. Parents will be given a wealth of extra information on school performance, including the standards of education attained by teaching staff and how often they go off sick.
New-look school league tables will tell parents what proportion of staff have only basic qualifications and how many have education degrees, masters or doctorates.
Levels of pay at each school will also be laid bare, but the information on pay and qualifications is likely to be set out in a range of bands so it cannot be pinpointed to individual teachers.
The initiatives will infuriate teaching unions who guard national pay bargaining rights closely and are staunchly opposed to league tables. They say regular negotiations to fix a nationwide level of pay for teachers are essential, but yesterday’s blueprint says head teachers should be handed ‘flexibility’.
The Coalition will ‘develop proposals on pay and conditions’ beginning next spring, with a predicted implementation date of September 2012. Reforms are expected to include a plan to abandon fixed pay scales to allow heads to pay premiums for the best teachers or those in neglected subjects such as science and maths.
In a further move, parents will be given extra information about how their children are doing at school, including new ‘readiness to progress’ measures at five and 11. For five-year-olds, this measure is expected to be linked to their achievements against the so-called ‘nappy curriculum’, which has come under fire for requiring formal learning too soon.
The Coalition has said the framework will be reformed by September 2012 to make it ‘less bureaucratic’.
The assessment for 11-year-olds will show parents whether or not their children have basic command of the three Rs.
Further developments include a new ‘school choice’ measure allowing parents to gauge the extent of choice in their area.
Parents would also be able to find out what proportion of children at prospective schools are entitled to free school meals and have special educational needs.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said: ‘These proposals demonstrate the deep-rooted contempt this Coalition Government has for teachers. ‘The negative attitudes which are clearly underpinning this proposal will leave a nasty taste in the mouth of a hard-working and dedicated profession.’ She added: ‘To focus on sickness absence in this way merely gives the green light to employers to harass and pressurise sick teachers back into work or force them out of the profession.’
Leading businesses yesterday accused schools of creating a generation ‘who struggle to read, write or do basic maths’. Executives from supermarkets and the food industry warned that school leavers had such a poor grasp of the three Rs that they cannot be trusted with basic elements of business. A poll found that 85 per cent of food industry executives said teenagers who came to them for employment lacked basic numeracy.
The solar panel gold rush that threatens to ruin Britain’s countryside…and make millions for the Germans and Chinese
Farmers are being offered up to £50,000 a year to fill fields with solar panels under a Government-backed green initiative that threatens to change the face of the British countryside.
More than 100 planning applications have been submitted and work on a large-scale installation in Wiltshire is due to begin later this month.
But with a 30-acre farm able to accommodate up to 18,000 of the 2ft-high panels, campaigners fear some rural areas could be submerged by a sea of black silicon slabs.
The ‘Feed-in Tariff’ scheme was launched in April as part of an attempt to meet European Union targets on renewable energy. But the financial incentives are so generous that farmers are being cold-called by developers keen to sign contracts before the payment structure is reviewed in 2012.
The influx is led by German and Chinese companies, but there is also interest from speculators who have seen profits slump since similar schemes were scaled down or abandoned in Spain, Italy and Germany to cut costs.
Dustin Benton, senior policy officer at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: ‘There is a real push now by developers to make the most of the short time-window. Solar panels are a useful form of renewable energy but there are many places where they should not go.’
Farmers can deal directly with their power supplier or go into partnership with a renewable energy developer or a private investor who will set up a company to run the business. The company is paid by the power supplier for the electricity it generates and the farmer gets rent for the use of his land.
The average rental price for land in Cornwall, where the weather is judged to be most suitable for renewable energy, is £1,500 an acre, which means a farmer with 35 acres to spare could receive £52,500 a year.
At the other end of the spectrum, the owner of a one-acre field might be in line for £2,000 a year. But industry experts said this smaller area would be less attractive to developers because of the proportionately higher cost of installing the panels and cables.
A minimum tax-free return is guaranteed for 25 years. The farmer also receives a payment for any power transmitted from his land to the National Grid.
Energy regulator Ofgem, which runs the scheme on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, says it will promote small-scale, low-carbon power generation. But experts have estimated the cost to consumers, via higher energy bills, at £8.6 billion. They also claim the initiative will bring relatively few environmental benefits compared with those in hotter climates.
Dr Jonathan Scurlock, the chief adviser on renewable energy for the National Farmers’ Union, said the scheme could help struggling parts of the agricultural sector. But he admitted opposition was inevitable due to the ‘industrial’ look of the panels. ‘
Lansdowne RE, a property agent in Mayfair, Central London, has been asked to find sites in England suited to solar developments by an Austrian company. Rupert Hoffen, of the Mayfair firm, said: ‘The 25-year tariffs are very appealing to overseas investors.’
Russell Hayman, who runs a farm near Honiton, Devon, was cold-called by a land agent who offered an annual £500 an acre in return for installing hundreds of solar panels in his fields. Mr Hayman, who turned down the proposal, said: ‘If the subsidy was abolished, that would leave me with no income and a load of wires lying across my land.’
South West England is at the centre of what has been called the ‘sun rush’ with up to 70 planning applications submitted to local authorities. Lucy Hunt of the Cornwall Development Company, which promotes investment in the county, said: ‘We are seeing the start of a solar gold rush.’ One of the world’s biggest makers of solar panels is Yingli Green Energy of China, which is now turning its attention from continental Europe to Britain.
Another leading manufacturer, SolarWorld of Germany, claims solar power will enable farmers ‘to expand their business’.
Work on Britain’s first full-scale solar farm is due to start this month near Malmesbury in Wiltshire. Anthony Hibbard, who owns the site and is a director of solar-energy company Sunstroom, said: ‘This is a relatively small development which will produce enough electricity for 20 homes.’
Conservative MP and former Cabinet Minister Peter Lilley said: ‘It is bizarre, in these cost-cutting times, to have a scheme which will cost 20 times as much as the benefits it will produce in terms of reduced CO2 emissions. Far from creating green jobs in Britain, it will create jobs in China.’
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: ‘Our Feed-in Tariff is designed to encourage people to generate their own energy and contribute to the security of our energy supplies. ‘Thanks to these incentives, farmers have an opportunity to embrace renewable energy.’
Aggressive statins use cuts risk of heart attack and stroke (?)
What a ludicrous report! Statins have such severe side effects that only people who were unusually robust in the first place would have been able tolerate high doses. The effects are tiny in absolute terms anyway and the most important outcome — death — was not affected!
HIGHER doses of statins cut the risk of heart attacks and stroke by one-seventh compared with regular statin treatment.
The study looked at five trials in which around 40,000 patients, advised to lower their levels of blood cholesterol, received either regular statin treatment or intensive treatment, according to a review published by The Lancet.
At the one-year point, intensive statins produced a “highly significant” additional reduction of 15 per cent in cases of heart attack, coronary bypass and stroke compared with regular doses.
The analysis found no increase in cancer or mortality from non-cardiovascular disease.
The research was carried out by the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration, led by Colin Baigent, an Oxford University professor.
Statins, the biggest-selling prescription drugs in the world, work by reducing blood levels of artery-clogging “bad” cholesterol.
In a second study, also carried by The Lancet, British scientists found that, among high-risk patients, higher doses of statins reduced the risk of cardiac arrest, blockage or stroke by six per cent compared to lower doses.
There was no difference in cardiovascular fatalities
The trial was conducted among 12,000 men and women who had previously had a heart attack. They received either 80 milligrams or 20mg of simvastatin daily.
Should Britain rediscover private toll roads?: “One result of the Comprehensive Spending Review is that there are more opportunities for private investment to provide what the government can no longer afford. One project to be cut is a proposed relief road in the Midlands, which was meant to ease pressure on a key artery linking the region with Felixtowe. However, the Department of Transport describes the scheme as unaffordable. Cue a sensible alternative — a private toll road.”
There is a BIG new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.