Senior bureaucrat complicit in the agonizing death of a toddler still unrepentant
It takes a socialist bureaucrat to be so devoid of normal human feeling
The disgraced ex-head of children’s social services at the heart of the Baby P scandal is to study for a PhD in which she will examine ‘how society copes with unpalatable truths’.
Sharon Shoesmith, who was sacked from Haringey Council after then Children’s Secretary Ed Balls demanded her removal live on television, has said she is turning to academic research because the aftermath of the horrific case has left her unemployable.
In a self-pitying interview, she continues to deny responsibility and claims she needs to find ‘some way of living my life knowing I wasn’t blamed for the brutal murder of a child’. But the area she has chosen to research will inevitably fuel accusations she considers herself a victim of the scandal.
Ms Shoesmith, 58, has been highly critical of the public’s response to the tragic death of Peter Connelly – known as Baby P – and has described the outcry as ‘absurd’.
She has maintained her innocence after the social work department she led was found to have missed dozens of opportunities to intervene in Peter’s care before he died, despite evidence he was being mistreated.
Ms Shoesmith will begin studying for her £5,000-a-year doctorate at the University of London after completing a postgraduate certificate in psychotherapy later this month. If she completes the course, which can take up to five years, she will be entitled to call herself Dr Shoesmith.
Ms Shoesmith said: ‘I can’t get a job. I’m unemployed and unemployable. But you can’t stop me using my brain. I’m still living in a time warp because I haven’t been able to move on at all. ‘I can’t get any work, so the actions of the Secretary of State that day wiped out 35 years of a career and my future.’
The news of her academic ambitions has caused dismay among child safety campaigners. Claude Knights, director of children’s charity Kidscape, said: ‘This could be interpreted as a cathartic exercise in relation to her ongoing fight to clear her name regarding the horrific events leading to Peter Connelly’s murder. ‘We have to ask if someone who was at the forefront of discovering how society copes with unpalatable truths could obtain closure from the studies that she is planning. There will certainly be no closure for baby Peter.’
Ms Shoesmith was sacked from her £130,000-a-year post in December 2008 after a damning report found her team repeatedly failed to take Baby P into care despite evidence of abuse. Mr Balls invoked rarely used powers to order her removal.
The toddler died in 2007 after suffering horrendous injuries inflicted by his mother, her lover and their lodger.
But Ms Shoesmith tries to divert attention away from her own role in the scandal in the interview by claiming that Mr Balls put children at risk by placing the blame for the
Many staff left Haringey Council as a result of the case and she says: ‘It was absolutely clear to me the devastation that was going to cause [to the social work profession]. ‘Children were never so at risk in Haringey as they were from that day because of the exodus of staff.’
She reveals her fellow directors at Haringey Council signed and sent her a ‘Thinking of you’ card – five days after she was sacked and two days before her dismissal hearing. She says this was ‘confusing to say the least’.
In the interview, published in this week’s edition of magazine Children & Young People Now, she complains that being blamed for the scandal put her own life at risk.
Ms Shoesmith, who is taking her legal fight over the decision to sack her without compensation to the Court of Appeal, said: ‘Public accountability for me was police officers in my bedroom screwing down the windows. ‘It was me being advised about my safety on the streets of London. ‘Public accountability was, I think, putting our lives at risk.’
A dripping wet Tory
Freed mentally ill prisoners could ‘bump someone off’ – but they should NOT be in prison, claims British Justice Secretary. And he calls OTHER people “loopy”! He should be put out to grass, where he belongs
Kenneth Clarke was branded ‘pig-headed’ by a fellow Tory MP last night after saying the public must accept the danger that his plan to free mentally ill prisoners could lead to someone being ‘bumped off’. The Justice Secretary said it was ‘loopy’ to claim crime could be solved by sending all criminals to jail.
And he airily dismissed reports that he had clashed with David Cameron over his prison shake-up, saying: ‘I’m not going to start analysing the Prime Minister. He’s not where I am in the party, that’s true.’
Mr Clarke defended his policy of reducing the number of mentally ill and drug addicts in jail. [Those two are not the same at all] ‘Most members of the public, if they met some of the mentally ill people in prison would think, “What on earth is this person doing here?” People would be shocked by how bad the conditions are in some prisons. People think they are hotels. There are quite a few hard nicks out there that would dispel that myth.’
Asked what would happen if a mentally unstable offender released under his new regime stabbed someone to death, Mr Clarke said: ‘The first time someone bumps someone off the fortnight after they are let out, there will be absolute outrage. ‘But you have to explain to the sensible public that you can’t give an absolute guarantee. ‘It’s about greatly reducing the risk of incidents like this happening. We can do that by providing these people with proper treatment.’ [Only if they keep taking their pills, which many don’t] He acknowledged: ‘I suppose I’m more liberal than most Conservatives.’
Mr Clarke said he is determined to press ahead with what he calls a ‘rehabilitation revolution’ designed to curb the high rate of re-offending by prisoners. He says it is a vital part of his plan to reverse the doubling in the prison population to 85,000 since the early Nineties. He said: ‘Crime is also caused by social, educational and economic factors, but it’s loopy to think you can solve it by locking everyone up. No one can argue that what we are doing now isn’t a failure.’
Contrary to Press reports, Mr Clarke said he did not intend to scrap all minimum recommended sentences for killers. ‘Murder is murder. Parliament must have a role in setting that sentence. But (the present guidelines) are nonsense. Why is it more serious for a battered wife to pick up a kitchen knife and stab her husband than for someone slowly to poison to death an old lady for her money?’
He defended judges against claims that they are all ‘wets and can’t be trusted’, saying: ‘I trust the judges more than some people do. ‘When I started they were seen as elderly, reactionary, savage men who didn’t understand the lives of ordinary people and imposed wicked long sentences.’
Mr Clarke, who is 70 and entered the Commons in 1970 when Mr Cameron was just three years old, played down persistent reports that the Prime Minister believes he is taking far too soft a line on crime and punishment. And he denied Mr Cameron had slapped him down over his proposal to abolish the minimum term murderers must serve before they can be let back on to the streets on parole.
‘Of course you do have to touch base with the Prime Minister,’ Mr Clarke observed casually. ‘We discussed it and it was all cleared, it didn’t take very long. ‘It was nothing like the meetings I had with Margaret Thatcher over health reforms when we had blazing rows. There isn’t a difference between us. I’m not going to start analysing the Prime Minister. He’s not where I am in the party, that’s true. He is Eurosceptic.
‘No one planned this prison explosion. It is doing harm. The re-offending rates are catastrophic. We have these overcrowded, dysfunctional prisons and we are not breaking the cycle of lock ’em up, let ’em out.’
Mr Clarke’s chief Tory opponent, Shipley MP Philip Davies, said: ‘Ken Clarke does have a tendency to political pig-headedness. His law and order beliefs are like his pro-Euro beliefs – he is equally wrong and equally adamant about both. ‘It is a false argument for him to claim that those of us who want criminals sent to prison somehow do not believe in rehabilitation. It is a question of where the rehabilitation takes place.’
Conservative MPs are divided over laid-back grandee Mr Clarke. Some say his experience is a huge asset, but others claim his off-hand manner is as damaging as his lenient stance on prisons.
When popular ‘Cameron Cutie’ Essex Tory MP Priti Patel asked him for an assurance last week that scrapping laws designed to keep paedophiles behind bars until they are no longer dangerous would not backfire, Mr Clarke scoffed at ‘loony tunes’ critics. ‘He had no right to insult Priti like that and will pay for it if he isn’t careful,’ warned a fellow newly-elected female Tory MP.
And former Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw says he fears Mr Clarke’s policies will lead to more lawlessness not less.
Film-maker Julian Hendy, whose father Philip was murdered in Bristol in 2007 by a mentally unstable man with a history of criminal behaviour, said Mr Clarke ‘sounded pretty glib’. Mr Hendy, who spent nearly three years researching mental health homicides in Britain after the murder, said: ‘I’d like to meet Ken Clarke to talk about the reality of losing someone to someone who has mental health problems.
‘Every year, 100 people are killed by someone who has mental health problems. It would be OK to release them if they were to get proper treatment – but the system is simply not up to it.’
Racial abuse against whites gets slap on the wrist in Britain
A teacher who was convicted of a race crime after calling a youth ‘white trash’ has been reprimanded by the General Teaching Council for her ‘unacceptable professional conduct’. But the GTC’s Professional Conduct Committee decided that, although it was a ‘serious’ matter, it was not necessary to suspend Jane Turner from the classroom.
Mrs Turner was working at Moseley School, a specialist language college in Birmingham, when she was convicted at Halesowen Magistrates’ Court in October 2009 of using racially threatening words or behaviour likely to cause harassment or distress six months earlier outside a school 20 miles away.
She was made subject of a community order for one year with a requirement to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work, and was ordered to pay compensation of £50.
The General Teaching council also investigated and announcing its decision said: ‘On 22nd April 2009 Mrs Turner witnessed a dispute between a group of young people near school premises.
‘Mrs Turner intervened in the dispute and in the heat of the moment was observed by a parent of one of the other children saying, “Go and play with your own little white friends, you’re nothing but white trash”.’
The findings continued: ‘Mrs Turner accepts that making a comment like this amounts to unprofessional conduct. Mrs Turner accepts that her words on this occasion may have been perceived as racist and that it is entirely inappropriate for a registered teacher to make such a comment.
‘The committee agrees. A registered teacher must demonstrate respect for diversity and promote equality. Conviction of an offence of this type brings the profession into disrepute.
‘Although the offence was not committed in the vicinity of the school where Mrs Turner was teaching at that time, her behaviour set a very bad example for the schoolchildren who were present at the time.’
The committee said that it took into account that she was of previous good character and that, while she was not at first willing to accept what she had done, Mrs Turner had now said that she was ‘genuinely sorry’.
It added that the police report referred to her being concerned for the wellbeing of a family member present at the time of the incident and also said that her head teacher had not found it necessary to take any further action within the school.
The findings said that in other circumstances a much more severe sanction would have been appropriate, but that having regard to all the mitigating circumstances of the case, the committee considered that the appropriate and proportionate response was a reprimand, which would remain on Mrs Turner’s professional registration for two years.
Human rights laws cost Britain £42bn in rulings and payouts
Membership of the European Court of Human Rights has cost UK taxpayers more than £42billion, according to a report. The bill for complying with its judgments has seen money thrown at litigation and diverted from essential services, it is claimed.
The court, based in Strasbourg, France, has even forced Parliament to overturn a number of UK laws. It even made the government give prisoners the vote – despite strong opposition from ministers and the public.
The court rules on cases brought against countries that have signed the European Convention on Human Rights, a code drawn up in the light of Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism.
The study into how much the convention and its court cost Britain, which became a signatory in 1950, was carried out by the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
Dr Lee Rotherham, author of the report, said: ‘Fifty years on from the days of Stalin and Hitler, the Strasbourg court is no longer needed to protect us from a knock on the door at 3am, or being deported with a handcart. It carries an increasingly political agenda that is running roughshod over our laws and our courts, at major costs to the taxpayer and to business.
‘In the homeland of Magna Carta, you would hope that politicians and human rights lawyers might have more self confidence. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States get by very well without joining up to continental human rights courts. Britain can too.’
Controversial rulings include a transsexual serving time for manslaughter and attempted rape being allowed to move to a woman’s prison even though he committed the offences while a man. The court has also prevented the deportation of foreigners found guilty of serious offences.
The UK lost its first case at the court – which is independent from the EU – in 1975 and had to pay out its first damages in 1980. The report suggested that Britain has lost more than three quarters – 331 out of 418 – of cases heard in Strasbourg.
Labour’s Human Rights Act of 1998 was supposed to reduce the number of appeals to Europe by applying Strasbourg principles in British courts. The rate of lost cases has worsened however.
The cost of complying with judgments under the convention is £17.3billion to date, the report said. In addition, the growth of a compensation culture fostered by the court has added a further £25billion in costs.
Sian Herbert, of the think tank Open Europe, said: ‘The ECHR and the European Court of Justice [which rules on EU law] now act as a de facto supreme court in the UK in many ways. ‘While we need to remain a country committed to strong protection of basic liberties and rights, these two bodies lack the democratic and judicial legitimacy to fulfil this duty.’
Scaring the kids: Santa might not come unless you are Green enough!
Even the Leftist “Guardian” (below) is dubious about it
CiTV, the children’s arm of ITV (the UK’s oldest and most-viewed terrestrial commercial network), is set to feature a new series called Mission: Green Santa, during the run-up to Christmas. This is how the media news site How-do.co.uk is reporting it:
The new 10-part children’s show, Mission: Green Santa, has been licensed to ITV and in each 12-minute episode, climatologist and amateur reporter, Dr Maurice Bergs will tell children about the dangers and global warming and encourage them to log onto the Green Santa website to make an environmental pledge. The programmes will include interviews with Santa’s helpers and live links to schools taking part across the UK.
Dr Bergs is played by newcomer Ben Faulks, who stars alongside Anita Dobson, as Mrs Santa.
Mission: Green Santa is produced by Patrick Egerton and directed by its co-creators Danny Brooke Taylor (creative director at MCBD) and Colin Offland, Chief’s managing director. Matt Baker is the writer. It was licensed for CiTV by Jamila Metran. The series kicks off on 13 December and will run until Christmas eve.
For those of you who recognise the Green Santa idea, it was originally thought up in December 2008, when Love joined forces with Chief to launch the then web-only initiative to get children interested in green issues.
Over at the website for Chief Productions, the Manchester-based production company responsible for the series, this is how the programme is being described:
Dr Maurice Bergs is a climate scientist and he’s discovered something truly shocking that he needs to tell the world. We know the ice-caps are melting, and that it’s all our fault. But did we know that global warming is threatening Christmas itself? Why? Because Santa’s ice runway is melting too. If it gets much shorter, then Santa’s sleigh won’t make the take-off on Christmas eve and good children across the world will go without their presents.
The objective of Green Santa is to engage kids with the story of Santa’s melting runway and then encourage them to make online pledges to save energy in their homes and schools. Kids will be given direct feedback on the positive impacts of their pledges and will be kept up to date on what’s going on at Santa’s compound. Get involved at http://www.green-santa.com [not yet live].
This description alone is sure to raise hackles is certain predictable corners. But, for somewhat different reasons, I have to say that I’m also not convinced that this is an entirely sensible way of getting children interested in the topic of climate change.
The three-minute trailer for the programme appeases me a little given that the presentation style is clearly light-hearted and self-mocking, but the central premise that climate change is melting Santa’s runway and, therefore, could, if you don’t make a pledge, result in a lack of Christmas presents (which, of course, will be advertised to the young viewers in the ad breaks!) is, in my view, an unhelpful blancmange of psychophysical triggers and one that is dangerously close to warrant being labelled emotional blackmail.
Surely, we’ve learned the lesson by now that scaring people into action has been shown to rarely work in the long term? If any lesson was learned through the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s ill-judged Act on C02 “Bedtime Stories” adverts, then this was it.
I asked Adam Corner, a research associate in the Understanding Risk research group at Cardiff University, to watch the trailer and offer his own view. Corner specialises in the “application of psychological and social scientific research to practical questions such as the effective communication of climate change, and the psychological barriers to engaging in pro-environmental behaviours”.
This is what he told me afterwards:
Children learn through stories – and so trying to weave climate change into stories that children already understand, like Santa and his sleigh, is an important idea. The danger – as shown by the Act On CO2 “bedtime story” advert – is that scaring children to care about climate change can be counter-productive, not least because their parents resent it. Is threatening kids that their presents won’t be delivered unless they save energy at home really the best approach?
People respond better to being shown what to do than they do to being told what to do. What if Santa was shown setting a good example for children? Showing a much-loved (and respected) figure being concerned and making changes to his routine because of climate change might be a more palatable message for kids and adults than the threat of no presents.
How can it be right that an 11-year-old boy can call me a f****** cow – and there’s not a thing I can do?
Letter to Britain’s education boss from a British teacher
Dear Mr Gove,
When I heard the proposals for your latest White Paper, even a cynical, hard-bitten old teacher like me gave a feeble cheer because I thought finally here was one educational reform I could really applaud. I am referring to your plan to revive languages in the English Baccalaureate.
I am biased of course; as a languages teacher, my enthusiasm for my subject allowed me to hope that it might go some way to redressing the past decade’s shocking decline in language teaching. That was the inevitable consequence of the batty decision to make languages non-compulsory. Any fool could have predicted the result.
The decline is by no means restricted to languages. Last week, a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that one in five British 15-year-olds failed to meet its minimum requirements in maths and reading.
Britain fell from 17th to 25th for reading and from 24th to 28th for maths in the study of 65 developed nations – our pupils are now behind those from Estonia, Lichtenstein and Slovenia. Education here is described as ‘stagnant at best’.
But then, as I pondered your language reforms, the awful truth hit home: I would have to carry on teaching pupils who don’t want to learn a language. You might say that I can’t have it both ways; that I can’t think it right that all pupils should have the opportunity to learn a language, but then also dread having to teach the difficult or less than able ones. But I am dreading it.
At present my GCSE classes are a haven of calm. I teach lovely pupils who are bright and who choose to do a language and actually see the point of it. This is a stark contrast to the situation further down the school.
Let me give you an example of what it’s like to teach children in the bottom set at Key Stage 3 level (those aged between 11 and 14) at a bog-standard comprehensive school, not in some inner-city hellhole, but in one of the leafier suburbs of a town in the Midlands.
Last month, an 11-year-old boy walked late into my class and proceeded to disrupt it so badly that I could not teach. He threw pencils at his classmates, called out when I asked him not to, refused to work and disrupted all the other pupils until finally I had to have him removed from the classroom because he called me a ‘f****** cow’. His actions were totally unprovoked by anything I had said or done – he said it because he knew he could get away with it.
His punishment? He had two days off school – a so-called ‘ exclusion’ – because that’s the only sanction we have. And now he’s back in my classroom, doing the same all over again. Did I get an apology? No chance. Did his parents telephone me to say sorry? Of course not. Why?
Because I’m a teacher. And it’s OK to treat us like that. After all, they pay their taxes don’t they? They practically employ me.
Do you know the worst thing, Mr Gove? I was not shocked to be sworn at by an 11-year-old boy. It’s not shocking because it happens frequently in my school.
And there is absolutely nothing I, nor my headteacher, nor even you, Mr Gove, can do about it. Because you and those who came before you have taken away any sanctions we once had. Because those children and their parents have all the rights and none of the responsibilities. Because an 11-year-old can swear at me, but if I tried to physically remove him from my room against his will, I would be accused of assault and suspended. How can you think that is right?
A colleague in the English department has also had problems with a girl in his class. She refuses point-blank to do any work and her father refuses to allow her to do detentions. Well, you might reasonably say, he signed an agreement to abide by the school rules when his daughter came to us as an 11-yearold in Year 7, so why not just tell him to take her somewhere else? The truth is we can’t.
We’re not allowed to kick out pupils, even if their parents won’t support us. We will have to put up with her behaviour and her smug, you-can’t-touch-me attitude until she leaves.
The girl has now been withdrawn from my colleague’s class, not because he finally managed to get rid of her but because she accused him of assault. He didn’t touch her, of course, and he is a fantastic, caring teacher with 20 years’ experience. It’s because the girl’s father has kicked up such a fuss that it’s the easiest option. A tacit admission that we can do nothing about her and her behaviour. Can you imagine the frustration and anger that arouses in us?
As a mother myself, that father’s attitude appals me. If, when they were younger, my own children had been rude to any adult, let alone a teacher, I would have been mortified. I would have telephoned the school or gone there in person to apologise and my child would have been punished. I would not have cared about excuses such as not ‘getting on’ with the teacher or ‘not liking’ a particular subject. I wouldn’t have cared because life and learning are not always easy or fun.
And that is the problem. Over the years teachers have been bombarded with new initiatives and brilliant ideas from people who, in all likelihood, have not faced a classroom full of children for years.
Today we must all produce ‘outstanding lessons’, as the jargon has it. Teachers must be entertaining and the pupils must be constantly challenged and stimulated. Forgive me for thinking, Mr Gove, that as a teacher with years of experience, I should be allowed to have the occasional lesson which is not brilliant or fantastic or fun, but just an hour when the pupils listen to me and accept that I might have something of worth to impart to them.
Instead, all my lessons have to be ‘child-centred’ and I must remember at all times that ‘every child matters’. At the beginning of each year I am given lists of information about my pupils. These indicate whether they are Children in Care, Gifted and Talented, have Special Educational Needs, are entitled to Free School Meals or, worst of all, have Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (EBD).
We get plenty of those and we know exactly what to expect from them. The children with EBD will be the ones who disrupt lessons, who refuse to do their homework, who talk while the teacher is talking, who will not turn up for detentions, who will swear at teachers, who will basically make life as difficult as they can. And you can bet your bottom dollar their parents are a pain, too.
And what do I do with these lists? I am supposed to put them in my register and plan my lessons accordingly. I am supposed to be aware that every child learns in a different way and at a different pace. I am supposed to produce different resources or objectives for each child so that I can prove that I am a good teacher.
Can you imagine the work and stress that that causes? Because some other Secretary of State thought that ‘inclusion’ – the notion that all pupils should be taught together – is a good idea.
Never mind the poor teacher who has to cope single-handedly with a class that might contain a boy who has a reading age below six alongside a gifted pupil. You wonder why pupils become disruptive?
And don’t be deceived by those teachers who insist that they have no problems with children. Rubbish. They are frightened to admit that they have problems because that would mean not that they need more sanctions to control these difficult kids but that they are bad teachers, producing ‘boring’ lessons. And God forbid a teacher should be ‘boring’.
The trendy propaganda is that engaging lessons will make your pupils want to learn, even if it’s bottom set French last thing on a Friday afternoon. I would love to see you teach such a class just once, Mr Gove, let alone face the little darlings week in week out. And with no sanctions to help you. And a senior leadership team whose hands are tied too.
Oh, and remember that if you phone the parents to say that their child is behaving badly, they will deny it or prefer to believe that you are to blame.
Don’t get me wrong, Mr Gove, the vast majority of pupils I teach are great. They have supportive parents who are keen for them to do well and expect them to behave with respect. But it only takes a couple of children whose parents are not supportive and who think it is OK to abuse teachers to ruin a class.
Don’t think, either, that I don’t work hard. Even though I’ve been teaching a long time, I listen patiently to all the new initiatives and I do my best to keep up with them. I really do. I work two or three hours on Saturdays and a couple of hours each evening, planning lessons that I hope will be stimulating and interesting. But I am getting so tired of it because it doesn’t matter how hard I work.
I can’t deal with a class containing pupils with such a wide ability range, and who have all the other problems that I’m supposed to know about.
I can’t deal with a class of nine EBD children who hate French and therefore me. And whose parents probably say they don’t need to learn a language because they’re never going to use it anyway.
Am I old-fashioned in thinking that in the classroom I deserve some respect just because I am an adult? That I deserve to be listened to just because I’m a teacher?
Because of that brilliant idea a decade ago to make the subject noncompulsory, languages inevitably became less and less popular because, the truth is, they are difficult. You actually have to learn stuff and remember it. Why go to all that trouble when you can do food technology, drama, dance, PE or travel and tourism NVQ and get a higher grade with far less effort?
Education is supposed to produce rounded students who have an open, healthily enquiring view of the world. Instead we are producing pupils who have no thirst for knowledge, no interest in other cultures and no inclination to study just for the sheer pleasure of it.
They are learning that they do not need to work hard – they just need to sit back and be entertained. They will be fed information in bite-size chunks that don’t require too much uncomfortable chewing or swallowing. The refrain I hear more often than any other is: ‘I don’t get it.’ Too many pupils won’t even try to get it. They would far rather give up and blame the teacher for making it too hard or too boring.
I doubt I will be able to continue working until I’m 60, Mr Gove, if you get your way because I don’t have the energy it requires even now to control a class of 11-yearolds who can’t concentrate, can’t spell and can’t see the point of anything which doesn’t entertain them. What a sad state of affairs that is.