‘It was a cover-up’: Coroner launches stinging attack on 11 NHS midwives who failed to spot baby’s infection and then ‘conspired to hide negligence’
Midwives face a police inquiry after a nine-day-old boy died a needless and ‘horrible’ death. Joshua Titcombe was killed by an infection which could have been cured with antibiotics. But hospital staff ignored parents’ concerns, telling his father: ‘He’s fine, it’s your wife you need to worry about.’
At an inquest into the tragedy, coroner Ian Smith considered evidence from 11 midwives working at Furness General Hospital in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. And in a dramatic conclusion to the hearing he accused them of a cover-up and collaborating over their failure to recognise that Joshua had the infection.
‘Incriminating’ medical notes may have been deliberately destroyed to protect blundering staff and there was a ‘very worrying mark of suspicion’ hanging over why an observation chart went missing, he told the hearing.
Recording a verdict of natural causes, Mr Smith listed ten failings by staff in what he described as an ‘appalling’ case. Yesterday, Cumbria Police revealed a team of detectives was in the early stages of an investigation into the death.
Joshua, who suffered a lung infection and bled to death, would have had a 90 per cent chance of survival if given antibiotics immediately after his birth, the inquest heard.
The baby picked up the infection his mother was suffering from when she gave birth and there were ‘a number of missed opportunities’ to save him. No doctor saw Joshua until he fell unconscious.
His mother, Hoa Titcombe, had been feeling unwell before and after giving birth at the hospital in October 2008, and was given antibiotics.
Mrs Titcombe, 35, and her engineer husband James, 33, asked staff if the newborn, who weighed just under 7lb, needed antibiotics, but no one took their fears seriously.
She broke down in tears as she recalled how her baby, then a day old, had been cleared to go home but was taken seriously ill minutes before they were due to leave.
Joshua, who suffered a lung infection and bled to death, would have had a 90 per cent chance of survival if given antibiotics immediately after his birth, the inquest heard
‘Joshua collapsed,’ she said. ‘He was blue and there were lots of bubbles coming from his mouth. I ran to the corridor and shouted for help. They came and said he was struggling to breathe. I was crying and very worried.’
Joshua was airlifted to two other hospitals in Manchester and Newcastle, where he eventually bled to death.
The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Furness General, has accepted liability and admitted the standard of care was unacceptable.
Mr Titcombe told the hearing a doctor waved him away ‘dismissively’ when he voiced concerns for Joshua, and midwives took a similar attitude. ‘I asked again and again and again to every midwife that came in, “Does Joshua need antibiotics?”,’ he said. ‘Every time they said, “Joshua’s fine, it’s your wife you need to worry about”.’
The blunders detailed by Mr Smith at the Barrow inquest included failure to recognise infection symptoms, failure to listen to the parents’ concerns, inaccuracies in records, and a ‘strained and dysfunctional’ relationship between midwives and paediatricians.
Mr Smith told the hearing that Joshua suffered ‘a pretty horrible death’ and ‘didn’t succumb gently to infection’. He added it was ‘utterly inconceivable’ that none of the midwives realised the baby’s low temperature could be a sign of infection and effectively accused them of lying to save themselves from criticism. ‘I’m sure it is in basic training,’ he said. ‘Someone should have been more suspicious.’
After the inquest, Mr Titcombe said: ‘We want Joshua’s legacy to be a safer maternity unit so no other family has to go through this experience. It has been unspeakably hard.’
Tony Halsall, chief executive of the Morecambe trust, said: ‘We know that our apologies cannot lessen the pain and suffering of Joshua’s parents. We have taken all the steps we can to minimise the risk of this happening again.’
Yesterday, a police spokesman said three officers monitored evidence at the inquest, which will ‘form part of the investigation’.
The Titcombes – who have a six-year-old daughter, Emily – have had another girl since the tragedy. Jessica is 20 months.
Coroner slams hospital over patient who died after being left lying on floor for 10 hours
A coroner has ruled that the death of a mental health patient who was left slumped drunk in a hospital corridor was ‘wholly preventable’. Peter Thompson, 41, was found lifeless in Manchester’s Edale House after he was left lying on the floor for 10 hours.
Nurses at the mental health unit knew Mr Thompson was heavily intoxicated and had wet himself, but left him to sleep it off, an inquest heard. He died from a fatal combination of alcohol and anti-psychotic medication, in the early hours of April 4, last year.
Speaking after the inquest Peter’s daughter Carly Thompson said she was disgusted with her father’s treatment. Carly, 23, said: “I didn’t realise the extent of the neglect they had shown to my dad until this week. He went to them for help and they left him out in the corridor to die cold, wet and lonely with nothing.”
The inquest jury returned a verdict of ‘death by misadventure contributed to by neglect’.
Manchester coroner Nigel Meadows told the inquest: “It seems to me undeniable that the jury came to a conclusion the death was wholly preventable. I concur with that.”
Mr Meadows will now write to Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, responsible for Edale House laying out recommendations. He will also inform the Nursing and Midwifery Council calling for investigation into three of the nurses involved.
Mr Thompson, a voluntary in-patient with alcohol and drug problems, was stopped from entering his ward after he refused to surrender a bottle of vodka. After staff refused to let him in, Mr Thompson fell asleep in the corridor at around 8.10pm, on April 3 last year. Nurses and managers were forced to step over him to get into the ward.
Expert Dr Alan Fletcher concluded that Mr Thompson would have lived had he been taken to an Accident and Emergency during the night.
When a night manager went to see him at around 6.15am the next morning, he was “cold and unresponsive”. Paramedics and police were called, and Mr Thompson was declared dead at 6.43am.
Staff at Edale House mental health unit can be seen on CCTV moving Mr Thompson’s dead body across the corridor outside Grafton ward where he was a voluntary patient. The footage captures the nurses moving the corpse and mopping up the area where he was discovered dead, at around 6.15am on April 4, last year.
A pathologist report concluded he died from fatal levels of alcohol and anti-psychotic drugs, with liver cirrhosis as a contributing factor.
Mr Thompson, an unemployed dad who previously lived on Monica Grove, Levenshulme, had a history of drug and drink problems and voluntarily became an in-patient at Edale House in February 2010.
Staff did not move him or physically try to wake him up, but checked on him several times throughout the night of his death, the Manchester hearing was earlier told.
Peter’s parents Rene and Alan Thompson said they were “happy” with the verdict and thanked their legal team, the coroner and the jury.
Nadia Kerr, partner at Pannone solicitors who represented the family, said: “Today signals the end of the proceedings for the family, and we will be very interested to read the coroner’s recommendations.”
A Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust spokesperson said: “We would like to apologise to Peter Thompson’s family and friends and express our deep regret about the circumstances of his death. “This was an isolated incident and does not reflect the high levels of care and dignity with which we treat our service users. On this occasion we fell short of our usual high standard and we are very sorry about this.
“Following the incident we completed a thorough Serious and Untoward Incident (SUI) review of the case and produced a detailed action plan. Mr Thompson’s family were given a copy of this review and have been kept informed of the process as it developed. The statement added that disciplinary action had been taken against members of staff involved.
We won’t accept migrants fleeing turmoil in Africa, Brits tell the French
Theresa May last night insisted Britain would not accept thousands of migrants fleeing the turmoil in North Africa. The Home Secretary said the Government would not share the burden if European countries open their borders to asylum seekers.
In Calais to inspect joint immigration controls in the French port, Mrs May said: ‘I have made absolutely clear to my counterparts in Europe that we will not agree to so-called “burden sharing”. ‘Britain will not be accepting large numbers of North African migrants. Instead we will be working with other European countries to get these people safely back to their home countries. ‘We have not, and will not, opt into any proposal that would weaken our borders,’ she added.
Tens of thousands of people have fled the political instability in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia in recent months. Their arrival in southern Europe has put huge strain on the continent’s system of open borders, leading to proposals that it be scaled back.
France temporarily shut its border with Italy after the Italian government issued 25,000 temporary travel permits to Tunisian nationals. Commentators have suggested the crisis could lead to the end of the Schengen Agreement, which allows passport-free travel.
In a further worrying move, European Commission officials are also drawing up plans for a common asylum policy. But Mrs May said that Britain would not sign up to any agreement that would undermine border security.
Yesterday she met her French counterpart Claude Gueant, who warned illegal immigrants would try to exploit the influx of tourists for the Olympic Games to try to get into the UK. He said: ‘Of the eight million spectators expected in London, 800,000 will come from Europe and a third of those will be cross-Channel passengers. ‘We must therefore put into place [plans] on the French side to safeguard border security whilst also ensuring the free-flow of traffic.’
Around 3,500 immigrants have been found trying to cross the Channel hidden in the back of lorries so far this year. That compares with a total of nearly ten thousand discovered last year.
When Mrs May was at the port, a stowaway was found hidden in the back of a lorry after a search by a sniffer dog. The Iranian man, who was believed to have boarded the lorry in Belgium, was hidden among boxes of furniture.
Mrs May said action at the border had led to a fall of 70 per cent in the numbers trying to get into Britain. ‘We are committed to continuing to ensure the border is impenetrable,’ Mrs May added. ‘The fight against illegal immigration is one of this government’s highest priorities.’
Last week a report by the Home Affairs Select Committee said tens of thousands of failed asylum seekers had been allowed to stay in the UK in an immigration amnesty. Chaos in the UK Border Agency more than five years ago meant around 450,000 cases were left lying in boxes, and these are only now being cleared. Of the total, around 160,000 have been allowed to stay. Fewer than one in ten has been kicked out.
Labour’s home office spokesman Gerry Sutcliffe said yesterday: ‘Practical international co-operation is undoubtedly crucial for the effective policing of our borders. ‘But it will take more than a visit to Calais to get the fair enforcement of immigration controls right.’
Should the British state decide what clothes children are allowed to wear?
by Sean Gabb
In the past few days, I have made six appearances in the British media. Each one has been to argue against a proposal by the British Government to make an Act of Parliament to control the alleged sexualisation of children. This will involve trying to regulate the type of clothes worn by children, and trying to stop them from watching possibly indecent music videos. I have not been able to upload all the recordings of these media appearances. But you can – or will soon be able to – find them here.
The argument I have been putting is fairly simple, and I have not deviated from it in my various appearances. I argue as follows:
1. It is reasonable to assume that anyone who uses the “protecting the kiddies” argument is really interested in controlling adults. Indeed, one of the organisations most active in pushing for controls is Media Watch UK, which used to be called the National Viewers and Listeners Association, and which, led by Mary Whitehouse, spent most of the 1960s, 70, and 80s arguing for censorship of the media.
2. Ratings on music videos will have no effect, as many of these things are now downloaded from the Internet. As for controls on clothing, children will wear what they want to wear, and it will be hard in practice to do anything about it.
3. How children dress and behave is a matter for their parents to control, not the authorities. Doubtless, there are some rotten parents about. But any law of the kind proposed will not be used against a small minority, but against parents in general. It will be one more weapon in the armoury of social control that has already reduced parents to the status of regulated childminders.
4. Authoritarian conservatives deceive themselves when they think the authorities are fundamentally on their side. The moment you ask for a control to be imposed, you put your trust in people you have never seen, who are not accountable to you, who probably do not share your own values, and who will, sooner or later, use the control you have demanded in ways that you find surprising or shocking.
The attempted control of clothing, for example, will certainly be made an excuse for the police to drag little girls out of family picnics to photograph the clothes they are wearing, or to measure their heels to see if they are a quarter of an inch too long. Anyone who dismisses this as an absurd claim has not been reading the newspapers. That is how the authorities behave. Even when it is not an abuse in itself, any law will be abused by them.
As said, I have been six times on the radio in three days, and I expect to be called several times yet to repeat my case.
Now, rather than develop the points made above, I will try to explain what is actually happening. The idea that millions of parents, disgusted by what they see on the television or in the clothing shops, have called out spontaneously and in unison for something to be done is too absurd to discuss. The truth is that there is a continuing dialogue between authoritarian pressure groups and Home Office officials. There are jobs and there is power and status to be had from the sort of controls now proposed. There are these things, or there is simply the joy of telling everyone else how to live.
The people at large have no say in the matter. The politicians who go through the motions of arguing for the laws that emerge from these closed discussions are members of two or three parties which are themselves projections of the State. The media people who are supposed to hold the politicians to account simply read out the Home Office and pressure group news releases. They never question the false dichotomy set up in these releases.
For example, I have repeatedly been set into a spectrum of opinion that ranges between support for a new Act of Parliament and belief that it is a fine thing to dress your daughters like tarts and let them watch morally corrupt music videos. There is no room for the alternative claim that this is a matter for parents to decide, not the authorities. Short of mass-demonstrations, there is nothing that ordinary people can do except hope that the new law, as it finally emerges, will not be as demented as appears to be promised.
Ian B, who writes on the Libertarian Alliance Blog, has described this process as a secular equivalent of how things are done in most Islamic states. There is the ulema, or general body of religious scholars. These state what ought to be done, and give their reasons. There is then the mutaween, or religious police, who enforce whatever controls are imposed. Our ulema are the authoritarian pressure groups and various moral entrepreneurs. Our mutaween are the normal police and the army of social workers and other bureaucrats. We may be at “war” with radical Islam. But, allowing for differences of nomenclature and clothing, our own system of government is not so very different.
Most people who complain about what is happening have no idea of how to stop it. They usually whine about “political correctness gone mad,” or call on the authorities to learn some common sense. Neither approach touches the root of the problem. What is being done is not some accidental madness, but is part of an overall agenda of social control. The abuses we read about in the newspapers are the intended outcomes. As for common sense, this is not a debate, in which positions can be advanced and rejected in the abstract. I have said there are jobs involved in this agenda of social control. There are tens of thousands of people whose only justification for employment or funding at our expense is the part they play in controlling us. The only answer to the endless advance of moral authoritarianism is to sack every one of these people. In short, we need to demand the following:
1. That all the Home Office and other ministry officials who are now employed to do business with the authoritarian pressure groups should be sacked;
2. That none of our money should be given to any pressure group of whatever kind, and that, where they are registered, these fake charitiesshould be deregistered and made subject to the same oppressive taxation as the rest of us;
3. That all the social workers and other staff employed to control our lives should be sacked.
There is much else that could be done. But this would be the beginning of a solution to the problem of an increasingly despotic and over-extended British State.
I could boast that the Libertarian Alliance has so far been the only organisation to take a stand in the media against the proposed law. But we are a tiny organisation, with minuscule funding. It really is a sign of how bad things are that the only opposition so far made depends on whether I can find the time from all else that I do to go on against an immense and polished campaign for despotism. Where are the other allegedly conservative and libertarian policy institutes in this debate? The answer, I suppose, is that they are too busy arguing, on behalf of their sponsors, for the cracks between the paving stones to be “privatised” and made into an income stream for some corporate interest.
Oh, what a country!
Shelve your softer sentence plans, British PM tells minister after rape controversy
David Cameron has ordered Ken Clarke to rethink his plans for soft sentencing for the most serious criminals. The Prime Minister summoned the Justice Secretary to a one-on-one meeting in Downing Street yesterday and told him to go back to the drawing board.
MPs, victims groups and lawyers have all denounced Mr Clarke’s plans to slash jail terms by 50 per cent for those criminals prepared to plead guilty early. Police minister Nick Herbert revealed at the weekend that the measure would mean 10,000 felons, including murderers and rapists would see their sentences slashed.
The Justice Secretary had previously enraged rape victims by insisting he would halve the time behind bars for sex criminals. He was forced to apologise for suggesting that some forms of rape were more serious than others.
But the Prime Minister’s intervention means that the 50 per cent cuts are now set to be scrapped for serious crimes – and could be abolished for even minor offences. Instead, criminals would get a one-third reduction in their sentence for an early guilty plea – the same level as at present.
Mr Cameron is so troubled that the Tories are losing their reputation as the party of law and order that he is to make a speech later this month which will depict the Conservatives as tough on crime. A senior Government source told the Mail: ‘We wouldn’t make that speech unless we had something worth saying. It will come when we’ve concluded the sentencing review.’
A No 10 aide confirmed the talks took place: ‘It is not unusual for ministers to talk through their plans with the Prime Minister.’ Mr Clarke will now have to find more than £100million of savings from elsewhere in his budget.
His initial proposals, outlined in a Green Paper last year, would have cut 3,400 prison places and saved £130million by 2014-15 with the offer of 50 per cent discounts.
A source close to the Justice Secretary did not deny that he had been asked to re-work his plans. He said: ‘The policy has not been settled. Details of the costs and how to pay for them have yet to be decided.’
The rethink comes as it was revealed that a convicted rapist let out on licence half way through an eight-year sentence attempted to rape a woman weeks after being released. Fabian Thomas, 23, wore a balaclava and used a hunting knife to attack his victim as she walked home from a supermarket.
The 19-year-old woman managed to fight him off after a ‘considerable struggle’ in the car park of Aldi in Plymouth on February 20.
Thomas, of Plymouth, was arrested the following day and immediately recalled to prison. On Monday, he admitted one count of attempted rape at Plymouth Crown Court. He had originally been sentenced to eight years in a young offenders’ institution in 2006 after raping a woman twice during a 30-minute ordeal.
I warned about Londonistan years ago. Now ministers admit I was right
By Melanie Phillips
Now they tell us. Ministers have finally admitted what I revealed in my book, Londonistan, back in 2006 and have written many times since then – that, incredible as it may seem, hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money that was supposed to be spent on countering Islamic extremism has gone to groups or individuals actually promoting Islamic extremism.
Paralysed by political correctness, the previous Labour government, the intelligence agencies, police, universities and other institutions decided to try to promote ‘moderate’ Muslim groups to tackle the extremists.
Extremism: 7/7 was the face of terrorism on the streets of Britain. Now it has been revealed that countless Muslim terror groups have been funded by taxpayers
Extremism: 7/7 was the face of terrorism on the streets of Britain. Now it has been revealed that countless Muslim terror groups have been funded by taxpayers
As a result of refusing to listen to the many warnings that such a policy would not work because of doubts about how ‘moderate’ these groups actually were, they got it terribly wrong.
Here are just a few of the extremist Islamist groups the Government has been funding:
Muslim Council of Britain
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and related groups were handed £550,985 over a period of three years by the Department of Communities and Local Government. In March 2009 the Government suspended links with the MCB and demanded one of its leaders should be sacked for allegedly supporting violence against Israel.
The Cordoba Foundation
The Cordoba Foundation, an independent research organisation which advises leading Muslim groups and which was founded by Anas al-Tikriti, former president of the Muslim Association of Britain, has received ‘anti-extremist’ funding.
Anas al-Tikriti was the founder of the Cordoba Foundation
Radical group leader Dr. Abdul Wahid gave a speech at a Cordoba Foundation meeting
Extreme: Anas al-Tikriti, left, founded the Cordoba Group and was given ‘anti-extremist funding. However he was forced to give some of it back when radical group leader Hizb-ut-Tahrir was invited to give a speech to the group
The group, which David Cameron once described as a front for the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, was given £38,000 by Tower Hamlets council in East London in 2007 for two projects: A Muslim media project and a Muslim debating society which held a debate entitled ‘Has Political Participation Failed British Muslims?’.
Dr Abdul Wahid, the leader of radical group Hizb-ut-Tahrir (an extremist group which refuses to condemn suicide bombers, has called for the destruction of Israel and which Tony Blair promised to outlaw) was invited to speak. As a result, the Foundation was required to return some of the money given to it.
The Islamic Foundation
Described by the BBC’s Panorama as an ‘influential’ outpost of militant Islamist ideology, it was set up by members of Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islami opposition party, which campaigns for Pakistan to become an Islamic state governed by Sharia holy law. Panorama claimed the foundation promoted fundamentalist materials.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia used a body called iEngage as the group’s secretariat. iEngage is an organisation of Islamist sympathisers which has repeatedly defended extremists. It called on the Government to revoke a ban on a hardline foreign preacher who has said that ‘every Muslim should be a terrorist’.
Inflammatory: Preacher Abu Usamah called on gay people to executed during one rant
Inflammatory: Preacher Abu Usamah called on gay people to executed during one rant
The STREET project
Lambeth Council gave an unspecified sum to the STREET project, run by Abdul Haqq Baker, the chairman of the Brixton Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre.
The project was aimed at ‘reaching out’ to young Muslims who were susceptible to violent extremism, but Baker is an adherent of Salafism, a hard line form of Islam seen as in conflict with liberal democracy.
Green Lane and Central mosques
Government money was given to Birmingham’s Green Lane and Central mosques. They featured in an undercover Channel 4 Dispatches programme in which imams were recorded making inflammatory comments.
One preacher, Abu Usamah, called for gay people to be executed and was quoted as saying: ‘If I were to call homosexuals perverted, dirty, filthy dogs who should be murdered, that’s my freedom of speech, isn’t it?’.
Global Peace and Unity
Over four years the Met Police gave £26,500 sponsorship to the annual Muslim gathering, Global Peace and Unity. But one of the event’s main speakers had suggested the Queen’s decision to award a knighthood to Salman Rushdie was enough to justify suicide bombings by Muslims.
The Met also employed as an anti-terrorism adviser Mohamed Ali Harrath, who was wanted by Interpol and authorities in his native Tunisia because of his links to an alleged terror organisation.
Students face degree crisis: Troubled British universities may axe courses before they’re completed
Thousands of students are applying to universities that may axe their course before they have gained a degree. Researchers looked at 125 UK institutions and found that 50 are facing financial ruin. Up to two-thirds of these universities, most of which are former polytechnics, are loss-making, according to the study by consultancy firm the Parthenon Group.
There are already up to ten universities on an ‘at risk’ register held by university funding watchdog the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Business Secretary Vince Cable has said many are ‘effectively broke’, and should not be propped up but allowed to close.
Yesterday a report by the Public Accounts Committee warned that some institutions ‘may fail’ when fees rise to £9,000 next year.
Margaret Hodge, chairman of the committee, highlighted the risk and called for HEFCE to name the universities in trouble. The Labour MP said: ‘HEFCE doesn’t tell the public about any institution that has been in financial difficulty for three years. If you are a student risking your money to go to that university you have a right to know because if a university were to fail you would have put your money up front, you wouldn’t get your education and wouldn’t get your degree. ‘I don’t think the Government will stand behind a university that falls into financial difficulty.’
Matt Robb, who conducted the Parthenon Group research, pinpointed 50 universities classed as ‘general teaching universities’. These institutions, such as De Montfort and Salford, focus on courses like business studies, design, IT and education. At each, as many as two-thirds of all courses are loss making.
London Metropolitan University, which is on the ‘at risk’ register, has said it is to axe 400 courses.
British regulator warns of ‘weak’ vocational qualifications
Pupils are being awarded top grades on “weak” vocational courses that leave them with a poor grasp of business, Government inspectors warned today.
Ofsted said an analysis of lessons and written work “brings into question” the claim that courses sat by thousands of schoolchildren are comparable with mainstream GCSEs. In a damning conclusion, the education watchdog said pupils taking vocational business courses were often given good marks despite being left with poor knowledge and understanding of the subject. Courses were often “narrow and simplistic” in an attempt to improve students’ grades in written tasks without properly developing their skills, it was claimed.
Currently, schools can use vocational qualifications such as BTECs as an alternative to GCSEs. They can be worth as much as four mainstream qualifications and critics claim they have been used in the past to inflate schools’ positions in league tables.
But in today’s report, Ofsted questioned whether these courses should be equivalent to GCSEs, saying some were defined by an “atomistic approach to the development and demonstration of knowledge and understanding, which took no account of the quality of learning”.
It comes less than two years after Ofsted raised similar doubts over the value of vocational qualifications in information and communication technology (ICT).
Ministers have already announced plans to review practical qualifications and reform school league tables to stop heads using them as “equivalents” in official rankings.
Christine Gilbert, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said: “Vocational qualifications provide a valuable route to employment and further study for many learners. “However, the report highlights the need to review the equivalency of vocational business qualifications that are assessed wholly or mainly by internally set and marked assignments with more traditional GCSEs and A-levels.”
In the latest study, inspectors analysed standards in economics, business and enterprise subjects over a three-year period. The study – based on visits to 161 English schools and colleges – found the overall effectiveness of education was good or outstanding in more than three quarters of secondaries. But even when provision was good, Ofsted found a number of “common weaknesses”, including a lack of opportunities to work directly with local businesses.
The number of pupils taking a GCSE in business studies dropped from 78,300 in 2007 to 68,700 in 2010. Evidence suggests this was “due in part to schools switching to alternative vocational courses” such as BTECs and OCR Awards, which enable students to gain a qualification equivalent to as many as four GCSEs, according to Ofsted.
“Despite good results, the quality of students’ work, their knowledge and understanding, and their ability to apply learning to unfamiliar contexts and to demonstrate higher level skills, were often weak,” the report said. It added: “Evidence from lesson observations, scrutiny of written work and discussion with students brings into question the case for claiming that such courses are equivalent to between two and four single award, traditionally examined GCSEs.”
Earlier this year, a Government-commissioned report by Prof Alison Wolf, from King’s College London, found up to a third of post-16 students were taking vocational courses that failed to prepare them for the world of work.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Good vocational education is crucial to boosting our economic growth. This report raises serious concerns about the quality of some courses taught in our schools. “All young people should have access to high-quality qualifications that lead to employment, further or higher education – as Professor Alison Wolf made clear in her review. This summer, we will be carrying out a consultation on the characteristics of high-quality vocational qualifications so we can ensure that only those qualifications that meet the criteria are taught in our schools. “We also plan to do more to encourage industry experts to teach in schools – providing students with a better understanding of how the business world works.”
A spokeswoman for Pearson, which owns the exam board that runs BTECs, said: “We’re pleased that Ofsted found many excellent examples of BTEC courses helping young people to gain real world business and enterprise experience. “As the report points out, when vocational courses are taught well, ‘students developed skills valued in employment and higher education – such as enterprise and work-related skills, and ICT, presentation, investigation, research and organisational skills – which were not always well-developed in more academic courses’. “Pearson believes all schools and colleges should be aiming to build better links with employers and give young people a better understanding of enterprise. We strongly believe that this type of vocational learning, when done well, is vital for the health of the UK economy.”
Wind farms aren’t just a blight, they’re a folly
It’s bad enough that these turbines spoil the landscape, but they don’t even work, writes Philip Johnston from Britain
For the thousands of holidaymakers who visit Cornwall each year, there is a particular vista that lifts the spirits after the long and arduous drive. Just south of Bude on the A39, provided the weather is fair (a rarity, it is true), the twin peaks of Brown Willy and Rough Tor rise out of Bodmin Moor.
For those of us who have travelled to this corner of England since childhood, it is a view that has changed little. However, if developers get their way, in a year or so there will be 16 wind turbines, each of them 415 feet high – taller than St Paul’s Cathedral – right across this wild and wonderful landscape. They won’t be the first, either. As I saw when I visited last week, wind turbines have sprung up all along the route into Cornwall, like mushrooms on an autumn morning.
True, many of them are relatively small; and alone or in pairs they can possess a certain elegance. They are less of an eyesore than coalmines and their attendant slag-heaps. And, let’s face it, our countryside has seen worse. The arrival of the steam train was greeted with horror, as the railways snaked their way across pristine meadows, and tunnels were blasted out of the hillsides. The speed of construction left contemporaries bewildered. In Middlemarch, alarmed villagers worry that the railway will tear apart the very economic and social structure of daily life. Dickens, in Dombey and Son, likens its impact on north London to an earthquake.
Nor was it just the railways. Canals, forts, roads, mines, docks, mobile-phone masts, electricity pylons, the New Towns – all have desecrated the countryside in their own way. So why does everyone get so hot under the collar about wind farms?
At the weekend, I was speaking to campaigners against the Bodmin Moor scheme who are gearing up for the public inquiry: for them, this is an all-consuming issue. In Wales, there has been uproar over plans for 800 turbines across the Cambrian Mountains. In fact, from the Isle of Wight to northern Scotland, local people are coming together to fight the windmills.
The odds, it must be said, are stacked against them. They are made to feel like latter-day Luddites, irrationally railing against the forces of progress. Worse, they are denounced as Nimbys – usually by green lobbyists secure in the knowledge that they will never see a turbine planted in the back garden of their Islington terrace. They get no backing from the Government, since it is in favour of wind power to meet its wholly unrealistic and reckless renewable-energy targets, nor from the Opposition. Indeed, when he was climate change secretary, Ed Miliband said it should be “socially unacceptable” to oppose wind farms.
Landowners love them, because they can make a packet from subsidies and rents for erecting just a few turbines on their property. Other supporters say they are really quite beautiful additions to our countryside, and will help save the planet by allowing us to switch from fossil fuels. So what’s the big deal? Why don’t the protesters just shut up and accept the inevitable? After all, if the early textile factories had been closed or if railway construction had been prevented, we would still be living off the land.
Except that there is one fundamental difference between the great transformative projects of the 19th century and today’s wind turbines: the latter don’t work. The impression is given that since wind is free, plentiful and doesn’t produce CO₂, then it must be the answer to our renewable-energy conundrum.
If this were true, then it might be worth sacrificing a few views: but it isn’t. To produce the same amount of electricity as one coal-fired power station, you’d need a wind farm the size of Greater London. And when there is no wind – or even when there is too much – the power produced is minuscule or the turbine has to be switched off while fossil-fuel stations take up the slack. They can be useful in powering a collection of farms, or a small industrial site, but that is about it.
So to see remote tracts of countryside that, by and large, survived the industrialisation of the landscape now threatened with defilement for no good reason is scandalous. A conspiracy of vested interests is seeking to bludgeon communities into accepting what has become a money-grabbing free-for-all masquerading as an environmental panacea.
These turbines produce small amounts of electricity at great cost to the taxpayer and electricity consumer. The money being invested would be far better spent developing nuclear power – especially thorium reactors, which have none of the risks and waste associated with the uranium fission cycle. Thorium is a cheap, clean and safe alternative, and there are plentiful deposits in Cornwall and in Wales.
Instead of covering the countryside in wind turbines, which are an expensive and inefficient way of generating sustainable energy, the sensible policy would be to plough money into thorium reactors, or even shale-gas extraction. But the very green lobby that has, bizarrely, allied itself to big business to push for wind turbines is also opposed to nuclear power. And its political clout is considerable, as seen in Germany recently. It is the greens, not the opponents of wind farms, who
are the true heirs of the 19th-century Luddites, standing in the way of an energy policy that would benefit us all – and protect our landscape.