Vulnerable patients are put at risk in hospitals when doctors and nurses can’t speak English

Regulations to tighten controls over foreign doctors’ command of English don’t go far enough – and ignore increasingly important healthcare assistants. Your “nurse” in an NHS hospital may be completely untrained

By Max Pemberton

Part of the appeal for me of working for the NHS is the rich and diverse mix of people it employs. I love working with doctors and nurses who have different life experiences and it is important that a hospital workforce represents the diversity in society.

But for all of us to be able to work effectively and, most importantly, to ensure that patients are safe, we must share a common language. Communication is at the core of good medical practice. Andrew Lansley’s announcement at the Conservative Party conference last week that he planned to make changes to UK law would mean that all doctors would need to speak good English to practise in Britain.

The GMC must be commended for tirelessly lobbying for tighter controls, but it is worth noting that, in fact, the EU legislation stating that it is illegal to test doctors systematically will remain. There will not be any blanket systematic language tests for EU doctors. Lansley is proposing to use a loophole in the EU legislation, and it is by no means perfect.

While the GMC is still not allowed to test all doctors from the EU as a matter of course when they apply to register in this country, they will be given the power to act in cases where doctors’ English language ability is a concern. The amendments to the Medical Profession (Responsible Officers) Regulations will mean that designated doctors in any organisation in England that supplies medical services – be it the NHS or locum agencies – will be held legally responsible for ensuring that those doctors under them are competent, and this includes being proficient in English. If they are concerned, they can request an individual takes an English test or refer the matter to the GMC.

While this move is an improvement, it’s not entirely satisfactory: we still cannot assess a doctor’s language skills before they are placed on the GMC register and allowed to begin work. There is still no national standard for language proficiency, as there is with doctors coming from outside the EU, who are required to sit the PLAB test (Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board). I doubt there is a single person in the country who feels it is acceptable that we are prevented from assessing the communication skills of those to whom we entrust our lives.

The situation is even more ridiculous regarding nurses, with those trained in the UK and outside the EU being required, by law, to submit evidence to the Nursing and Midwifery Council that they have done a minimum amount of hours to ensure they are competent. However, EU law means that nurses from Europe are not required to do this.

But perhaps most worrying is the situation with healthcare assistants (HCAs). This group is often overlooked. They are not a vocal group and do not have a professional body lobbying on their behalf. But this is why it is so concerning. At present, healthcare assistants have no governing or regulatory body. There is no minimum standard and no required training. There is also no way of ensuring that they have any command of English. This is entirely down to individual hospitals, many of whom are under immense pressure to fill vacancies and indeed many hospitals are now reducing the numbers of nurses and replacing them with cheaper healthcare assistants.

In a hospital where I once worked, they had recruited HCAs from outside the EU. The interview was conducted in the local dialect by a local recruiter, so that one of the HCAs who was employed arrived not being able to speak a word of English. I had to teach her how to say good morning to the patients. How on earth could she be expected to take blood pressure, record the results and then relay them to me if there was a problem?

The real worry is that assistants are increasingly being given more important clinical jobs. As the volume of paperwork that nurses are required to complete has proliferated, so the day-to-day caring for patients has increasingly fallen to healthcare assistants. I have found some of them to be excellent; compassionate, thoughtful and knowledgeable. But others have been atrocious, barely able to communicate and resorting to hand gestures and grunts, with next to no medical knowledge or understanding of the tasks they are expected to carry out.

I am horrified to think that the basic welfare of vulnerable patients in hospitals and care homes is entrusted to people subject to no regulatory system, with no way of ensuring they can speak even basic English. Until this is addressed, the public remain unprotected.

‘Fat cat’ chief should have to answer for hospital deaths

The Mid-Staffordshire scandal is one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the NHS. A report by the Healthcare Commission in 2009 found that at least 400 more patients died at Stafford Hospital than would have been expected. There were accounts of elderly people abandoned by staff, screaming in pain or lying in dirt. Some were so thirsty they resorted to drinking water from flower vases. That campaigners have had to fight to hold those in charge to account only adds to the scandal.

Yet Martin Yeates, the then chief executive of the hospital, last week avoided being cross-examined at the inquiry. Instead, he was allowed to submit a written report. He cited health problems as the reason he was not able to attend. His salary was in the region of £180,000 and he resigned with a pay-off of £400,000 and a £1 million pension pot.

The sort of fat-cat sums that those in the upper echelons of the NHS are paid are justified by the responsibility they have to shoulder, and as indicators of their accountability.

That Mr Yeates was not made to stand up and explain what happened – even by video link – seems unbelievable. It is deaths, not a drop in share prices, being investigated. He is personally accountable. The friends and relatives of those who died deserve to hear him cross-examined.


U.K. to Restrict Family Immigration

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will announce steps on Monday to make it harder for immigrants to bring their families into Britain, in a further sign of how the U.K. is tightening rules to decrease immigration after more than a decade of increasing numbers.

Measures the government is looking at include increasing the amount of income immigrants must have before family members are allowed to join the immigrants, and looking at ways to make sure that family immigrants are in a genuine relationship with their partners.

The government also will look at ways to criminalize forced marriages.

“People do want to move to different countries to be with loved ones, we all understand this human instinct,” Mr. Cameron will say in a speech, according to extracts.

“But we need to make sure—for their sake as well as ours—that those who come through this route are genuinely coming for family reasons.”

Mr. Cameron’s government has set a targeted cap on the number of immigrants from outside the European Union who are allowed into the country. It has proved hard, however, to get the numbers below that level, meaning that the government has been forced to look for ways to bring immigration down.

In 2010, family migration accounted for almost one-fifth of total non-EU immigration to the U.K., with nearly 50,000 visas granted to family members of British citizens and those with permanent residence in the country.

Mr. Cameron will say that around 70% of those looking to move family into Britain from abroad had post-tax earnings of less than £20,000 ($31,000) a year, which creates the “risk that the migrants and their family will become a significant burden on the welfare system and the taxpayer.”

The government will look at ways to make it harder for the family of poorer migrants to enter the U.K., including whether posting a financial bond would be appropriate before allowing family to enter Britain.

The government will also make migrants wait longer when they want to bring over a partner, to show “they really are in a genuine relationship before they can get settlement,” and toughen the tests used by officials to see whether a relationship is genuine, Mr. Cameron will say.

Mr. Cameron will also announce the government is looking at ways to criminalize forced marriages, a practice sometimes used in some Asian cultures that the British leader compares to slavery. The move to make illegal such cultural practices is a sign that Mr. Cameron is acting on his promise early this year to reject multiculturalism.

Countries across Europe are increasingly erecting barriers to immigrants, amid rising unemployment and increased intolerance of mass immigration.

For Mr. Cameron, however, the policies are not without risk. Businesses often complain tough immigration rules are stopping talent coming into Britain, while the announcements will likely anger his coalition Liberal Democrat Party, whose lawmakers have often complained about such policies.


Parent of a child with ADHD? Have a free car under crazy £1.5bn British government scheme

Iain Duncan Smith has ordered a crackdown on thousands of families with youngsters diagnosed with ‘naughty child syndrome’ who get new cars paid for by the state. The Work and Pensions Secretary has been shocked to learn that the families of more than 3,000 people suffering Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are believed to have been given vehicles under the £1.5 billion-a-year Motability scheme.

Mr Duncan Smith is determined to stop what he regards as abuse of free cars for the disabled as part of his campaign to curb the UK’s annual £192billion benefits bill. The number of people with cars paid for by the Government-funded Motability scheme has soared to 575,000 – up by 200,000 in just over ten years.

The number of claimants receiving disability benefit for ADHD – or hyperkinetic disorder, as it is categorised by welfare officials – has rocketed from 800 a decade ago to 43,100 last year. An additional 55,900 claimants are given handouts for ‘behavioural disorders’, taking the total for ADHD-related conditions to 99,000. It has led to claims that a lack of proper checks has led to widespread abuse.

Mr Duncan Smith was enraged to be told initially by his department that there were no precise numbers on how many people with the condition received free cars. However, after persistent enquiries by The Mail on Sunday, officials finally revealed that 3,200 such claimants qualified.

Motability was launched in 1978 with a handful of specially modified cars, such as motorised blue three-wheel trikes and Mini Clubman Estates with a ramp at the back for a wheelchair.

But now it is the biggest fleet-management outfit in the UK. Mike Betts, its chief executive, earns £1.17 million a year. Its website openly advises claimants how to use the benefit to get luxury cars such as a £30,000 Audi A6, a £35,000 BMW X3 or a £37,000 Toyota Land Cruiser.

Some doctors believe the big rise in the number of children said to have ADHD is a direct result of their parents’ right to claim disability benefit of up to £10,000 a year.

While critics believe ADHD is just a label to describe restless or naughty children, psychologists insist it is a real condition which applies when a child is persistently restless, to the point where it has a detrimental effect on their development. Some adults are also affected.

The Government says that about a third of a million children aged between six and 16 suffer with the disorder.

ADHD was almost unheard of 20 years ago, but the number of prescriptions for Ritalin – the controversial drug which suppresses symptoms – has rocketed from 2,000 in 1991 to close to 350,000.

Motability claims are processed by the Work and Pensions Department as part of the £12 billion-a-year Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Successful claimants are handed over to Motability, which supplies the cars.

In more than seven out of ten cases people who get DLA receive it for life, with no more questions asked.


The den busters: Children in tears after park officials pull down their camps… because they might harm insects

Give a Brit a little bit of power and his/her inner Hitler comes out

Children have been left distraught after seeing their makeshift dens torn down by park officials – because the camps harm insects.

The destruction took place in historic Richmond Park in South-West London, where it has long been a tradition for children to build hide-outs using fallen tree branches in an area called Spankers Hill Wood.

But last week the wigwam-style dens were pulled down after being deemed unsafe by officials, who also claimed they threatened the habitat of rare beetles.

One mother described how her seven-year-old son was left in tears as park employees moved in without warning. ‘We were at an ice-cream kiosk when six men jumped out of a van wearing high-visibility jackets,’ said the woman, from nearby Kingston-upon-Thames.

‘They were all over the den like ants, pulling it down. They also destroyed others nearby. My son and his friend were shouting, trying to get them to stop, but they carried on and then drove off.

‘The boys were upset. It was ridiculous – building dens is one of the great innocent pleasures of childhood. They were only using dead wood and branches that were lying on the ground. The den was only small and not in the least bit dangerous.’

The mother added: ‘The man at the kiosk said workers came round on a regular basis to take the camps down. He said he’d heard it was for safety reasons.

‘We’re forever being told about the dangers of children spending too much time in front of computers and televisions, yet this is what happens when they play outside. It’s such a shame because Richmond Park is a wonderful place for them.’

The workers took down the dens opposite a mobile snack bar, where several benches and tables allow parents to relax as they watch
their children play safely on the edge of a wood.

Richmond Park has strict rules banning barbecues and prohibiting cyclists from some areas.

One park worker said: ‘You can’t stop children falling out of trees and pulling branches off. It’s not that big a deal. Perhaps they should concentrate on the cyclists who regularly break the speed limit.’

Psychologists and education experts say it is essential for children to be allowed the freedom to explore and create their own adventures in the open air, particularly when many spend hours cooped up at home watching television or playing electronic games.

Play England, run by the National Children’s Bureau charity, was recently awarded £500,000 of National Lottery funding for a project to encourage children to become more aware of the natural world.

Research has shown that less than 25 per cent of children regularly play outside, compared with more than 50 per cent of their parents when they were young.

Play England’s Mick Conway said: ‘It is a myth that children prefer indoor-based play activities. Playing in a park or riding a bike are far more popular with children than computer games.’

Richmond Park, one of London’s Royal Parks, has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its wildlife, including rare species such as the cardinal click beetle and the stag beetle. Deer also roam its 2,500 acres.

A Royal Parks spokesman said: ‘We recognise the benefits of natural play activities, but for the safety of visitors we have to dismantle dens if there is a risk they could collapse.

‘Visitors should not disturb dead wood on the ground as this is home to invertebrates, which are important to the park’s biodiversity.’


Flagship UK carbon capture project ‘close to collapse’

Scottish Power expected to pull out of government-promoted scheme to build a œ1bn prototype CCS plant at Longannet

A œ1bn flagship government project for fighting climate change – the construction of a prototype carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at Longannet in Scotland – is on the verge of collapse, it emerged on Thursday.

Talks between the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) and Scottish Power have run into deep trouble and the electricity supplier is expected to pull the plug on the government-promoted scheme, which hoped to bury carbon emissions from the coal power station in the North Sea.

The potential demise of the scheme comes amid growing fears among renewable power enthusiasts that David Cameron and George Osborne want to scale back the “green” agenda on the grounds that low-carbon energy schemes such as CCS and offshore wind cost too much at a time of austerity. Osborne told the Conservative party conference in Manchester that if he had his way the UK would cut “carbon emissions no slower but also no faster than our fellow countries in Europe”.

Scottish Power, and its partners Shell and the National Grid, have just completed a detailed study of the CCS scheme and have deep concerns about its commercial viability without heavier public backing.

Decc had promised œ1bn of public money but the developers are understood to be arguing that they cannot proceed without more money to trial the scheme, close to the Firth of Forth.

Both sides insist “talks are ongoing” but well-placed industry and political sources say the process is “pretty much over” and a statement to that effect could be expected shortly.

Jeff Chapman, the chief executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, said the collapse of the Longannet scheme would be a “severe disappointment” for the wider hopes of the sector.

“Everybody knows the negotiations have been very difficult, so to that extent it’s quite possible [the talks] don’t come to a conclusion – although there are other projects coming through the system hopefully.”

A senior Conservative backbencher with deep knowledge of the energy sector told the Guardian he expected the CCS deal to collapse within weeks. He said the underlying blame lay with the Labour government, which had dithered for so long in awarding the CCS demo contract that bidders dropped out until only one was left, leaving the government in an impossible negotiating position.

A Decc spokesman said Longannet was only one CCS project and the government still planned to choose by the end of the year another three that could be eligible for European Union funding.

In May, the department submitted seven UK CCS projects for European funding – including Longannet – but the Fife scheme was by far the most advanced and spearheaded the drive to develop this new technology in Britain.

Ministers have repeatedly stressed the importance of CCS as a way of keeping coal and potentially other fossil-fuel burning power stations in operation without undermining moves to cut CO2.

But they have already seen E.ON back out of plans to construct a new coal-fired power station with prototype CCS technology on the site of an existing plant at Kingsnorth in Kent.

Longannet is the third largest coal-fired power station in Europe at 2,400MW and was once highlighted as Scotland’s biggest single polluter.

In 2009 at the launch of a small-scale pilot study, Ignacio Gal n, chairman of Scottish Power and its parent group Iberdrola of Spain, highlighted the importance of the Fife scheme.

“We believe that the UK can lead the world with CCS technology, creating new skills, jobs and opportunities for growth. There is the potential to create an industry on the same scale as North Sea Oil, and we will invest in Scotland and the UK to help realise this potential. Iberdrola will set up its global Centre of Excellence for CCS in the UK to help accelerate the deployment of full-scale CCS,” he said.

No CCS projects have yet been successfully built at a large scale.

Charles Hendry, the energy minister said in May that Longannet and other CCS schemes in Britain showed the UK was “at the cutting edge of the low-carbon agenda.”

But an industrialist embedded in his department told the Guardian that ministers were now internally questioning renewable power and other schemes that involved substantial public subsidies. Ministers have come under sustained lobbying from traditional power companies and energy-intensive manufacturers to concentrate on lower price but higher carbon alternatives such as gas.


How climate change zealots are wrecking every last industry Britain possesses

Rather overshadowed by events at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester last week was a line in George Osborne’s speech which could mark the start of a long overdue political transformation in Britain.

The Chancellor acknowledged that a decade of environmental laws had been piling unnecessary costs on households and companies, adding that Britain was not going to save the planet by putting ourselves out of business.

He was referring in particular to the Climate Change Act, famously passed by the House of Commons in October 2008 by 463 votes to three, even as the snow was falling outside. By the Government’s own estimate, it would cost œ404?billion to implement – œ760 per household every year for four decades.

The Act included a voluntary commitment to reduce Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions to 80?per cent of their 1990 level by 2050 – a target generally acknowledged to be achievable only by shutting down most of the economy – in an effort to demonstrate ‘global leadership’.

The lunacy of this commitment can be demonstrated by the fact that neither China nor the US – who together produce 40?per cent of global emissions compared with our two per cent – are committed to such draconian reductions.

Instead Mr Osborne suggested last week that we follow the EU, whose members agreed in March 2007 – as one of Tony Blair’s final acts of hubris – to a 20 per cent emissions reduction by 2020. The European Commission is still discussing a ‘road map’ for its 2050 target, putting the UK at a huge competitive disadvantage.

But while Europe is taking a relaxed view of climate change, Britain seems to have excelled in devising more and more bizarre ways of bankrupting the nation.

In December 2008 the Government’s Committee on Climate Change, chaired by Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, recommended that we should switch from eating beef and lamb to ‘less carbon-intensive types of meat’.

Within 11 years, the committee said, it wanted to see 40?per cent of all the cars on Britain’s roads powered by electricity. That very week it was reported that in the first ten months of 2008 just 156 were bought, fewer than half the 374 in the same period of 2007. That made a grand total of 1,100 on the road in Britain.

It also insisted no more coal-fired power stations should be built unless they could be fitted with ‘carbon capture’, funded by a levy on energy bills which would raise œ3?billion from hard-pressed consumers.

The overall effect of the unproven and probably unworkable technology to effectively bury carbon dioxide underground would be to double the price of electricity and make us even more dependent on Russian and other imported energy, which already supplies 70?per cent of our needs.

Nevertheless, a mad and ruinously expensive scheme was launched on the European stage. Industries should pay for using fossil fuels, through a ‘tax’ paid on each ton of carbon dioxide produced. Each company would have to buy certificates, known as ‘European allowances’ or ‘carbon credits’ – each representing a ton of carbon dioxide – with surpluses traded as a commodity.

Each year, the total would be reduced and commercial firms, hospitals and even Government offices would have to compete on the open market for enough certificates to enable them to operate.

The theory was that competition for a dwindling supply would force energy users to be more efficient. Instead, commercial users passed on the costs to their customers, with electricity prices rising for the average consumer by as much as œ300.

Tens of thousands have been pushed into fuel poverty. Firms that could not pass on their costs moved abroad. Huge tranches of the aluminium industry have disappeared, one major firm having moved to the Emirates in October 2009 – taking 300 workers from Anglesey who had to follow to keep their jobs.

The madness didn’t stop there. In February 2010, Gordon Brown’s cash-strapped Government spent œ60??million on ‘carbon credits’ for Whitehall and other Government offices in the UK, as well as British Nato bases in Europe.

Thus while troops were going short of kit in Afghanistan, the defence budget was being raided to buy carbon certificates.

When he became Prime Minister, David Cameron carried on the theme, promptly declaring that he wanted the Coalition to be ‘the greenest Government ever’.

His new Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne added that he wanted to go ‘further and faster than ever before’. Then it was announced that Britain, uniquely, should set a minimum price for carbon credits, instead of allowing the market to decide.

Known as the ‘carbon floor price’ the idea was that firms such as
electricity generators would pay œ16 per ton of carbon dioxide produced – compared to a market rate of œ9 – with the price rising to œ70 by 2030.

Announced by Mr Osborne in June’s budget, the Institute for Public Policy Research immediately warned that the policy would cost British industry at least œ1?billion and drive manufacturers offshore, while pushing down the price of European permits, giving our EU competitors a generous gift.

And last week, even as Mr Osborne was standing up to deliver his speech in Manchester, Davin Bates, a management accountant at one of Stoke-on-Trent’s remaining successful potteries, was preparing to tell the world how spiralling energy costs – artificially inflated by ‘green’ levies and taxes – were driving energy-intensive companies like his out of the UK.

Particularly affected is the chemical industry, which contributes œ30 million a day to the British economy. Major chemical multinationals are now looking to move production to places such as South Africa, India and China. There, under a global carbon credit scheme, we actually subsidise them by giving them credits – which they then sell back to our industries, making huge profits.

I haven’t even mentioned the madness of the wind machines. Subsidies, paid for by consumers, make wind power three times more costly than the normal tariff electricity. But as the pull of the subsidies draws investment away from new conventional plants, the spectre of power cuts looms large.

Caught in this vice of increasing ‘green’ costs and subsidised competition, the manufacturing industries which Osborne hopes will lead the UK recovery simply cannot survive.

Small wonder, therefore, that he bowed to the inevitable and pulled back from the green abyss.

Many believe that Osborne’s conversion is too little too late, but it is some small comfort at least, that we no longer have a Chancellor – or even a Prime Minister – keen to parade his ‘green’ credentials. Perhaps they are beginning to understand that, when the lights go out, all colours look the same: black.

If Britain is to pull itself out of economic crisis, Mr Osborne is going to have to go much further. At the very least, he has to lift this senseless raft of green taxes from industry and the electricity generators.


British Special needs teacher wins five-year battle to clear name over unfounded sex and race claims

Bitchy female accuser

A teacher who was accused of abusing the special-needs pupils in her care has been cleared of all charges after an agonising five year fight.

A former colleague of Alison Addison, 51, who taught at the Russett School, a special school near Northwich, Cheshire claimed the teacher had physically abused children, used racist words in the classroom and had sex with the caretaker in the school pool.

She was finally cleared by the General Teaching Council for England last month when it ruled that her accusers were ‘not to be relied on’, it was reported in The Sunday Telegraph.

Ms Addison’s ordeal started when she was suspended from the post she had held for 15 years over the claims made by another member of staff on her birthday in June 2006.

It was alleged that she had force-fed peas to children with severe learning difficulties, strapped them into buggies, deliberately tipped them up, used inappropriate discipline, talked about sex in front of pupils and staff and verbally abused children by swearing and using racist language.

The first claims were made in an anonymous phone call to the NSPCC, which it passed to Cheshire County Council prompting a police investigation.

Ms Addison who had been teaching for 24 years told The Sunday Telegraph: ‘When the head teacher, who was a good friend, called me over she had a strange look on her face. ‘When I got to the office there was a Cheshire county council official sitting on the sofa and I was told I was suspended. ‘Disbelief was my overwhelming feeling. I didn’t know the details of the allegations and I didn’t find out for another four months.’ ‘The list of things made me look like a monster.

Sue Foy, 49, a trainee teacher who was a teaching assistant in Ms Addison’s class, had said in the staffroom that she disliked the teacher and disagreed with her methods.

She denied calling the NSPCC but told police she had caught Ms Addison having intercourse with the caretaker, Phil Abbott, 53, in a cupboard, on the head teacher’s desk and in the hydro-pool, used to treat severely disabled pupils, it was reported in The Sunday Telegraph. Retired Mr Abbott denied the claims.

Ms Addison, 51, a divorced mother of a grown-up son, said: ‘The list of things made me look like a monster. ‘I was good friends with the caretaker, whose wife had just died of cancer. I hugged him in a corridor one day, but to suggest these things – it was appalling and outrageous.’

She started a new job selling beauty products, at a chemist where she met human resources management specialist Emma Kate Lomax, a customer who became determined to help her clear her name. Mrs Lomax knew the evidence against Ms Addison was suspect because in 2009 the Independent Safeguarding Authority had ruled that she should not be barred from working with children.

In May, a week-long GTC hearing received further warnings that the accusations were false.

Last week Mrs Foy, who now manages a charity nursery in Didsbury, Manchester, stood by her claims, telling the Sunday Telegraph: ‘I don’t know why the GTC didn’t believe my evidence’. ‘I felt I had to do something for the sake of the children, who could not speak up for themselves.’


Poor students to get expert tuition from top British private schools

Poor teenagers will be given expert tuition by teachers from Britain’s top private schools under a significant expansion of the Government’s controversial free school programme.

Staff from Eton, Highgate, City of London School and Brighton College will lead lessons at a new sixth-form college being established in east London, it is announced today(MON).

The college will focus on tough A-level subjects such as maths, science, history and geography in an attempt to push more disadvantaged teenagers into top universities.

The project is among a wave of 55 new taxpayer-funded “free schools” to be given approval by the Government today.

Under the scheme, parents groups, charities, faith organisations and entrepreneurs are given cash to open their own state school free of local authority interference. They get almost complete control over admissions, the curriculum, staff appointments, length of the school day and shape of the academic year.

The first 16 free schools – including primaries, secondaries and all-through establishments for three- to 18-year-olds – opened last month.

Today, the Department for Education will announce that another eight will open in 2012, with more being given outline approval to open after that.

This includes England’s first state-funded bilingual primary school that aims to teach in English for half of the time and Spanish for the rest.

In a further move, a new sixth-form college – the London Academy of Excellence – will be set up in a deprived area of the East End.

The college – which will eventually teach 400 students – is being backed by 11 independent schools in the south-east, led by Brighton College.

Staff from Eton will take responsibility for the teaching of English, while Highgate School will take the lead in maths and City of London will teach PE, it was revealed.

In a statement, Brighton College said: “Only 12 ‘hard’ subjects will be offered; students will not be able to take media studies, food technology or sociology, for example. Instead they will be choosing from the likes of maths, physics, chemistry or history.

“This is to be a robustly academic institution. With expert pastoral care and careful university guidance, the aim is to secure places for the students at the very top universities.”

All students attending the college will be required to wear business-like suits and the school day will last until 5pm. All students will be required to work in the community for half a day each week.

In a further announcement, the Government will today propose the establishment of 13 new-style University Technical Colleges.

Under the plans, pupils will be able to opt out of mainstream schools at the age of 14 to enrol at a technical college and learn a trade.

The institutions – also opening from 2012 onwards – will teach a range of courses including engineering, motor skills and business, alongside mainstream subjects.

One of the UTCs will be established at Silverstone, the Formula One circuit in Northamptonshire, and specialise in high-performance engineering, motorsports and event management and hospitality. It will be co-sponsored by Tresham College of Further and Higher Education.

Two UTCs have already opened in England – including one sponsored by heavy plant manufacturers JCB – with a further three in development.


The Jaffa Cake doughnuts that prove a fat tax will never work

By Janet Street Porter

Concerned about rising levels of obesity, David Cameron is enthusiastic about imposing a new tax on food that contains more than 2.3 per cent saturated fat.

Denmark is the first country to impose this ‘fat tax’ — Danes now pay 25p more for a small pack of butter and 9p extra for a normal-size burger.

The Danes are very different to the Brits — although they (like us) produce fabulous butter and delicious bacon, they’re relatively slim. Just 10 per cent of the population rate as chubby, well under the EU average of 15.5 per cent — while we’re top-ranked, with 24.5 per cent of Brits carrying excess kilos.

If the current rate of guzzling continues, 70 per cent of the UK will be overweight by 2050, meaning massive costs for the poverty-stricken NHS.

There’s no denying our backsides are spreading fast — but is taxing demon foods the answer?

Picking on fat as the sole reason for health problems is bizarre — sugar, salt and carbs consumed to excess can be just as problematic. Even so, plenty of governments are keen to change the way their voters eat. Diet has stopped being a matter of personal choice and become an activity that has to be monitored, taxed and controlled.

Hungary imposed a tax on food with high levels of sugar, salt, caffeine and carbs. Trans fats are banned in Switzerland, Austria and Denmark. The fat tax is under consideration in Finland and Romania. Once, eating was a simple pleasure, now it’s something nanny states want to police.

Sadly for Cameron, Fat Tax UK is one piece of social engineering that’s doomed to failure.

Digest this news: Greggs, the High Street baker, astonished industry analysts last week with an impressive increase in sales, bucking recent trends in retailing. Tesco has just reported the worse set of figures for 20 years, and Sainsbury’s launches a new pricing campaign this Wednesday in an effort to prop up sales.

A bitter battle is being fought by food retailers — so what is Greggs’ secret weapon? The answer is — a big doughnut!

The baker has sold 1.4 million of its new ‘superstar’ doughnuts in five weeks. The humble jam doughnut has been sexed up and re-launched as coconut snowball, choc vanilla and strawberry milkshake. All have proved winners and the most popular is the Jaffa Cake doughnut, combining two fattening treats in one.

And when Westfield opened its new shopping mall next to the Olympic stadium, Greggs broke its own sales records in one day. It is hardly flogging the food of sporting heroes.

The new doughnuts have their own Twitter and YouTube profiles and their Facebook page has 280,000 ‘friends’. Each of these ‘superstar’ doughnuts (promoted online with fictitious biographies) contains a whopping 320 to 420 calories — and they are being sold in boxes of four as a special promotion.

I know little about what makes a trendy doughnut, but I accept we Brits love stodge in all its fattening forms. We gave the world jam roly-poly, Bakewell Tart, Spotted Dick, steak and kidney pudding and the jumbo sausage roll.

The Great British Bake Off has been the telly hit of the season — featuring calorie-laden sponges and profiteroles piled high with cream. Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook, Jamie’s Great Britain, features mini Yorkshire puddings and recommends storing left-over goose fat to roast potatoes.

Yes! Just typing this list of scrumptiousness makes me feel peckish. The need for solid, filling food is ingrained in our genes. When the weather turns chilly, I’m not going to be planning a salad or a bit of steamed chicken, but a hotpot or a stew.

Labour considered a fat tax in 2004, when a study suggested it might prevent up to 3,200 deaths a year and raise £2 billion in extra revenue. So why hasn’t it been introduced before? The Institute for Fiscal Studies thinks a fat tax would cost the poor more than the middle classes — undoubtedly true as cheap food contains the most additives.

The healthiest way to eat is to cook fresh ingredients from scratch — something few people do. Those on minimum wages have little money, time or inclination. It will take a whole generation of teaching cookery in primary schools to change ingrained eating habits and poor nutrition, not a fat tax.

If you want to lose weight, eat less off a smaller plate. It costs nothing and works like a dream. The only thing required is will power, and that’s in short supply. As the triumph of Jaffa Cake doughnuts proves, in these depressing economic times, we want to eat something naughty to cheer ourselves up.



About jonjayray

I am former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody
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