NHS pays £1,600 a day for nurses as agency use soars
Those running the NHS are so disorganized that you wonder that they are able to wipe their own bottoms. If the agencies can hire staff, why cannot the hospital itself?
NHS hospitals are hiring agency nurses at rates of up to £1,600 a day in a bid to cope with rising staff shortages, an investigation by the Sunday Telegraph has found.
The number of shifts filled by the temporary workers has risen by more than 50 per cent in a year – with private agencies receiving more than seven times the rate paid to nurses on the payroll.
Experts said the disclosures show how hospitals’ attempts to improve their efficiency have backfired, with jobs being cut, only for temporary staff to be hired at vastly inflated rates.
The scale of job losses is fiercely disputed, with unions claiming thousands of frontline posts have gone since 2009 while ministers say less than 500 posts lost involve nurses.
Meanwhile, the number of nurses from overseas who have registered to work in Britain has soared by 70 per cent in just two years.
Disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act show that since 2009, private agencies have been paid up to £1,600 per shift to provide the health service with specialist nurses, compared with an average rate of around £212 a day for those on the NHS pay roll.
General nurses were on rates of up to £1,400 a day, compared with average pay of £188 for those on health service contracts.
Our investigation found:
* Derby Hospitals Foundation trust paid £1,632 for a specialist nurse to work a 12-hour shift in its Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit – a rate equivalent to an annual salary of £229,500. The NHS pays between £25,528 and £34,189 for the same role. The same trust spent £1,399 on a 13-hour shift for a general nurse;
* Princess Alexandra Hospital trust in Essex spent £1,356 on a shift for a specialist nurse to work 12.5 hours in April 2010. Last year the trust announced plans to cut 250 staff posts in order to find savings.
* Mid Staffordshire Foundation trust paid £1,303 for a specialist nurse to work a 10.5 hour shift last December, and £1,061 for a general nurse;
* Figures from NHS Professionals, which supplies a pool of “bank staff” to hospitals, show that in just 12 months, the total number of nursing shifts filled by agency workers has risen by 51 per cent;
Previous investigations by this newspaper have disclosed doctors being hired at rates of £20,000 a week to cover hospital staff shortages caused by European rules.
Although the NHS has been protected from cuts by being guaranteed a rise in annual spending in line with inflation, the service is attempting to save £20 billion by 2015, to ensure there are sufficient funds to cope with the rising demands of an ageing population.
Experts said many hospitals had made swingeing cuts to their workforce – only to find that they were left short-staffed, and forced to pay far higher rates to bring in workers at short notice.
Research from 39 trusts – around one quarter of those in England – shows that 21,000 shifts were filled by agency staff during the month of March, a rise from around 14,000 a year earlier.
Experts said the true figures are likely to be far more than four times as high, because the sample was made up of trusts which use bank staff supplied by NHS Professionals before they turned to more costly private agencies.
Figures for the group of trusts show that temporary cover was sought for 155,000 shifts in March. Of those, 90,000 posts were filled by “bank” nurses and around 21,000 by agency staff – while more than 40,000 shifts were left unfilled.
Dr Peter Carter, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the figures demonstrated “lamentable” planning by the NHS, which had left hospitals at the mercy of high rates charged by agencies. He said: “Now the hospitals have made such drastic cuts, the agencies have got them over a barrel and can charge what they like.”
Earlier this year the RCN said nurses had been stretched to “breaking point” with more than 26,000 frontline posts lost during the first year of the Coalition. Ministers have said they do not recognise that figure, and that the number of qualified nursing staff has fallen by just 450 since 2009.
The report by NHS Professionals says much of the demand for temporary staff in the last six months of 2011/12 was unforeseen by hospital trusts, which in fact had forecast a reduction in the number of shifts which needed to be filled.
The quango says it is struggling to recruit staff to its bank, because demand is such that private agencies are able to offer potential candidates “almost guaranteed work” at much higher rates.
Shortages were worst in the North of England, where demand for shifts rose by 24 per cent, compared with 18 per cent across England.
Experts said the figures relating to agency staff alone represented at least 100,000 shifts being filled each month, often on rates of more than £100 an hour.
Julia Manning, chief executive of centre-right think tank 2020 Health, said: “The figures are astonishing, and demonstrate such appalling short-sightedness on the part of NHS trusts. “It really concerns me that hospitals are drawing up plans which are based on wishful thinking, rather than reality, only to end up paying so much over the odds.”
The NHS trusts said the payments for agency shifts included commission to the agencies.
Last year, an investigation by the Sunday Telegraph disclosed hospitals sending teams abroad to recruit doctors and nurses, even though local posts had been earmarked for cuts.
The trips were organised despite pledges by David Cameron to cap immigration and protect British jobs, and concerns raised by Lord Winston, one of Britain’s most senior doctors, that some nurses put patients in danger because of poor standards of English.
New figures show that amid a global recession, there has been a 70 per cent rises in nurses who trained overseas registering to work in Britain, from 2,520 in 2009/2010 to 4,289 in 2011/12. The number of nurses from outside the European Union, where an immigration cap applies, rose from 635 to 1,178.
Dartford and Gravesham Trust in Kent sent a team to Romania in November 2010 and hired 20 nurses, even though Barts and the London NHS Trust, less than 20 miles away, was drawing up plans to cut 635 posts including more than 250 jobs for nurses.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust sent seven managers to Dublin in October of the same year, returning with seven nurses. Less than two months later, it disclosed plans for 100 redundancies.
Earlier this year, an investigation by this newspaper found doctors being hired at rates of £20,000 a week so that hospitals can comply with the European Working Time Directive, which limits the number of hours medics can work.
In some cases the amounts being paid would be the equivalent to a doctor earning an annual salary of almost £1 million. Some doctors were rewarded not just for the hours they worked, but for all the time they were on call – including when they were sleeping.
North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust spent £20,000 hiring a surgeon for one week in 2010 and £14,000 on four days’ cover for a gynaecologist.
Shortages of medics have arisen since the introduction of the working time directive, which set a maximum 48-hour-week in August 2009. Although individual doctors are allowed to opt out of it, they still cannot exceed a limit of 56 hours.
In total, 34 hospital trusts responded to requests for information about the highest rates paid for medical or nursing shifts since April 2009. Of those, 28 admitted to spending more than £1,000 per shift on cover.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said the figures from NHS Professionals did not reflect the national picture.
He said the NHS had saved £128 million on agency staff in 2010-2011 and was confident savings would reach £300 million by the end 2013-2014.
We’re thrown in at the deep end, warn junior doctors: Lack of help and supervision can have deadly risks for patients
Junior doctors say they are being thrown in at the deep end without enough supervision when they start jobs in hospitals. One in three said they were not being given enough help, and a quarter said senior colleagues were not properly briefing them about patients before they started night shifts.
The survey comes after research showed that junior doctors’ training and supervision is so inadequate it is leading to unnecessary deaths.
Last month the Mail reported on a study that showed death rates for the week in August when junior doctors typically start are 8 per cent higher than at other times of the year.
This period is sometimes termed the ‘killing season’ by NHS staff, and the day of the week when most new doctors take up their posts is referred to as ‘Black Wednesday.’
Now a survey of 51,000 junior doctors by the General Medical Council has found that 15 per cent are having to deal with medical problems beyond their competence and experience. A further one in five did not think they were being properly supervised by senior colleagues. And 23 per cent said there was no proper ‘handover’ from other doctors when they started their night shifts.
This means they are not being given enough information about the condition of patients on their wards. The survey also found that 35 per cent thought the induction before they start their jobs was inadequate.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said: ‘Trainee doctors are delivering much of the frontline care to NHS patients. Making sure they are properly supported and supervised is vital for patient safety as well as for effective training.
‘These findings tell us that while overall satisfaction with their training is increasing, these doctors have a number of concerns. The issues they raise must urgently be addressed.’
He added: ‘We need to study the results in more detail but the early signs are that we are continuing to see pressure on doctors in key specialities, and this cannot be good for them or their patients.
‘We will do all we can to work closely with those at local level who have the responsibility for managing and delivering training for these doctors to address these issues.’ Last month Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of the NHS, announced that from next year it will be compulsory for all junior doctors to shadow senior colleagues before they start their posts.
Several NHS hospitals will start this scheme on a voluntary basis this month.
He said at the time: ‘The intention is to end the so-called killing season. This is good news for patients – we recognise the change-over period in August puts patients at risk. ‘Junior doctors are under stress as they change from being a student to a professional and they need help to adapt to a working environment when they’ve never done a job before.’
Only last week researchers calculated that almost 12,000 patients are dying needlessly in hospital every year, partly due to mistakes by junior doctors.
Academics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine warned that doctors were often making the wrong diagnosis or not giving the correct treatment.
A Department of Health spokesman said yesterday: ‘It is good to see that the vast majority of doctors – 95 per cent – did not raise any concerns around patient safety.’
1,000 innocent victims of Big Brother Britain: Families were spied on wrongly because of blunders by officials
Almost 1,000 entirely innocent people were wrongly spied upon using anti-terror powers last year following blunders by officials, it emerged last night.
In two shocking cases, two members of the public were arrested and accused of being serious criminals.
Details of phone calls and texts by genuine crime suspects had wrongly been attributed to the pair in a terrible mix-up between police and an internet company.
Sir Paul Kennedy, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, said the mistakes had ‘significant consequence’ for the victims.
The internet provider involved was slow to report the errors and initially gave unsatisfactory explanations as to how they occurred or what was being done to stop it happening again, Sir Paul said.
He also revealed details of a council going beyond its legal powers to use snooping laws to spy on a family suspected of cheating school catchment area rules.
The council obtained details of phone calls and texts to seek to establish if the family lived where it said, the first known case of a town hall spying on a person’s phone records over school catchment areas.
The unnamed council was not acting within the rules, which say officials must be seeking evidence for use in a criminal prosecution. Instead, the council wanted only to withdraw a school place offered to a child in the family.
The hundreds of errors made by police, town halls and the security services will raise fresh doubts about the Government’s plan for a new ‘snoopers’ charter’.
Currently, public bodies have access to details of when and where phone calls, texts and emails were sent and, in some cases, to whom. But under proposals before Parliament, this will be extended to a person’s every internet click and the details of phone calls made on Skype.
The details will be supplied by internet firms – which were responsible for around a fifth of the mistakes made last year. Most commonly, the wrong digit was attached to a phone number or internet address by police, spies or the internet firm. This leads to data on the wrong person being investigated. It is destroyed once the mistake has been identified.
Last year, there were 895 cases where communications data – details of texts, emails and phone calls – was obtained in error.
There were also 42 errors by the security services – MI5, MI6 and GCHQ – relating to undercover operations, and 42 blunders by police and other law enforcement bodies asking for warrants to intercept the details of phone calls or other data.
David Cameron said he was concerned by the errors made by organisations using the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.
It was passed by Labour ostensibly to fight terrorism, but was then extended to cover a string of other public bodies, including town halls. Councils have been accused of using the powers to spy on those accused of putting their bins out on the wrong day or allowing their dog to foul the pavement.
The number of applications to obtain communications data was 494,078, which was down by 11 per cent but is still 1,350 every day.
Of these, 2,130 were made by town halls. This was up from 1,809 in 2010, despite repeated promises from ministers to curtail the use of surveillance by the so-called ‘Town Hall Stasi’.
The Home Office said: ‘Surveillance powers are a vital tool for police and security services, enabling them to catch criminals, prevent terrorist attacks and protect children. But they must be used proportionately – that is why we have blocked local authorities for accessing data for trivial purposes.’
Campaign group Liberty said the scale of surveillance revealed was ‘alarming’ and called on the Government to ‘think again about turning us into a nation of suspects rather than citizens’.
British photophobia again
Anger of primary school parents banned from photographing their own children appearing in play because of just ONE complaint
Furious parents have blasted a headteacher who banned them from taking pictures of their own children during a school play after a single complaint.
Pupils in their final year of primary school had been working hard for the last month on their end-of-term production of ‘Oliver!’
And on Tuesday 100 proud parents crammed into Blackheath Primary School, in Sandwell, West Mids., with their cameras ready to capture the occasion.
But just a few minutes before the performance was due to start, headteacher Lesley King announced nobody was allowed to film their children because one parent had complained.
Stunned mums and dads said the decision had left them and their children extremely ‘upset and disappointed’.
Geoffrey Pearsall, 48, who’s son played one of the workhouse children in the play, said: ‘No-one could quite believe it. ‘All the parents were looking at each other in amazement. They were not happy at all. ‘This is the children’s last year in junior school and the last time a lot of them will ever see each other again. ‘If one parent didn’t want to have their child filmed then that pupil could have had a lesser role.
‘At the very least the school could have filmed the production and distorted the face of the pupil concerned. It’s not hard to do these days.
‘But it doesn’t seem fair that we’ve got no record of it to show our son when he is older or his grandparents.’
Another parent, who did not wish to be named, added: ‘Everybody was pretty upset by the decision – it was really disappointing.
‘I wanted to capture the moment on film so I could make the play an everlasting memory for my son. ‘But because of ridiculous red-tape these days – it put a real dampener on the occasion.
‘My son said after ‘did you get any pictures of me?’ and I had to explain why I hadn’t.’
Headteacher Lesley King confirmed parents had been asked not to take any pictures or video footage during the production. She said: ‘We had an objection to people taking pictures and videos for reasons that are confidential. ‘I asked if parents would respect that and they did.’
How Political Correctness Is Islamifying British Education
In Cheshire, two students at the Alsager High School were punished by their teacher for refusing to pray to Allah as part of their religious education class.
In Scotland, 30 non-Muslim children from the Parkview Primary School recently were required to visit the Bait ur Rehman Ahmadiyya mosque in the Yorkhill district of Glasgow (videos here and here). At the mosque, the children were instructed to recite the shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith which states: “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger.” Muslims are also demanding that Islamic preachers be sent to every school in Scotland to teach children about Islam, ostensibly in an effort to end negative attitudes about Muslims.
British schools are increasingly dropping the Jewish Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, according to a report entitled, Teaching Emotive and Controversial History, commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills.
British teachers are also reluctant to discuss the medieval Crusades, in which Christians fought Muslim armies for control of Jerusalem: lessons often contradict what is taught in local mosques.
In an effort to counter “Islamophobia” in British schools, teachers now are required to teach “key Muslim contributions such as Algebra and the number zero” in math and science courses, even though the concept of zero originated in India.
In the East London district of Tower Hamlets, four Muslims were recently jailed for attacking a local white teacher who gave religious studies lessons to Muslim girls; and 85 out of 90 schools have implemented “no pork” policies.
The culinary restrictions join a long list of politically correct changes that gradually are bringing hundreds of British primary and secondary education into conformity with Islamic Sharia law.
The London Borough of Haringey, a heavily Muslim district in North London, is the latest school district to switch to a menu that is fully halal (religiously permissible for Muslims).
The Haringey Town Council recently issued “best practice” advice to all schools in its area to “ban all pork products in order to cater for the needs of staff and pupils who are not permitted contact with these for religious reasons.”
Local politicians have criticized the new policy as pandering to Muslims, and local farmers, who have pointed out that all schools in Britain already offer vegetarian options, have accused school administrators of depriving non-Muslim children of a choice.
Following an outcry from non-Muslim parents, the town council removed the guidance from its website, although the new policy remains in place.
At the Cypress Junior School, in Croydon, south London, school administrators announced in the school newsletter dated June 1, 2012 that the school has opted for a pork-free menu “as a result of pupil and parental feedback.”
The announcement states: “Whilst beef, chicken, turkey and fish will all feature, as well as the daily vegetarian and jacket potato or pasta option, the sausages served will now be chicken rather than pork.”
In Luton, an industrial city some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of London where more than 15% of the population is now Muslim, 23 out of 57 schools have banned pork.
In the City of Bradford, a borough of West Yorkshire in Northern England where there are now twice as many practicing Muslims that there are practicing Anglicans, 24 out of 160 schools have eliminated pork from their menus. In Newham (East London), 25 out of 75 schools have banned pork.
The Borough of Harrow in northwest London was among the first in Britain to encourage halal menus. In 2010, Harrow Council announced plans to ban pork in the borough’s 52 state primary schools, following a switch by ten secondary schools to offer halal-only menus.
According to the UK-based National Pig Association, which represents commercial pork producers, “It is disappointing that schools cannot be sufficiently organized to give children a choice of meat. Sausages and roast pork are staples of a British diet and children enjoy eating them. If products can be labeled with warnings that they contain nuts and vegetarian dishes can be made and kept separate from meat dishes, [we] don’t see why the same can’t apply to pork.”
Lunch menus are not the only area in which “cultural sensitivity” is escalating in British schools.
In West Yorkshire, the Park Road Junior Infant and Nursery School in Batley has banned stories featuring pigs, including “The Three Little Pigs,” in case they offend Muslim children.
In Nottingham, the Greenwood Primary School cancelled a Christmas nativity play; it interfered with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. In Scarborough, the Yorkshire Coast College removed the words Christmas and Easter from their calendar not to offend Muslims.
Also in Cheshire, a 14-year-old Roman Catholic girl who attends Ellesmere Port Catholic High School was branded a truant by teachers for refusing to dress like a Muslim and visit a mosque.
In Stoke-on-Trent, schools have been ordered to rearrange exams, cancel swimming lessons and stop sex education during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In Norwich, the Knowland Grove Community First School has axed the traditional Christmas play to “look at some of the other great cultural festivals of the world.”
Meanwhile, the politically correct ban on pigs in Britain also extends to toys for children. A toy farm set called HappyLand Goosefeather Farm recently removed pigs in order to avoid offending Muslims.
The pig removal came to public attention after a British mother bought the toy as a present for her daughter’s first birthday. Although the set contained a model of a cow, sheep, chicken, horse and dog, there was no pig, despite there being a sty and a button which generated an “oink” sound.
After the mother complained, the Early Learning Centre (ELC), which manufactures the toy, responded: “Previously the pig was part of the Goosefeather Farm. However due to customer feedback and religious reasons this is no longer part of the farm.”
After a public outcry, however, ELC later reversed its decision: “We recognize that pigs are familiar farm animals, especially for our UK customers. We have taken the decision to reinstate the pig and to no longer sell the set in international markets where it might create an issue.”
A few more male teachers in British primary schools
For four years, from age seven to 11, the most important man in my life, after my father, was Eric Sutton. I certainly saw more of him than my dad, who was often away on business. Mr Sutton — never Eric, heaven forfend — was there five, sometimes six, days a week.
He was the headmaster of my primary school, an important influence in my formative years. Mr Sutton had the air of a Regimental Sergeant Major and ran the school with military efficiency — not surprising, really, given that he’d served as an NCO in the Army Education Corps during World War II.
He had a piercing parade-ground bark, which could halt small boys in their tracks up to 100 yards away. That said, his bark was worse than his bite.
Mr Sutton was a disciplinarian with a fearsome cane on the wall of his study. I can’t remember him ever wielding it in anger. Maybe I’ve simply forgotten. But the prospect was deterrent enough.
If he did have to administer corporal punishment, it would have been in the spirit of the old adage: This is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you, boy.
I don’t recall him wearing a mortar board, but he didn’t need any props to convey his natural authority. In my young mind, he was the living embodiment of the headmaster played by Jimmy Edwards in the TV series Whack-O!
Whenever he caught anyone fighting in the playground, he would haul the combatants into the gym, make them wear boxing gloves and then slug it out in the ring, in full accordance with the Queensbury Rules. Goodness knows what modern elf’n’safety would make of primary schoolboys being forced to punch each other’s lights out under the supervision of a teacher. These days, my old headmaster would probably have found himself up in court on child cruelty charges.
Mr Sutton was a great believer in the virtues of sport. Our Dickensian school building didn’t have a playing field, so he’d march us crocodile-style to the local ‘rec’, rain or shine. In winter, we played football, in summer cricket.
After school and on Saturdays, he’d take teams to compete in tournaments. And he expected us to win. Eric Sutton would never settle for second best.
All this team sport was in addition to several sessions of vigorous PE every week and trips to the local open-air swimming pool.
He may have lain great importance on our physical development, but he gave equal — if not more — weight to nurturing our intellectual capacity.
These days, ‘passion’ is a much abused cliche. Every inept reality TV contestant professes their ‘passion’ for everything from fairy cakes to break-dancing. But Mr Sutton really was passionate about education in general and literacy in particular.
It was his ambition to get as many of his pupils as possible into grammar school, which he saw as the gateway to a better future. He succeeded spectacularly, his school regularly topping the table of 11-plus passes.
Some younger readers may think this sounds like a posh prep school for the privileged children of the well-off. Nothing could be further from the truth. West Town Juniors and Mixed Infants, Williamson Avenue, Peterborough, was what we would now call a ‘bog standard’ state school.
But there was nothing ‘bog standard’ about the ethos instilled by Eric Sutton, who could have held his own in any exclusive fee-paying establishment. He was a dapper man who always wore a sports jacket, complete with leather patches on the elbows, and cavalry twill trousers. He wouldn’t have been seen dead without a shirt and tie — unlike some of the slovenly scruffs on parade at the teachers’ union conferences every Easter.
Which brings me to the reason I’m taking a trip down Memory Lane today — the news that there has been a significant increase in the number of men training as primary school teachers.
For the past 40-odd years, the feminisation of state education has been a disaster. There are more than 4,250 schools in Britain where not a single male teacher can be found in the staff room. The Eric Suttons of this world are as extinct as the stegosaurus.
Coupled with the trendy, ‘child-centred’ teaching methods indoctrinated by Marxist training colleges, this has been responsible for a collapse in discipline and an alarming increase in illiteracy.
Generations of boys have been utterly betrayed by the system set up to educate them — many written off as suffering from a bewildering array of fashionable ‘hyperactivity disorders’ and pumped full of mind-bending drugs simply because young female teachers have no idea how to control or inspire them.
Mr Sutton didn’t need Ritalin to bring an unruly child to order, just a well-aimed blackboard eraser.
With no competitive sport to channel their physical excesses — a consequence of the pernicious ‘all-must-have-prizes’ culture identified by Melanie Phillips — and zero intellectual stimulation, young men are leaving school unsuited to the adult world.
The rise in single motherhood and absentee fathers, coupled with a monopoly of female primary school teachers, means that countless thousands of boys reach puberty without having encountered a male role model, apart from the local ‘gangstas’.
Our sick society, which considers any man who wants to work with children to be a potential paedophile, has helped to turn primary schools into testosterone-free zones. A male teacher who volunteered to take young boys and girls swimming would be lucky to escape without a knock on the door from the nonce squad or a petrol bomb being lobbed through his front window.
Those hardy male souls who have taken the plunge report hostility and ‘intimidation’ from all-female staff rooms — which tends to suggest they are probably not cut out for dealing with a class full of seven-year-old savages, either.
All this combined with relatively low wages has conspired against encouraging any young family man to become a primary school teacher.
The good news is that recent changes which allow teachers to earn a salary while they train in school have begun to attract more men into the profession. And the Government has launched a campaign to persuade male graduates to take up a career in primary education.
The numbers applying have risen by 51 per cent, albeit from a low base. Eric Sutton would have approved.
Like U.S. Charter Schools, Britain’s Academies Aim High
1776 is a number with great resonance for Americans, but not one you expect to be featured on a British government website.
But there it is, on the home page of the United Kingdom’s Department of Education: “As of 1 April 2012, there are 1776 academies open in England.”
Academies, as you might expect, mean something different in Britain than in the United States. They are, approximately, what we would call charter schools. And there are 1,776 of them largely because of the energy and determination of British Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Britain, like America, has gotten pretty dismal results for years from its (in their terminology) state schools. (British public schools are expensive boarding schools; they include Eton, which produced David Cameron and 12 other prime ministers, and Fettes, its Scottish equivalent, which graduated former Prime Minister Tony Blair.)
This is a problem that has been recognized by all three British political parties. Blair’s New Labor tried to instill more accountability with extensive testing, much like George W. Bush’s bipartisan No Child Left Behind law.
But many tests got dumbed down, and the results have been disappointing. Education in both nations has been dominated by what Reagan Education Secretary William Bennett called “the Blob,” the combined forces of university education schools and teachers unions, which have a bias against rigorous learning and testing.
The Blob wants students to have lots of self-esteem and deems it oppressive to demand that they learn to read or do multiplication tables.
As a result, British and American students think highly of themselves but do much worse in reading and math than their counterparts in countries like Singapore and South Korea.
Gove argues that this is “a huge crime.” “Traditional subjects taught in a rigorous fashion,” he says, “help poor children graduate to the middle class.” In contrast, “inequality is generated by poor schools.”
Gove is an example of upward mobility through good education. His parents, who didn’t graduate from high school, scrimped and saved from his father’s income as a fish merchant to send him to an all-boys, fee-paying school in Aberdeen, Scotland.
One of his teachers suggested he apply to Oxford. He got in and became president of the Oxford Union, the well-known debating society. That led to jobs in journalism and then to Conservative Party politics. He was elected to Parliament in 2005, and in his first term became shadow secretary of education.
When the 2010 general election resulted in Conservatives falling short of a majority, Cameron was prepared with a list of policies with which the party was in agreement with the Liberal Democrats.
Like some U.S. Democrats, the Lib Dems had become disillusioned with state schools’ performance and the teacher unions’ objections to accountability. Education became one of the issues on which the Lib Dems decided the two parties could work together, and they continue to do so despite Cameron’s failure last week to produce the Conservative votes needed to pass the Lib Dems’ proposal to change the House of Lords.
Gove has insisted that state school pupils read 19th century literature — Byron, Keats, Dickens, Jane Austen — and study a foreign language. He has pushed more instruction in history and geography, and higher standards in math and science.
His greatest innovation is the academies — an idea he picked up in Sweden, of all places. Individual schools, local school authorities, businesses, universities, charities and religious organizations can petition to start academies. But they have to meet certain standards to be approved.
Like many American charter schools, the academies can set their own pay and devise their own curriculum and schedules; they receive the same per-pupil funding as state schools. The idea is to liberate education from domination by the Blob, and the results so far seem encouraging.
Gove’s policies cannot be entirely replicated in the United States. Britain’s central government has full authority over schools in England (Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own systems), while in the U.S. education is largely controlled by state governments and local school boards often dominated by teachers unions.
But we might do well to keep an eye on Britain’s 1,776 academies, which now number 1,957, as a subsidiary page on the website informs us. We English-speaking peoples have been lagging behind on education.
We can do better, and as Gove says, those most in need are the poor and disadvantaged.
Life’s a beach: Living near the coast is healthier than living inland, researchers say
Living by the sea is generally esteemed so it is the wealthier members of any given community who will get the limited real estate available by the sea. And the richer you are, the healthier you generally are. So this is a wealth effect not an effect of the sea
Not only do we like to be beside the seaside, but it seems it may actually be good for us. Those who live near the coast tend to be healthier than those who set up home further inland, according to a study.
Scientists analysed data from the 2001 census and compared how healthy respondents said they were with how close they lived to the sea.
The researchers from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health – part of the Peninsula College of Medicine at the University of Exeter – concluded that, on average, the closer we live to the sea, the more likely we are to report good health.
The analysis also showed that the link between living near the coast and good health was strongest in the most economically deprived communities.
Study lead author Dr Ben Wheeler said: ‘We know that people usually have a good time when they go to the beach, but there is strikingly little evidence of how spending time at the coast can affect health and well-being.
‘By analysing data for the whole population, our research suggests that there is a positive effect, although this type of study cannot prove cause and effect.’
Researchers looked at the proportion of people who reported their health as being ‘good’, rather than ‘fairly good’ or ‘not good’ and then compared this with how close those respondents lived to the coastline.
They also took into account the way that age, sex and a range of social and economic factors, like education and income, vary across the country.
The results show that, on average, populations living by the sea report rates of good health more than similar populations living inland.
Previous research from the Devon-based academics had shown that the coastal environment also provided significant benefits in terms of stress reduction.
Researchers said one reason those living in coastal communities may attain better physical health could be due to the stress relief offered by spending time near the sea.
Dr Wheeler added: ‘We need to carry out more sophisticated studies to try to unravel the reasons that may explain the relationship we’re seeing.
‘If the evidence is there, it might help to provide governments with the guidance necessary to wisely and sustainably use our valuable coasts to help improve the health of the whole UK population.’