Doctors will undergo annual checks but any concerns will be kept from patients

What a disgusting country Britain is at times! The elite contempt for ordinary decent people is palpable — JR

Doctors will undergo annual assessments from next year to ensure they are up to the job, but patients will never find out if concerns were raised. The system, called revalidation, will involve an annual ‘beefed-up’ appraisal with a senior colleague going over complaints, compliments, clinical data, complications and mistakes as well as any management and research work they have undertaken.

Every five years this will have to include feedback from at least 35 patients and colleagues before the doctor can be recommended to the General Medical Council to continue to practice.

The aim is to detect low level poor practice that would not currently warrant a referral to the GMC so action can be taken early to rectify the situation with extra training or supervision.

It should also allow doctors to ensure they stay up to date with their skills and knowledge. It will not involve formal exams or tests.

In a survey concerns were raised in 4.1 per cent of cases, the equivalent to 6,800 doctors in England. That includes 2.4 per cent, or 4,000 nationally, with low level concerns such as lateness that would be addressed within the organisation. One per cent, or 1,600 doctors nationally, had medium level concerns raised which could include rudeness and other behaviour issues that may need further training or a ‘contract agreement’ to change.

The remaining 0.7 per cent or 1,200 doctors in England had high level concerns raised which could include problems such as alcoholism as well as patient safety issues. These concerns could be enough to trigger a referral to the current GMC fitness to practice panels, which remains unchanged.

Of the concerns raised, one quarter were about the doctor’s health, one quarter were about their conduct and 60 per cent were about competency or a combination of those factors.

Officials at the GMC and Department of Health admitted that patients would not know of any concerns raised about their doctor unless they were referred to fitness to practice and there was considered to be a case to answer.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said no other profession published the results of appraisals and patients should be reassured that all doctors would now undergo annual checks in the first such national system anywhere in the world.

He said it was a ‘historic movement’ and the biggest change in medical regulation for 150 years. Medicine was a ‘safety critical’ industry, he said and added: “Doctors’ capacity to do good is greater than it has ever been but so to is the capacity to do harm.”

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association said patients wanted to be in a position to see the best doctor no matter what their condition and needed good information to do that.

She said: “When a serious clinical matter has been raised in the revalidation process then patients have a right to know. “The GMC must make sure that their first priority is protecting the public.”

However she added that where concerns raised were of a managerial or human resources nature then that should stay between the doctor and their employer.

Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS, said: “Every doctor has a duty to be able to describe what they do and to define how well they do it.

“Implementation will be quite difficult to begin with and I suspect it will be imperfect but it is better to start than to wait for perfection.”

The system will operate through Responsible Officers in each health care organisation, whether NHS, voluntary or private.

They will be registered doctors, usually medical directors, who already have some responsibilities in this area and will now have a legal duty to ensure all doctors in their organisation have annual appraisals and are revalidated.

Sir Bruce will act as the ultimate responsible officer in the chain of command and will be one of the first to undergo the new appraisals in December.

The first wave will be revalidated using one appraisal and a feedback questionnaire instead of the usual five years’ worth of appraisals in future.

He will be followed by other medical leaders in the Department of Health and Royal Colleges and from April the system will roll out with 20 per cent of doctors expected to undergo revalidation by 2014, with the vast majority completed by 2016.

Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said: “The Government’s decision to start the process of revalidation for doctors will be welcomed by employers as much as it is by patients.

“It is a very positive step forward and should herald greater patient safety and build confidence. Patients need and expect this. It has been a long time coming. After years of planning and preparation the hard work of implementation now begins in earnest.

“Revalidation is a key part of ensuring safe, modern care for patients. Most importantly, it is crucial for assuring doctors that they are providing the highest levels of service. The introduction of regular tests and more appraisals will help engage doctors positively with the mandatory process of retaining their licence to practise. Many patients will be surprised this isn’t happening already.”

There should be no additional cost to the NHS as responsible officers are already in post, and annual appraisals and preparation for them should already have been happening, officials said.

Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association council said: “The BMA has always supported the principle of revalidation – we believe it is important that our patients have confidence that doctors have up-to-date skills and knowledge to be able to offer them the best possible care.

“It is important to recognise, that while revalidation will undoubtedly enhance the rigorous testing that doctors undergo, clinicians are already offering patients a very high quality service and robust systems are currently in place to deal with any concerns.

“There is too much bureaucracy in the NHS and so we have to be careful that revalidation does not add to this unnecessarily.

“And it is vital that sufficient support exists across the UK for those doctors who need it.

“It is essential that revalidation is reviewed every step of way so that we can be sure that the system works for patients and for doctors.”

In addition the Department of Health announced that a single list of approved GPs will be held nationally, instead of the current system where each primary care trust has its own. This has in the past allowed doctors to move to another part of the country if a problem was identified with their practice and they were removed from the local list.


Britain’s immigration restrictions are hitting the wrong people

It’s the welfare-dependent army of pseudo-refugees and illegals that they should be focusing on. Restricting welfare benefits to the native-born and those who can show 10 years worth of contributions to National Insurance would work wonders

THE prime minister’s speech at the Conservative Party conference on October 10th contained a thumping statement of the obvious. Britain might never recover its former glory, David Cameron admitted. The country is running a global race against much nimbler competitors. Its only hope is to slice regulations so that innovative, entrepreneurial folk can thrive, and trade furiously. Splendid stuff. So why is Mr Cameron’s government pursuing an immigration policy that is creating red tape, stifling entrepreneurs and hobbling Britain?

The country has, in effect, installed a “keep out” sign over the white cliffs of Dover. Even as Mr Cameron defends the City of London as a global financial centre, and takes planeloads of business folk on foreign trips, his government ratchets up measures that would turn an entrepôt into a fortress. In the past two years the Tories have made it much harder for students and foreign workers and family members to enter and settle in the country. Britain is not only losing the war for global talent, it is scarcely competing. More people now leave to take up job offers in other countries than come the other way.
Little England trumps Great Britain

Businesses everywhere complain about immigration systems. But Britain’s is comprehensively bad, in three ways. First, the policy itself. In opposition, Mr Cameron promised to bring net migration–immigration minus emigration–to below 100,000 a year by 2015. Since the latest tally stands at 216,000, this is hard, perhaps impossible. Britons and Europeans can come and go as they wish. Human-rights laws protect asylum-seekers. So Theresa May, the home secretary, has squeezed migrant workers and students–the very people who are most likely to boost Britain’s economy, as well as the most likely to leave soon. The number of study visas handed out has plunged by 21% in a year. The government has made it harder to move from study to work, which in turn will deter foreign students from applying. International education, one of the country’s most important export industries and an area where Britain should have a huge competitive advantage, is being starved.

In theory, Britain’s door is open to the most highly skilled, as well as to the very rich. In practice it is not, because of the second disastrous aspect of the immigration system: its bureaucracy. It takes far too long to process visa applications. Big firms can generally put up with the hassle involved in transferring a worker from Delhi. Smaller ones cannot. Fast-growing technology firms are in the worst position because they compete for a flighty, global pool of talent (see “Immigration and business: A harder road”). Workers who navigate the maze are tied to a firm, sapping their productivity. Britain fails to hand out even its meagre allocation of work visas. One category, for people of exceptional talent, has an annual cap of 1,000. Last year 37 such visas were granted.

Third, British politicians, led by the Conservatives, do their utmost to signal hostility and mislead the public. Last month Parliament approved a motion to take “all necessary steps” to keep the country’s population below 70m. Ed Miliband, Labour’s leader, has apologised on behalf of his party for the migration of east Europeans to Britain in the middle of the last decade (never mind that the Poles, like most people who migrate for work, claimed few benefits and contributed far more to the public purse). Mr Cameron has promised to review the rules guaranteeing freedom of movement within the EU. This right probably cannot be withdrawn unless Britain leaves the union, which it is not about to do. The only thing achieved by bringing it up is to add neon lights to the “keep out” sign. Talented folk, who can go elsewhere, will get the message.

The paradox of populism

Some senior politicians admit privately that Britain’s immigration policy is disastrous. A few business-minded Conservative MPs have begun to complain that the country’s immigration strategy is undermining its growth strategy. Boris Johnson, London’s ambitious, liberal-minded mayor, is egging them on. But what can be done, they ask? Britons, they shudder, will not wear a relaxation of the immigration rules. The government must stick to its promises.

The simple answer is that if a policy is doing as much harm to your country’s prospects as the net-migration target, then you should drop it entirely–and explain why. Mr Cameron is sadly unlikely to make such a bold U-turn, but he has some political room for smaller manoeuvres.

Immigration is certainly unpopular. Britons are more opposed to it than are the inhabitants of any other large European country. Fully 62% think immigrants make it harder for natives to get jobs, compared with a European average of 45%. Three-quarters argue that immigrants put too much pressure on public services. But the natives are not as xenophobic as their leaders suppose. Britons dislike skilled workers and students less than other immigrants. (Indeed, by European standards, they are exceptionally keen to discriminate between such desirable arrivals and the rest.) More important, they know the government’s policies aren’t working: immigration scores even lower than health, a Tory disaster area. If the net migration target is missed they will become angrier.

Even if Mr Cameron cannot scrap that foolish target, the government could take a few useful steps. Some groups, such as workers on company transfers and students, could be exempted from the target. The government should make it easier to move from study to work, at least for students at the best institutions. Somebody who can make it to a leading university will almost certainly prove an asset to Britain. The government should also speed and simplify the visa system. It has hacked back much of the red tape that binds business, and should do the same to immigration rules.

As emerging countries grow, the enthusiasm of young, talented foreigners to get an education in a British university or to sell their wares to Britain’s relatively prosperous consumers is likely to diminish. For now, though, the country’s global popularity gives it a huge advantage, which the government is squandering. The world is a competitive place. Britain is trying to run with its shoelaces tied together.


British PM promises to seek ‘retribution’ against law breakers in new anti-crime crackdown

David Cameron will ditch his ‘hug a hoodie’ image on law and order tomorrow and promise to seek ‘retribution’ against law breakers.

After a week that has left him reeling – over energy policy, George Osborne’s train ticket and Andrew Mitchell’s resignation – the Prime Minister hopes to repair the damage with the announcement of a new crackdown on crime. Measures will include:

* Fines for prison bosses who fail to stop criminals re-offending after release, in a new ‘paid by results’ system.

* Life sentences for gun-runners who supply lethal weapons to gangsters.

* An ‘element of punishment’ in community sentences, which have been dismissed as a soft option by Right-wingers.

* Possible axeing of the custom of giving all prisoners £46 cash when they are freed from jail.

* Curbs on ‘cushy’ jail regimes where prisoners can spend all day watching TV.

Details of the new initiative emerged on the day anti- Government protesters clashed with police as 150,000 took to the streets in London, Glasgow and Belfast.

In his first major speech on law and order since becoming Prime Minister, Mr Cameron will unveil a new law and order slogan: Tough But Intelligent.

He will refuse to apologise for taking a more authoritarian approach on the issue, declaring: ‘Retribution is not a dirty word.’

The term is likely to prompt uproar among liberal law-and-order reformers with its Old Testament connotations of righteous vengeance.

Mr Cameron’s initiative will be seen by many as proof that he has finally abandoned the so-called ‘hug a hoodie’ policy associated with him when he became Tory leader in 2005.

The phrase was coined by former No. 10 spin doctor and ex-newspaper editor Andy Coulson, who was forced to quit his job in Downing Street over the phone-hacking scandal.

Mr Cameron denied making the remark, but it summed up his attempt to ditch the traditional Conservative ‘hang ’em and flog ’em’ image on crime. Later he was jeered at by tagged thug Ryan Florence on a visit to a Manchester council estate.

His new policy, to be announced after a symbolic visit to a prison tomorrow, is closer to ‘mug a hoodie’ than ‘hug a hoodie’.

However, cynics may say the phrase Tough But Intelligent is merely a reinvention of Tony Blair’s famous slogan Tough On Crime, Tough On The Causes Of Crime.

The change in emphasis was signalled last month when Mr Cameron replaced liberal-leaning Justice Secretary Ken Clarke with hardliner Chris Grayling.

Mr Grayling’s pledge to give householders new powers to defend themselves against burglars earned him cheers at the Tory Conference.

Now he plans to expand the role of private prisons and save more money with a ‘paid by results’ policy to try to curb the re-offending rate.

Under the scheme, successfully trialled at Doncaster prison, private contractors such as G4S and Serco will take over jails under Government supervision.

But they will receive the full fee for their contract only if reconviction rates for prisoners within a year of release fall by five per cent.

The idea is based on work by the Centre For Social Justice, the reformist Christian think-tank set up by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, to expand the role of private providers in the rehabilitation of offenders. Mr Grayling described recently how he had ‘pioneered the use of large-scale payment-by-results contracts to help the long-term unemployed’.

He added: ‘It is a simple proposition, really. ‘You decide what works best, and we pay you when you are successful. I plan to bring that same approach to prevent re-offending.

‘We will allow nimble private and voluntary sector providers to innovate, to find the right mix of training and mentoring, to do what works in ensuring that those leaving prison and community sentences do not re-offend.’

Mr Grayling says he is determined to ‘break the cycle of re-offending’ in which we ‘release young people on to our streets with £46 in their pocket, to go back to the same places where they offended before and where the same people are’ – and end up back in jail.

The Justice Secretary says he will be ‘tough’ as well as ‘smart’ by introducing a new ‘two-strikes-and-you’re-out’ rule, under which criminals who commit a serious violent or sexual offence for a second time receive an automatic life sentence.

Other plans include ensuring that there is more of a ‘punitive’ element to community sentences.

‘Some criminals think they have got off scot-free if they get a community service and can spend the whole time drinking coffee with a probation officer,’ said one official. ‘We have to stipulate that there must be a degree of punishment. It won’t exactly be hard labour like the old days but they will have to clear up graffiti or do something rigorous.’

Today, Home Secretary Theresa May is due to outline details of a new life sentence for gun-runners. She is determined to smash the network of importers and dealers who feed firearms to criminal gangs by introducing a new offence of ‘possession of an illegal firearm with intent to supply’ which will carry a maximum life sentence.

The longest sentence for black market dealers under present firearms law is ten years – less than the longest sentence that can be delivered to cannabis smugglers.

Judges hand down an average sentence of just under three years for gun dealers. The law change will mean that gun-runners will now face the same sanctions as major heroin and cocaine dealers.

A Home Office source said: ‘Dealing in guns is dealing in death. Those who supply illegal firearms are just as responsible for the violent consequences as the person who pulls the trigger’.


British supermarkets will be banned from discounting multiple bottles of wine

How ridiculous. This is normal commercial practice for almost any product

Most supermarkets offer significant discounts for customers buying bottles of wine by the dozen or half-dozen. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, for example, regularly offer a 25 per cent discount for six bottles of wine.

Ministers believe such promotions give customers a financial incentive to purchase more alcohol than they intended to buy and should be banned.

The plans, being driven by David Cameron, have raised fears that middle-class households will bear the brunt of measures supposedly aimed at troublemaking youths and other anti-social drinkers.

The measures will include a new minimum price for alcohol as ministers try to reduce what they say is irresponsible drinking.

They say new curbs on sales are required because of the growing problems of crime and illness caused by alcohol consumption. The most recent figures show the NHS treats more than 1.1 million people every year as a result of the effects of alcohol.

Political attention has focused on the Coalition’s alcohol pricing plans but insiders say that for many middle-class households, the proposed multi-buy restrictions will have a far greater impact.

One Government source said the plans could prompt a backlash.

The source said: “People shouldn’t think this is just about yobs getting drunk in parks and kids preloading before going out — this is going to affect respectable middle-class people popping into Waitrose for a couple of bottles of sauvignon blanc at the weekend.”

Even if Mr Cameron’s preferred price of 40p per unit is adopted, it is unlikely to affect most wines and beers on the market. For example, the new minimum price for a bottle of wine with a 12 per cent alcohol content would be £3.60.

Supermarkets such as Waitrose do not sell any bottles of wine for less than that sum.

By contrast, they often offer shoppers discounts for buying wine in bulk.

The proposal is unlikely to affect wine clubs. However, it is unclear how retailers that specialise in bulk sales — such as Majestic — would be affected.

Mr Cameron is understood to be strongly personally committed to the coming curbs on alcohol sales, although some of his colleagues are concerned that the measures will prove to be unpopular and ineffective.

Before the Prime Minister removed him from the Department of Health last month, Andrew Lansley was resisting Mr Cameron over alcohol sales, delaying the start of the consultation exercise.

Mr Lansley’s successor, Jeremy Hunt, is understood to be supporting the Prime Minister’s agenda.

However, the proposed alcohol restrictions have raised concerns inside the Government that the policy will have the heaviest consequences for middle-class voters who often vote for the Conservatives.

The British Retail Consortium has described the Government’s plans as “a tax on responsible drinkers” and the drinks industry has accused ministers of unfairly targeting law-abiding consumers. The Government has expressed concerns about middle-class adults jeopardising their health by regular drinking.

A strategy paper this year warned that it had become acceptable to use alcohol for stress relief, putting many people at “real risk of chronic diseases”.

Mr Cameron this year backed a 40p minimum unit price, but it is understood that the Home Office will next week seek views on a range of options for a minimum price for a unit of alcohol. The Home Office estimated that a 40p floor price could mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol-related deaths per year by the end of the decade.

Some medical experts want a higher minimum price, and the consultation options are expected to range as high as 50p per unit.

Next week’s proposals will apply only to England and Wales. The devolved administration in Scotland has passed legislation to set a 50p-per-unit minimum.

That decision is facing a legal challenge from the European Commission, after Bulgaria — whose wines would be affected — said the Scottish price rule would breach European free trade laws.

The Scotch Whisky Association is also attempting a legal challenge to the Scottish plans, seeking a judicial review of the legislation. A court hearing is due to start later this month.


Compulsory Latin, suspension for a skinhead haircut and prizes for coming first! It’s not Eton or Harrow, but it may just be the strictest state school in Britain

Cicero said ‘a mind without instruction can no more bear fruit than a field, however fertile, without cultivation’. So it is perhaps fitting that his head is on pupils’ blazer badges at one of London’s newest and most audacious schools.

The immaculate uniform is just one thing the West London Free School has in common with other, better-known seats of learning. There is the rigorous discipline, too, as well as a focus on competitive sport, musical excellence, a house system and mandatory Latin.

But what’s truly surprising is that this isn’t a private, fee-paying school, or even one of the country’s surviving grammars, but funded by the taxpayer – and is non-selective. Here is a working example of Michael Gove’s vision of how a state school might be freed from central or local authority control.

Nor is this just any free school: it was founded by author Toby Young, the most prominent of the campaigners for state-funded independent schools. His WLFS, opened last year by Mayor Boris Johnson, is the scheme’s flagship.

Education Secretary Gove’s encouragement of free schools is controversial. Some fear they will appeal only to the middle class and could undermine existing schools. But on this rare visit behind the scenes, Young was unapologetic about the school or its ethos, which is more akin to that of a prep school or old-fashioned grammar. After all, nine children chase each place.

The school is proud of its strict discipline: one boy was sent home for his hair being too short. The few who get in live in the catchment area or are drawn in a lottery, and enjoy what Young calls a ‘classical, liberal’ education.

Mobile phones are all but banned, classes are small and teachers wear black gowns on special occasions. Chewing gum earns a detention and there’s an hour’s homework daily. Attendance at after-school clubs is compulsory four days a week – subjects on offer include debating, drama, Mandarin and Arabic. The neat blazers, by the way, are supplied by Eton and Harrow’s outfitters.

Young refuses to accept that children from low-income and single-parent households or ethnic minorities should set their sights any lower than those from white, middle-class homes.

‘Too often schools make excuses for children, particularly children on free school meals, children from low-income families. We don’t do that,’ he says. ‘Critics said if you include Latin and expect children to do at least eight academic GCSEs you won’t have a single Special Education Needs applicant, but that has proved to be wrong.

‘We were also told that because of the classical liberal curriculum we would only attract rich, white children with educated, middle-class parents. Actually, 50 per cent of our intake have English as an additional language, and 35 per cent are black, Asian or minority ethnic. A quarter of our pupils are eligible for free school dinners.

‘It is a really accurate microcosm of the area it is in, and that is one of the things parents single out – it is a comprehensive mix. Yes, we are attracting children whose parents would otherwise send them to fee-paying schools but we always set out to do that, as well as attracting the very poorest children in the community, because we want our school to be a genuine comprehensive.’

He adds: ‘We don’t have a boathouse, but we have high expectations of all the children.’

A tour of the school in Hammersmith, West London, proves his point. It stands on an unprepossessing cul-de-sac, but within its modest walls the emphasis on intellectual aspiration is everywhere, from the school’s Latin motto, ‘Sapere aude’ – ‘dare to be wise’ – to the four houses named after citizens of Greek city states: Athenians, Corinthians, Olympians and Spartans.

In a Latin class in the first year of 11 to 12-year-olds, the 23 pupils stood respectfully as I entered the room. A minute later, eight hands shot up when the teacher asked for a translation of a Latin phrase, ‘feminae pugnant’. The class listened in silence as a pupil supplied the answer: ‘The women fight.’

Most would never have come across Latin before the school, but here they were enthusiastically translating phrases from their workbooks, encouraged by a young, female teacher.

Along the corridor, a group of children stood around a teacher singing What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor? before sitting down and playing individual keyboards. Music is heavily emphasised by the school: two-thirds of pupils learn an instrument, against eight per cent across the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. A dozen children are given places on the basis of their musical talent, the evidence for which might simply be their ability to tap out a rhythm.

The quiet corridors display another school obsession: competitive sport. A trophy cabinet stands alongside notices announcing rugby and netball fixtures. Young ardently opposes the ‘all-must-have-prizes’ philosophy prevalent in parts of the state sector. ‘We take the highly controversial position that only children who come first should win a prize,’ he says.

In another parallel with the independent sector, children must stay long past the normal end of a school day to attend clubs which give breadth to their learning, largely staffed by volunteers. Parents are encouraged to make voluntary payments towards costs.

Young places great value on the strict codes of conduct at the school as well as the expectations of excellence placed on all its pupils.

‘If you create a well-ordered, structured environment, that makes it easier for children to learn, especially if you have zero tolerance towards disruption in lessons’

As I walked through the school, I saw notices reminding children to treat adults and each other with courtesy. Girls and boys chatted quietly to each other while hurrying between classes, but fell silent as they queued for their next lesson. In the Latin class, they showed no inhibitions before asking questions, after raising hands first, of course. The teacher kept control with a quiet word here and there. Rules are strict, but the children seem happy.

Soon after the school opened, two children were temporarily excluded, one for fighting, one for stealing.

Then there was the case of 11-year-old Kai Fizzle, who was sent home after he came to school with a close haircut 3mm shorter than the rules allow. At the time, his mother Tania Scott said the school failed to understand Afro-Caribbean hair needed to be kept short to be easily manageable.

Young says: ‘We were criticised on the grounds that it was discriminatory because the boy in question was black and there were cultural differences to account for, but we thought that was nonsense. You can’t have one rule for the white boys and another for the black boys.

‘One of the reasons Afro-Caribbean boys underachieve is because schools don’t have the same expectations of them and don’t hold them to the same standards as other ethnic groups. At our school we hold every child to the same high standards. What is unusual about our school isn’t that we have strict rules, but that we enforce them. Quite often in school they will have an elaborate code of conduct, but they just won’t enforce it, and that sends a very bad message to children.

‘We have just as many challenging children as the local community schools but they know we have a fairly strict code of conduct and we are not frightened to enforce it.’

Happily, Kai has continued at the school – with regulation-length hair – and Young says he is ‘thriving’. He adds: ‘If you create a well-ordered, structured environment, that makes it easier for children to learn, especially if you have zero tolerance towards disruption in lessons.’

The school says that, as a result of imposing tough rules early on, the pupils, many from difficult backgrounds, soon learn to behave and are happier for it.

It currently has 240 pupils in two year groups, each composed of 120 children in five forms. This will grow by 120 a year as it fills up. Eventually there will be seven year groups, going from 11 to 18.

I spoke to one parent, Filipe Simoes, 49, who is doing ‘The Knowledge’ to become a black cab driver, and whose 12-year-old son James is at the school.

Filipe said: ‘The school doesn’t have a track record, but the children are coming home happy. They are definitely academically challenged. James is doing very well. The only thing is whether he is doing enough homework.

‘He gets up at 6am and leaves for school at 8am and doesn’t get home until about 6pm or after that. Then he will do about an hour’s homework, which will usually include practising the guitar and reading.

‘James hasn’t been in trouble. I think it is fantastic, the discipline they have there.’

Critics claim many free schools have been established by ‘sharp-elbowed, well-off parents’ in affluent areas for middle-class children. Some say free schools in poorer areas will drain other schools of high-attaining children with the most advantaged backgrounds, creating a two-tier education system.

The leading critic is Fiona Millar, the partner of Alastair Campbell. She wrote: ‘This free schools project may satisfy some individual groups of parents and teachers and certainly benefit the edu-chains [private education companies] who stand to make a profit, but they will do little to ben-efit the rest of us, or our children.’

Best known as author of the memoir How To Lose Friends & Alienate People, Young was a contemporary of David Cameron at Oxford. Unlike the Prime Minister, an Old Etonian, he was a comprehensive schoolboy, but sees nothing wrong in apeing the rigour and excellence of a prep school or an old-fashioned grammar.

He rejects the argument of Millar and other critics that free schools disadvantage children from low-income families. ‘All the evidence is that if a school in a particular area starts attracting all the most aspirational parents and their children, the other neighbouring schools raise the game in order to compete.’

Headmaster Thomas Packer was head of two schools in the independent sector. He says he runs WLFS in much the same way, but on a tighter budget. He receives the same funding from the Department for Education as any other state head in the borough, about £6,000 per pupil.

His school’s prospectus proclaims its ambition that 100 per cent of its pupils should gain at least eight A-C grades at GCSE or equivalent, including in English, English literature, history, maths, science and a language.

Packer, 53, a Royal Navy reservist, admits this is an ambitious aim: the borough school average for five GCSE A-C grades is 65 per cent. He says: ‘Most people agree that the independent sector provides a good education. I don’t see why state schools can’t aspire to the same. ‘The background of the child should not matter. So far, we are on course.’


Bad teaching rules poorer pupils out of Oxbridge

Students from poorer backgrounds are failing to get in to Oxbridge because of the quality of teaching in state schools, a leading scientist has warned.

Lord Rees, the Astronomer Royal and a Cambridge professor, said the middle-class dominance at many top institutions was explained by the “killer fact” that half of all pupils do not receive the quality of teaching needed to qualify for the most competitive courses.

The former president of the Royal Society also cited teachers who discouraged their pupils from “aiming high enough”.

His comments, in a paper to be published tomorrow by the think tank Politeia, will reignite the debate about fair access by blaming continuing inequality on failing schools rather than university admission tutors.

Among secondary schools inspected last year by Ofsted, 42 per cent were found to have teaching that was not good enough.

As a way to lift students from poorly-performing schools, Lord Rees, Cambridge’s Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, proposes a Californian-style system where students could switch universities part-way through their studies.

Sixth-formers would being by taking a foundation degree at a low-ranked university, then could transfer to a more selective university after a year or two if they performed well enough.

“Higher education is a driver of social mobility but this will be inhibited until high-quality teaching at school is available across the full geographical and social spectrum,” said the professor, who recently stepped down as master of Trinity College, Cambridge.

“In the meantime, the most distinguished academic institutions could widen access by admitting able students who have earned their spurs in less competitive institutions – indeed we should strive for greater mobility and flexibility.”

In California, many of those who attend elite colleges such as Berkeley and UCLA have come via a lower-tier institution.

Last week, Alan Milburn, the Government’s social mobility chief and former Labour minister, heaped more pressure on universities to recruit pupils from poorer backgrounds.

His study – called How Higher Education Can Advance Social Mobility – recommended that all institutions use “contextual data” – taking in to account a student’s background – when deciding who to accept, and that bright pupils from poorer homes be guaranteed interviews.

It said the millions spent on bursaries and fee waivers for poorer students should be switched to financial grants to help ensure those pupils stayed on at school. In addition, all institutions should offer a foundation year programme so less advantaged youngsters have a chance to catch up with peers.


Children who suffer brain injuries are more likely to become criminals later in life

No surprise — but taking a survey of prisoners is naive

Young people who sustain brain injuries are more likely to commit crimes and end up in prison, new research suggests. Injuries caused by trauma to the head can cause maturing brains to ‘misfire’, affecting judgement and the ability to control impulses.

The study, from the University of Exeter, calls for greater monitoring and treatment to prevent later problems.

Its findings echo a separate report by the Children’s Commissioner for England on the impact of injuries on maturing brains and the social consequences.

In the new report, Repairing Shattered Lives, Professor Huw Williams from the University of Exeter’s Centre for Clinical Neuropsychology Research, describes traumatic brain injury as a ‘silent epidemic’.

It is said to occur most frequently among children and young people who have fallen over or been playing sport, as well as those involved in fights or road accidents.

The consequences can include loss of memory, with the report citing international research which indicates the level of brain injuries among offenders is much higher than in the general population.

A survey of 200 adult male prisoners in Britain found 60 per cent claimed to have suffered a head injury, the report notes.

It also acknowledges there may be underlying risk factors for brain injury and offending behaviour but says improving treatment and introducing screening for young offenders would deliver significant benefits in terms of reducing crime and saving public money.

Professor Williams said: ‘The young brain, being a work in progress, is prone to “risk taking”. And so it is more vulnerable to getting injured in the first place, and suffering subtle to more severe problems in attention, concentration and managing one’s mood and behaviour.’

He added that brain injury is rarely considered by criminal justice professionals when assessing the rehabilitative needs of an offender.

‘Yet brain injury has been shown to be a condition that may increase the risk of offending, and it is also a strong “marker” for other key factors that indicate risk for offending,’ he said.

The report from the Children’s Commissioner is based on a review of futher published evidence from the University of Exeter and the University of Birmingham.

It says a large number of young people in custody in England tend to have a significant degree of neurodevelopmental disorders compared to the general population.

This could lead to communication and learning difficulties and emotional and behavioural problems, it says.

Many young offenders are said to have a reading age below that of criminal responsibility, which is aged 10 in England and Wales.

Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England, has called on government, the judiciary and others in the youth justice system to identify neurodevelopmental conditions in young people more rapidly.

She said: ‘Our failure to identify [these] disorders and put in place measures to prevent young people with such conditions from offending is a tragedy.

‘It affects the victims of their crimes, the children themselves, their families, the services seeking to change offenders’ lives for the better, and wider society.

‘Although children who have neurodevelopmental disorders and/or who have suffered brain injuries may know the difference between right and wrong, they may not understand the consequences of their actions, the processes they then go through in courts or custody, nor have the means to address their behaviour to avoid reoffending.’


“Experts” criticize British conservative skeptic

But the experts failed to explain what is alarming about their own figures — that temperatures had risen on average by only 0.8C over the last 140 years. If they had tried to explain, all their unfounded assumptions would have come tumbling out

An eminent scientist has criticised a council chief for denying man’s role in global warming. Prof Eric Wolff, science leader at the British Antarctic Survey, based in Madingley Road, said Cllr Nick Clarke was wrong to assert that global warming “may not exist” and “is not caused by human activity” if it does.

Cllr Clarke, the leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, was also criticised by Tony Juniper, a former director of Friends of the Earth, who condemned his comments as a “huge embarrassment” and accused the Conservative of cherry-picking data.

However Cllr Clarke has won support from members of his party – who loudly cheered as he defended his position at the authority’s latest meeting.

His blog posting on the subject drew on Met Office figures which showed there had been no discernible rise in global temperatures in the last 16 years.

Pinned down at the meeting on whether he believed that man-made climate change existed, Cllr Clarke said he had “no idea”.

Prof Wolff said global temperatures could only be analysed over lengthy periods, and that they had risen on average by 0.8C over the last 140 years.

He said it was natural to expect variability from this trend – but that the world “really is warm”, with eight of the 10 warmest years on record occurring in the last decade.

Prof Wolff said: “There is no doubt that carbon dioxide concentrations have been increasing, and basic physics tells us that extra carbon dioxide causes warming – exactly what we have been seeing in recent decades.

“Climate science shows the complex ways in which natural factors add noise to the warming trend, but it is not helpful to pretend it isn’t there.”

Dr David Reiner, an expert on the politics of climate change at the Cambridge Judge Business School, said it was a “shame” that Cllr Clarke had “spouted off” and not drawn on the city’s scientific expertise.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Clarke said the point of his blog posting on the subject had not been scientific, but to demonstrate that anyone who spoke out against the established orthodoxy was condemned as a “heretic who will bring about the demise of mankind”.

He said the council needed to reduce its energy consumption, but argued subsidies to tackle climate change were hurting Cambridgeshire’s economy.



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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