Young mother, 27, dies after ‘doctors missed her cancer EIGHTEEN times’
ZERO diagnostic tests! They cost money, you know. Just die!
The family of a woman who died of a rare cancer at the age of 27 have raised questions about the medical care she received.
Kendra Wilson, of Bishopton, near Stockton-on-Tees, lost her battle with signet ring cancer of the appendix a little over one month after she was diagnosed.
Sister Samantha, 30, and mother Jackie, 47, claim Miss Wilson was failed by the NHS, as she visited a Stockton GP practice ‘at least 18 times’ in the past 17 months – with no referral for tests or to a specialist.
Samantha Wilson, manageress of The Empire theatre, in Middlesbrough, says her sister also visited a walk-in clinic in Stockton three times and went to accident and emergency at the University Hospital of North Tees on another three occasions due to her worsening symptoms.
But her family claims she was ‘passed over’, sent home or back to her own GP, without being fully examined or referred to a specialist.
‘It is not just one medical practitioner, there have been a handful of people who have seen her, took her symptoms and said, “just keep taking your tablets for irritable bowel syndrome” – without even doing a simple blood test.’
Miss Wilson says Kendra began suffering shortly after the birth of her youngest son, Assac, in May 2011, with symptoms including a bloated tummy ‘to the point where she looked six months’ pregnant,’ lethargy and severe abdominal pain.
She initially saw her own GP in Stockton but over 17 months also saw his colleagues in the same practice.
Miss Wilson says her sister took the pills she was prescribed for irritable bowel syndrome, but told doctors when she realised they weren’t working.
Nine months ago, after months of no progress, Kendra told a GP she must be imagining her worsening symptoms – and was prescribed antidepressants.
However, Kendra’s condition continued to get worse and during a holiday to Scarborough with her children in the summer break, she couldn’t get out of bed. Once home, she began vomiting blood.
This time mother Jackie, a housekeeper, went to see a doctor with her and demanded she be sent to hospital.
She was admitted to North Tees, but it took several weeks before the family received the devastating cancer diagnosis on September 28.
Miss Wilson and her mother raised concerns over Kendra’s treatment in hospital, where they say she spent several weeks with no treatment barring pain relief, either before or after her diagnosis.
Eventually, the family was told her cancer had spread to other abdominal organs and her bones, and there was no treatment available.
She was admitted to Butterwick Hospice in Stockton, where she passed away on Sunday.
Jackie and Samantha Wilson, and their younger sister Star, 17, have been left devastated, as have Kendra’s partner, Arfan, 25, and sons Aliem, eight, Ameer, seven, Harris, five, and Asaac.
Mrs Wilson described Kendra as a ‘devoted mum’ who ‘went everywhere’ with her four children – and always had a dazzling smile for everyone.
She said: ‘Other girls her age are into going clubbing and leaving their kids with their parents, but not Kendra. ‘She was always in with them. She was so placid and would never shout at them. ‘She didn’t go out drinking and she didn’t smoke. ‘She worked nights in mental health care but would be up in the morning to get them ready for school. “She never complained, even through her illness and wouldn’t hear a bad word about anybody. She believed anger was a waste of time.’
Miss Wilson said: ‘We know her cancer was incurable but if it had been found early, it could have been managed. ‘She could have lived to see her kids growing up. But it got to the stage where they couldn’t prolong her life with anything.’
A spokeswoman for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘We can understand the family are absolutely devastated for the loss of Kendra and our sincerest sympathies are with her family.’
A spokeswoman from NHS Tees Primary Care Trusts said: ‘We are extremely saddened by this tragic case and our thoughts are with Kendra’s family at this difficult time.
‘The quality of care provided for our patients is of the utmost importance and we would encourage Kendra’s family to contact us so that we can discuss their concerns.’
Doctors too often ‘careless’ and ‘insincere’ when talking to patients: Ombudsman
Doctors and healthcare staff have been criticised as offering ‘insincere apologies’ and being ‘careless’ in their conversations with patients as one man was told not to be a ‘baby’ when he feared having a general anaesthetic.
Health Service Ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor said there needs to be ‘shift in attitude’ after complaints rose.
Dame Judy is calling on the NHS to improve the way it deals with complaints on the ground. “All too often the people who come to us for help are unhappy because of the careless communication, insincere apologies and unclear explanations they’ve received from the NHS,” she said.
“A poor response to a complaint can add to the problems of someone who is unwell, struggling to take care of others or grieving. The NHS needs to get better at listening to patients and their families and responding to their concerns.”
In one of the cases highlighted in the ombudsman’s report, a bereaved daughter was told “death is rarely an ideal situation for anyone” and that “truth be told your mother probably said her goodbyes long before the final moments”.
Another case details how a surgeon called a male patient a ‘baby’ when he expressed his anxiety about having a general anaesthetic.
Dame Judy also highlighted cases where GPs removed patients from their practice lists after they had complained.
There had been a 16 per cent increase in the number of patients ‘struck off’ in this way, she said.
Complaints to her office about care in the NHS have increase by 8 per cent since last year.
The NHS received 150,859 complaints between 2011 and 2012, of those, 16,337 patients or family members were dissatisfied with the way the NHS tried to resolve their concerns and referred the complaint on to the Health Service Ombudsman, figures show.
There were 1,523 complaints about the NHS not acknowledging mistakes in care, according to a report by the ombudsman.
And more than 1,600 people complained about inadequate remedies being offered, including inadequate apologies.
Almost 100 people said they had been unfairly removed from GP practice lists after a dispute or disagreement.
The ombudsman said that despite issuing a warning about GPs unfairly or hastily striking off patients from their practice lists, the number of such cases has risen by 16% since last year.
said: “Our casework tells us there needs to be a clear shift in the attitude and practice of some GPs towards complaints.
“Our concerns about how GPs are handling complaints about their practices need to be addressed as a priority.
“As the new NHS begins to take shape, GPs and other providers, GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups and the NHS Commissioning Board will need to work to embed good complaint handling across the NHS.”
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: “The vast majority of NHS patients are happy with the care they receive, but if things go wrong, some NHS organisations respond to complaints better than others. This is something that the NHS must improve.
“That is why, under the NHS constitution, we have proposed introducing a new right for complaints to be acknowledged within three days and stronger rights to make sure complaints are handled openly.
“We want to see a patient centred NHS where patients have a stronger voice. This means making the NHS more accountable for the quality of care it provides for patients.
“The Government has set up the new patient champion HealthWatch, which will argue on behalf of patients and help drive improvements in the quality of health and social care services.”
NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar, said: “This is an important report from the Health Ombudsman and one whose findings all of us in the NHS should carefully consider.
“Listening to patients and their families is an essential part of providing dignified and compassionate care. It provides invaluable information about what’s working and where organisations need to do better.
“Our joint Dignity Commission has emphasised the importance of hospital staff discussing and responding to feedback from patients and their families on the ward every day and hospital boards doing the same at every meeting. Doing this allows us the time to discuss and reflect on the care we provide and how we can improve it.
“We should encourage feedback from patients and families. Only by having a two way dialogue and seeing complaints as positive, can we change patient experience.”
Doctors wrong about patients’ wants
A shocking comment on their tendency to listen. I cannot find the original study online but this appears to concern British doctors, who function under a system of socialized medicine, where the incentives are perverse
THERE are gaps between the types of treatment patients want and what doctors think they want, according to new research.
One study, published on bmj.com, reveals that doctors believe 71 per cent of patients with breast cancer rate keeping their breast as a “top priority”. But just seven per cent of patients asked the same question said this was their primary concern.
In another study, doctors said 96 per cent of breast cancer patients considering chemotherapy rated living as long as possible a top priority, while the figure reported by patients was 59 per cent.
Experts say patients often change their preferred treatment once they are fully informed of the risks and benefits.
For example, 40 per cent fewer patients preferred surgery for benign prostate disease once they learned of the risks of sexual dysfunction.
The authors of the report, Albert Mulleym, Chris Trimble and Glyn Elwyn, said: “Ensuring patients’ preferences are not misdiagnosed is not as simple as asking the patient what he or she wants.
“Instead, it requires three steps: adopting a mindset of scientific detachment; using data to formulate a provisional diagnosis; and engaging the patient in conversation and deliberation.”
They argue that better diagnosis could reduce the cost of healthcare because “engaged” and “informed” patients often choose less intensive care and become more careful about having multiple procedures.
They said: “It is tantalising to consider that budget-challenged health systems around the world could simultaneously give patients what they want and cut costs.”
Number of unprocessed immigration cases in Britain is same as population of Iceland: Border chiefs accused of ‘camouflaging’ the issue
Border chiefs were today accused of ‘camouflaging’ the true scale of an immigration backlog that was ‘spiralling out of control.’
The total number of immigration and asylum cases which have not been processed by the UK Border Agency now stands at more than 300,000 – the equivalent of a city the size of Sunderland – or the entire population of Iceland, the Home Affairs Committee said.
And it has also emerged that the UK Border Agency is set to grant an ‘amnesty’ to some 80,000 migrants as it struggles with a spiralling backlog of immigration cases.
Keith Vaz, the committee’s chairman, yesterday demanded bosses at UKBA ‘get a grip’ on the scale of the backlog – and accused them of trying to disguise the problems from the public.
Mr Vaz said: ‘Entering the world of the UKBA is like falling through the looking glass. ‘The closer we look the more backlogs we find, their existence obscured by opaque names such as the ‘migration refusal pool’ and the ‘controlled archive’. ‘UKBA must adopt a transparent and robust approach to tackling this problem instead of creating new ways of camouflaging backlogs. ‘They need to get a grip.’
Mr Vaz added: ‘There are now about the same number of cases awaiting resolution by UKBA as there are people living in Iceland. ‘The backlog is spiralling out of control.’
The UK Border Agency is set to write off around 80,000 cases where they have been unable to track missing migrants for more than six years. The cases are what remains from nearly half a million found abandoned in boxes at the Home Office in 2006 in a major scandal.
The controlled archive was created to hold what remains of Labour’s asylum backlog. It was intended to hold cases that had not been concluded, so they could be re-opened if the person was found. Since then UKBA officials have been tracking them down – but recently admitted they would abandon those they couldn’t find.
In September, Border Agency chief executive Rob Whiteman said it was ‘not in the best interests of taxpayers’ to carry on looking for them, and the cases would be closed. Around 80,000 are expected to be written off in the New Year.
The committee said they were ‘concerned’ that the closure of the 80,000 files would result in ‘a significant number of people being granted effective amnesty in the United Kingdom, irrespective of the merits of their case.’
At the end of June this year, the UK Border Agency had a total of 302,064 cases outstanding, today’s report shows. That includes 25,000 current asylum cases, 3,500 current immigration cases, and 95,000 archived cases. Worryingly, the numbers within the Migration Refusal Pool reached 174,057 – a rise of 24,057 in just three months. The pool is made up of legal migrants whose work or student visas have expired and who cannot be found.
The Border Agency has awarded a £30million contract to outsourcing firm Capita to help track them down. It began work at the end of October.
Also within the backlog are 3,954 foreign criminals who cannot be deported and have been released on bail by the courts.
Overall, the backlog grew by nine per cent in the three months to June this year.
Six years ago the asylum backlog scandal prompted then Home Secretary John Reid to brand the immigration system ‘not fit for purpose’.
Border officials claim that in many of the cases which remain the individuals will have left the country.
But the MPs said they were ‘not convinced that the agency’s limited checking regime will have picked up all of the applicants who remain in the country’.
‘For this reason we are concerned that the final checks made on these cases should be thorough and that they should not be rushed to meet an artificial deadline.’
Of the asylum archive cases that have been processed, fewer than one in ten have been removed. More than 180,000 have been given the right to stay in the country, while just 41,300 have been kicked out or left voluntarily.
Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: ‘This report raises some legitimate concerns but we are taking robust action and it is working.
‘Every day it gets harder to live illegally in the UK – we are tracking people down and taking action against them. We are restricting access to benefits, free healthcare and financial products, and businesses can be fined up to £10,000 for every illegal worker they employ.
‘We are winning more deportation cases in the courts, exceeding visa processing targets and have introduced interviews to test whether foreign students are genuine – all of which are praised in this report.’
British judge hits out at wives who demand ‘completely inappropriate’ divorce payments
Large divorce payouts awarded by British judges in the past have made marriage in Britain not readily distinguishable from prostitution
The days of wives receiving multi-million pound divorce payouts from wealthy husbands could be numbered after one of the country’s top family judges slammed such claims.
Lord Justice Thorpe said payouts in ‘big money’ divorces, where wives feel it is ‘reasonable’ to ask for millions to maintain the lifestyle they are accustomed to, should be consigned to history, adding: ‘We only talk about “needs” when there isn’t a lot to go round.’
The judge made the comments when presiding over a case in which multi-millionaire hotel boss Andrew Morris Davies, is battling to get a £2.75million divorce payout awarded to his ex-wife Debra Ann Davies cut.
Mr Davies was ‘in love’ with his business, The Cardiff Hotel, in exclusive Norfolk Square, Bayswater, West London, and described himself as ‘a force of nature’ to Judge Martin O’Dwyer who made the award to his ex-wife.
She helped run the hotel for 13 years before the couple split, and in August last year, Judge O’Dwyer recognised her contribution to the success of the business when he awarded her a £2.2million lump sum, plus the £550,000 former matrimonial home, in Friars Way, Acton.
Mr Davies reacted angrily to the award, insisting that – whilst his wife was ‘the second best receptionist’ he ever had – she should not get a share of the hotel’s value because she was just a paid employee who ‘simply did her duties’.
Today he asked Lord Justice Thorpe, Lord Rimer and Lord Justice Elias sitting in London’s Appeal Court to slash her payout.
The court heard the hotel had been passed to Mr Davies and his two sisters by their parents, and Mr and Mrs Davies bought out his siblings’ shares during their marriage.
Having heard that Judge O’Dwyer had assessed Mrs Davies’ claim, ‘in terms of pure need’, at £1.55million and had then upped her payout to £2.7million because of her contribution to the success of the hotel, Lord Justice Thorpe said:
‘Any mention of needs is completely inappropriate in a case of this scale. We only talk about needs when there isn’t a lot to go round. ‘In a case like this, which is loosely categorised as ‘big money’, needs should not make much of a contribution to judicial reasoning.
‘The bigger the family fortune, the less relevant needs became. In big money cases, the wife will often get twice what she needs. I don’t see what bearing needs have in this case.’
Lords Justice Thorpe, Rimer and Elias reserved their decision on Mr Davies’ appeal, to be delivered at a later date.
The new Archbishop of Canterbury believes in God!
Rare in the Anglican episcopacy
His style is self-deprecating, his family background surprisingly colourful. The great unanswered question, though, is just why did oilman Justin Welby throw up his six-figure salary and executive lifestyle to become a priest?
Yesterday, 56-year-old Dr Welby — ordained barely 20 years ago and appointed Bishop of Durham only last autumn — was named the new Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church of England’s most senior post and spiritual head of 77 million Anglicans worldwide.
As Damascene conversions go, Dr Welby’s story must be classified as positively Biblical. The child of a broken home (his parents divorced when he was just three), he went to Eton and Cambridge, then spent years working in Paris and London, climbing the ladder in the tough but rewarding oil business.
Then in 1989, at the age of 33, he threw it all up to enter Cranmer Hall theological college in Durham, and by 1992 he was a curate. (Given his appointment this week, it is entertaining to note that the late Bishop of Kensington, John Hughes, when approached by Justin Welby, said: ‘There is no place for you in the Church of England. I have interviewed a thousand for ordination, and you don’t come in the top thousand.’)
At a Lambeth Palace press conference to announce his appointment yesterday, the Archbishop elect signalled the start of a battle with David Cameron over same-sex marriage, declaring his opposition to the Coalition’s plans to allow gay couples to marry.
His confirmation, in a single sentence, that he backs a strong line against gay marriage means an inevitable clash between the Church and the Government, though he went on to say: ‘I am always averse to the language of exclusion.’
His new role is affirmation of his meteoric rise, on the back of self-effacing observations such as ‘Let’s be clear, I’m one of the thicker bishops in the Church of England’; and, as he rose to make his maiden speech in the House of Lords last spring, a declaration that he was ‘astonished’ to be there at all.
As for his own vocation, his explanation for the fundamental switch in his life is simply to say: ‘I was unable to get away from a sense of God calling.’
There is a deep-seated tragedy which undoubtedly pulled him, and his wife Caroline, 55, a classics teacher, to prayer. This was the death in a car crash in France of their firstborn child, seven-month-old Johanna. The baby was in a carry cot in the car with Caroline, though Justin was not travelling with them. ‘It was a very dark time for us, but in a strange way it actually brought us closer to God,’ he said recently.
That same year, the Welbys, who now have two sons and another three daughters (as well as Katherine, there is Tim, 28, Peter, 23, currently studying Arabic, Eleanor, 20, and Hannah, 17), moved back to England. Soon after, he accepted the senior position of group treasurer to an oil exploration group, Enterprise Oil in London.
Significantly, he also became a member of the congregation at the evangelical Holy Trinity Brompton in central London, which has been at the centre of the Alpha Course movement (a highly popular nationwide ten-week introduction to the faith).
But could there have been another reason why Justin Welby was motivated to pull away from Mammon and turn to God?
In Paris, he had worked as a finance project manager for the French oil company Elf Aquitaine (now part of the global giant Total) during a period when, it later emerged, some of the senior executives at its palatial offices near the Champs-Elysee were running fraud rackets involving corrupt African dictators, compliant members of the Gallic establishment, and a vast network of criminally minded middle men.
Secret dealings went on relentlessly in which executives effectively used the company as a private bank, with hundreds of millions spent on art, villas, women and political lobbying. One figure famously used company money to finance his multi-million-pound divorce.
It was one of France’s greatest scandals, summed up by investigating judge Eva Joly in these words: ‘I see so many resemblances, in France and abroad, between the corruption of the state and mafias of various sorts — the same networks, the same henchmen, the same banks, the same marble villas.’
A lawyer involved in the scandal says: ‘The effect on innocent young employees like Justin Welby when the truth emerged must have been enormous. No wonder he couldn’t get away fast enough from big business. No wonder he is a man who, it is quite obvious, wants to do good.’
So it is no surprise that Dr Welby has brought his anger over such greed into his ministry. In the House of Lords, he has challenged the ‘sins’ of the big banks, and used that Old Testament word ‘usury’ to condemn the payday ‘loan sharks’ with their sky-high interest rates.
Not only does he understand the devious workings of the City, he has become the object of a wry joke in ecclesiastical circles, which goes: ‘How astonishing — an Archbishop of Canterbury who actually believes in God.’
His contemporaries at Eton included the Tory minister Oliver Letwin, and he is just a few months older than other notable Etonians such as Charles Moore and Dominic Lawson — former editors of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph.
While the Prime Minister — yet another OE, of course — will be sensitive to criticism that Bishop Welby’s appointment will only increase the school’s dominance of the Establishment, his down-to-earth likeability should allay Mr Cameron’s concerns.
He and Caroline — who met at Cambridge and have been married for 33 years — sent their five children to state schools. Meanwhile, the clergyman himself has plenty of experience of the real world, having shaken hands with warlords and been threatened at gunpoint during his ministry in Africa on behalf of a peace and reconciliation project based in Coventry.
Where the new head of the Church will find disagreement with the Prime Minister is on the thorny issue of gay marriage. [The Prime Minister favours it. His Grace does not]
So there will be battles ahead. But they will be fought with charm and good humour.
It may be a long way from the cloisters of Eton to the African badlands, but Justin Welby has trodden that path with empathy and courage.
Now, he must turn his considerable talents to the stewardship of the Church of England — a monumental challenge for any man.
The new Archbishop will replace Dr Rowan Williams who is to become Master of Magdalene College in Cambridge
Britain could leave European Court of Human Rights
Britain could leave the European Convention on Human Rights after rows over prisoner voting and the deportation of foreign criminals, the Justice Secretary has said.
Chris Grayling, who took over the job in September, said he has not ruled out an exit from European human rights laws, even though the Attorney General has told MPs there is “no question of the UK withdrawing from the convention”.
Dominic Grieve, the Government’s most senior lawyer, said in the House of Commons last month that Britain “strongly supports” the convention and it must be allowed to “continue its very good work”.
But in an interview with the Conservative Home website, Mr Grayling said: “Well, again I’m not ruling it in and not ruling it out. I think it would be irresponsible at the start of a process.
“We’ve got to go through a process. We’ve got to deal with this issue, because people feel very strongly about it. I don’t want to start with a conclusion.”
Mr Grayling has previously said the Conservatives will go into the next election promising a new relationship with the European Court of Human Rights.
He has made it clear that “no change is not an option” after the Strasbourg court ruled against the UK ban on prisoner voting and stalled the deportation of terror suspect Abu Qatada.
Many Conservatives MPs want a new relationship before 2015, arguing that the court is undermining the House of Commons right now.
They are worried about the court over-riding the sovereignty of parliament, after the court ruled Britain’s blanket ban on prisoner suffrage is illegal.
David Cameron has said inmates will not be given the vote, as parliament already decided 18 months ago to keep the ban.
This has set Britain on a collision course with Strasbourg, as ministers try to find a way to work around the ruling.
British cities resort to incinerating millions of tons of “recycled” household rubbish
Millions of tons of household rubbish was burned instead of recycled by councils last year, new figures revealed yesterday.
The amount sent to incinerators shot up by almost a quarter – while the amount sent for recycling went up by barely a single percentage point.
The burning boom means millions of families who have been forced to cope with fortnightly collections, rubbish rationing and wheelie bin fines in the name of saving the environment now have to live with the pollution risks of incinerators.
A report from the Environment Department admitted the amount of rubbish being recycled by town halls is `levelling off’ and that the amount of rubbish kept out of landfill is still far short of targets set by the European Union.
Britain faces large fines from Brussels if councils are burying more than half of all the rubbish they collect in landfill sites by 2020.
The leap in incineration follows the imposition of fortnightly collections – compulsory recycling schemes in which general refuse is collected only once a fortnight and those who break the rules face draconian fines – on half the homes in the country since 2005.
The fortnightly schemes proved highly unpopular, so councils have been attempting to bring in alternatives, including straightforward limits on the amount of non-recycling rubbish they will collect from homes, and complicated `slopbucket’ schemes in which food waste is collected separately from other refuse.
But even as the compulsory recycling schemes were brought in, the rate of increase in the amount of rubbish recycled was slowing, DEFRA’s figures showed.
But it added that `an increase in incineration may have partly accounted for the change in landfill.’
The amount of rubbish collected by councils in England and sent to incinerators went up in a year by nearly a million metric tonnes, from 3,975,000 tonnes to 4,878,000 – a 22.7 per cent increase.
Waste sent to incinerators has now more than doubled in 10 years.
Confirming the rise in the burning of rubbish in electricity-generating incinerators last year, the report said: `Generating energy from waste is preferable to landfilling, albeit less so than recycling.’
By contrast, the amount of rubbish recycled went up from 10,588,000 tonnes to 10,712,000, a rise of just 124,000 tonnes, or just over one per cent.
In the past five years of voter anger over bin collection cutbacks, the amount of waste recycled has gone up by only just over 10 per cent, the figures showed.
DEFRA’s report said of recycling, which now accounts for 43 per cent of household waste: `This year on year increase was the smallest for 10 years; the rate of increase has been slowing since its peak around 2005, which could indicate that local authorities have by now exploited the easiest targets in terms of recycling, and are increasingly facing challenges in influencing behaviour change and identifying new areas and efficiencies in the waste services they provide.’
It added: `Incineration increased by around one quarter from the previous year.
It is difficult to determine if this increase in incineration reflects any long term change in approach local authorities have taken in their choices on waste treatment options.’
The introduction of fortnightly collections and other bin restrictions was introduced in the name of hitting green targets and reducing carbon emissions.
The DEFRA report said that incineration and landfill together were responsible for the emission of 2.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent last year.
Critics of compulsory recycling said they feared new and draconian measures to force householders and families to put out less rubbish.
Doretta Cocks of the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collections said: `The whole fortnightly collection exercise has been completely pointless, except as a way for them to save money by cutting back on services to the public.
`The only worry now is what they will do next. There is already talk from some people that fortnightly collections are not enough, and there should be monthly collections.’
Environment Minister Lord de Mauley said: `More still needs to be done and we continue to push towards our aim of a zero waste economy, with businesses, councils and householders all doing their bit.’
Clyde Loakes of the Local Government Association, the umbrella body for councils, said: `Councils will always recycle where they can, but it remains the case that not all black bag rubbish can be recycled or reused in a practical or affordable way.
`Incinerating waste which can’t affordably be recycled saves money by avoiding landfill taxes. It also generates energy and produces fewer carbon emissions than sending the equivalent waste to landfill.’
Teachers ‘failing to champion excellence’, Australian academic warns
Speaking in Britain
School standards are being damaged by a “conspiracy of silence” among teachers who refuse to champion excellence, a leading academic has warned.
Pupils may be missing out on the very best results because of a “great equalisation” at the heart of the teaching profession that fails to mark out and reward top-performing staff, it was claimed.
John Hattie, professor of education at Melbourne University, suggested that too many teachers were reluctant to value expertise for fear of denigrating struggling colleagues.
He insisted that the “tyranny of the closed door” was a major problem as it prevented teachers sharing their best ideas and lessons with their colleagues.
A rigorous focus on teacher improvement is the hallmark of top education systems around the world but a reluctance to adopt a similar system in the UK risks undermining standards, Prof Hattie suggested.
He warned that the impact that schools can have on pupils “will barely change” until drastic reforms are made.
The comments come amid continuing concerns the variable quality of lessons in schools.
In its annual report last year, Ofsted warned that teaching was not good enough in more than four-in-10 English schools, with “dull” lessons fuelling bad behaviour in the classroom.
Ministers have now introduced new rules making it easier for heads to sack consistently struggling teachers. The Government is also considering introducing a new system of performance-related pay to reward the very best staff.
Prof Hattie, an expert in the evaluation of teaching standards, said there was a “great equalisation in the profession that does not welcome excellence and a conspiracy of silence to even talk among each other about the impact of their teaching”.
Speaking ahead of a presentation to the London Festival of Education on November 17, he said too many teachers failed to properly observe their colleagues at work.
“The greatest difference between one school and another is the quality of teaching,” he said.
“Yet in spite of this there is a conspiracy of silence, with teachers unwilling to talk to their colleagues about the impact of their teaching.
“Teachers, like politicians, prefer to talk about the curriculum, children, assessments and the structural parts of schooling such as the state of the school building.
“Until this situation is properly acknowledged, it just isn’t possible to truly change the impact a teacher, a school, even an entire education system, can have on its pupils.”
The academic, author of the book “Visible Learning”, said the UK education system was not sufficiently geared towards teacher improvement, adding that the profession failed to sufficiently “rejoice” at evidence of improvement being made.
“Teachers too often live in their private worlds with teaching often done in front of classes not visible to colleagues,” he said.
“And our studies show that the most high impact and passionate teachers are not always the most social in the staffroom.”
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, insisted that teachers constantly “strived for excellence” but were hampered by a lack of on-the-job training and attacks from politicians.
“Teachers find their efforts to improve the quality of their teaching stymied by the low priority given to continuing professional development,” she said.
“And teachers’ morale is at rock bottom – damaged by wave upon wave of denigration by Michael Gove [the Education Secretary] and his acolytes.
“If the situation is to improve, teachers must become partners in the drive to improve education performance. After all, it is teachers who will make the difference – not politicians.”
Universities ‘grossly distorted’ by Government reforms
The higher education system is being “grossly distorted” by Government reforms to universities, a powerful coalition of academics and peers has warned.
Academic research and student teaching has been undermined by the sheer scale of “excessive, inefficient and hugely wasteful” regulations imposed on institutions, it was claimed.
The newly-established Council for the Defence of British Universities, which is being backed by 65 key figures, including Lord Bragg, Alan Bennett, Sir Simon Jenkins and Lord Rees, warned that the “very purpose” of a degree was under threat.
Students are increasingly being seen as “consumers” who are encouraged to invest in an undergraduate course to boost their earning prospects instead of developing their “intellectual and critical capacities to the full”, the group suggested.
Particular criticism was levelled at the Coalition’s decision to axe all direct state funding for arts, languages and humanities courses while continuing to subsidise science, technology, engineering and maths.
Sir Keith Thomas, the Oxford University historian and former president of the British Academy, said the move will have “unfortunate effects” and could lead to a decline in the study of subjects such as Chinese, Russian, German and French.
The group – which will be officially launched next week – will campaign for the abolition of existing Government quangos set up to fund higher education in favour of fully independent grant-making bodies designed to act as “buffers between the universities and the politicians”.
Writing in Times Higher Education magazine, Sir Keith, a member of the council, criticised the “repugnant” treatment of universities by successive governments.
He said it was correct that safeguards should be placed on the spending of public money, but added: “The degree of audit and accountability now demanded is excessive, inefficient and hugely wasteful of time and resources.
“More fundamentally, the very purpose of the university is grossly distorted by the attempt to create a market in higher education.
“Students are regarded as `consumers’ and encouraged to invest in the degree course they think most likely to enhance their earning prospects.
“Academics are seen as ‘producers’, whose research is expected to focus on topics of commercial value and whose ‘output’ is measured against a single scale and graded like sacks of wheat.
“The universities themselves are encouraged to teach and research not what they think is intrinsically worthwhile but what is likely to be financially most profitable.”
In recent years, the system for funding university research has been overhauled, with institutions being scored through a complex mechanism based on quality and impact. Universities also must hit new admissions targets designed to create a more socially-diverse student body and institutions are subjected to additional audits by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
Sir Keith said that the “central values of the university” – to develop students’ intellectual and critical capacities – were being “sidelined or forgotten”.
Also writing in the Times Higher, Lord Rees, emeritus professor of cosmology and astrophysics at Cambridge University, said academics’ morale was being eroded, even at world-leading institutions.
“I am lucky to have spent many years in one in the University of Cambridge. But even there, morale is falling,” he said.
“Coffee-time conversations are less about ideas and more about grants, the research excellence framework, job security and suchlike. Prospects of sustaining excellence will plummet if such concerns prey unduly on the minds of even the best young academics.”
British father attacks daughter’s school after she was told to remove poppy band as it breached health and safety rules
A man whose grandfather was a Second World War soldier has hit out at his daughter’s school after she was banned from wearing her poppy wristband because of health and safety fears.
Maggy Lane, 13, was ordered to remove the Poppy Appeal band – a symbol of remembrance sold by the Royal British Legion – by teachers at Shepshed High School in Leicestershire.
The teenager was told the wristband was forbidden because it breached the school’s uniform code and it was feared the rubber bangle could get caught on something during a lesson.
The schoolgirl’s father Myles Lane, 39, questioned why the rubber bands were banned because of the potential safety risk when students are allowed to wear poppies secured to their uniform by a pin.
‘I feel quite passionate about it,’ said Mr Lane, who added that his grandfather Arthur Witherbed, who died last year at the age of 90, was part of the Royal Leicester Regiment which fought in Norway in 1940.
‘I have always drummed into my daughter the importance of Poppy Day and she had bought the band out of her own money.
‘They told me it was a health and safety risk, but they are okay to wear a poppy with a pin on it.
‘I can appreciate the school has health and safety issues with bracelets but I think they should be able to make an allowance with a poppy band,’ said Mr Lane, a draughtsman.
‘Perhaps they could ask students to remove them in potentially hazardous situations like for P.E. and in cookery lessons, then let them wear the bands at other times.’
Mr Lane, from Shepshed, said Remembrance Day held extra significance for his family since his grandfather’s death last year. When the Germans invaded Norway in 1940 Mr Witherbed escaped by walking to neighbouring Sweden. From there he made his way back to England, and he was stationed with the military police at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire.
Adrian Stephenson, joint head teacher at the school, said: ‘We don’t allow children to wear wrist bands at school. It is as simple as that. ‘We have to stick to the uniform code,’ he said. ‘When governors put the dress code together, health and safety is part of the issue of wearing jewellery.
‘It is important to stress we want the children to understand all about remembrance and it is a central part of what we do, but at the same time, if you want to run a good school you have a set of rules and you have to stick to them,’ Mr Stephenson added.
His co-head Stewart Goacher said the wristband was forbidden under the same rules that prevent pupils from wearing bracelets. Mr Goacher added that the school sells lapel poppies, holds an annual remembrance assembly and supports the charity Help for Heroes.
David Hobday, chair of the Loughborough British Legion, said: ‘In theory, I am upset because it is a promotional time particularly for us, but if it is school policy and they have been asked to take them off then that is the school’s prerogative.’