NEWSLETTER

No 47, Summer  2002

 

STATE EDUCATION COSTS  AS MUCH AS PRIVATE

 

If all the costs incurred by the state educational establishment are added to average school-based funding per pupil in the state sector, total spending per pupil in the state system is about the same as the average cost per day-pupil in the independent sector. 

 

This is the conclusion reached by Nick Seaton, who has calculated the costs of all the state educational bureaucracies and government initiatives for the financial year just ended, 2001-02. 

 

Taking the whole budget for state education and deducting the costs of Higher and Further  Education (all post-16 FE, including school sixth forms, is now funded through the Learning and Skills Council) and dividing this by the number of 5 to 16 year-old pupils gives a total annual cost per state school pupil of around £5,000. This is about  the same as the average cost per day-pupil in the independent sector (£5,058), deduced from the Independent Schools Cost Survey 2002 published by the London accountants,  haysmacintyre. 

 

The amounts spent on bureaucratic and political activities, which could otherwise go to state schools, are huge. For example, according to the DfES’s Departmental Report published in March 2001, costs set against the state education budget  include: Sure Start £184m; Children’s Fund £100m; Connexions service £336m; Connexions card £18m; Qualifications framework £96m; Modernising the teaching profession £982m; Union Learning Fund £6m; European Social Fund £388m; European Regional Development Fund £27m; plus another £208m for Miscellaneous Programmes.

 

However, in the latest Departmental Report dated June 2002, many of these costs – for the same financial year, it should be noted – have either disappeared completely or increased considerably. Nevertheless, if parents were to be given a voucher for the full cost of a state education to spend at the state or independent school of their choice, they could average about £5,000 a year for each child. And if all the extra money allocated to ‘education’ in the Chancellor’s recent Spending Review were added in, such vouchers would probably be worth more than the fees at many independent schools. 

 

It is hoped that the above findings, and more, will soon be published by the Centre for Policy Studies, 57 Tufton Street, London SW1P 3QL.

 

BUREAUCRACY GROWS AND GROWS

 

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) was formed (as the National Curriculum Council) in 1988, when its annual budget was about £10m. Since then, the QCA has become responsible for national testing, but does this justify a six-fold increase in its annual budget to nearly £60m,  and 466 staff?

 

The Teacher Training Agency (TTA), which came into existence in the mid-1990s, had a 2001-02 budget of  £392m, ‘running costs’ of £7m and ‘about 130’ staff.  Its latest Corporate Plan says that its ‘programme budget’ for 2002-03 will be £425m, running costs will be £9.4m and staff will number ‘about 180’.

 

The new Learning and Skills Council, which now administers and funds all post-16 education, became operational in April 2001.  It consists of a national body and 47 local councils. Before it began to operate, it had already made ‘some 800 senior appointments’

In 1999-00, OFSTED’s annual budget was £86m;  in  2002-03, it will be £197m.

 

DAMNING EVIDENCE AGAINST THE NLS

 

More damning evidence against the inefficient National Literacy Strategy was reported in the Times Educational Supplement (TES) on 10 May. 

 

A study by researchers at Durham University used data from over 5,000 pupils and  122 schools,  where standardised reading tests have been used ‘in the same schools at the same time each year, every year’. The researchers found no significant improvement in children’s reading since 1997, when they began independent testing. Yet during the same period, national reading test results for 11-year-olds have shown significant gains.   

The TES also cited Cyner Afan comprehensive school in Wales, where this year’s entrants had the best ever national test results. When teachers reported that many required Special Needs support because they couldn’t read, results from the London Reading Test confirmed their fears. 

 

On 10 July, it was revealed  in the Daily Telegraph that 11 year-olds need only 18 out of 50 marks (36 per cent) to achieve Level 4 in the reading comprehension part of their national tests in English. So if pupils understand a third of what they read, they have reached the required standard.

 

TRUTH WILL OUT

 

Several examiners have recently spoken out about standards, despite the rigorously enforced code of secrecy under which they are placed. 

 

In a major article in The Daily Telegraph on 26 June, AS-level examiner Annis Garfield disclosed that before the exams were marked, she had been told that 26 per cent of candidates must be awarded grade A (80 marks out of 100). She also revealed that her chief examiner acknowledged there were no absolute standards, though he would never admit it publicly. The next day, another examiner, Eric Dehn, revealed that he had been told he was failing too many candidates.

 

Prompted by Politeia’s Comparing Standards (see publications, back page), The Daily Telegraph leader on 29 June called for the restoration of both academic and vocational exam standards. 

 

On 7 July, a two-page article in the Mail on Sunday, written by an anonymous examiner, explained that examiners must not ‘use wavy lines to show an error’, or crosses in the margin ‘for fear they will be seen as rude.’ Nor does the quality of English matter, even in A-level English Literature.

 

In The Daily Telegraph on 17 July, Professor Kevin Sharpe wrote that ‘all universities have been corrupted by grade inflation.’ Examinations have not sustained standards and ‘whatever misleading nonsense you hear about quality assurance (only needed now that real quality is in doubt)’, degrees ‘simply bear no comparison with those of 20 or even 10 years ago.’

 

Also in July, the results of a History Today survey of university lecturers appeared. Dons   complained that even bright students at top universities such as Cambridge cannot construct coherent essays or write grammatical English. They also complained of students’ poor note-taking skills, short attention spans, and fear of foreign languages and names.

 

Then Education and Training: A Business Blueprint for Reform (see back page) was published by the Institute of Directors. This called for tougher examination standards and better vocational training. The first priority should be to ‘get the schools right’, then abandon the ‘wrong-headed’ target of 50 per cent of young people going into Higher Education.    

 

Meanwhile, The Guardian (24 June) had already pointed out that although the numbers entering Higher Education have risen from 13 per cent in 1980 to 19 per cent in 1990 to 31 per cent in 2000,  participants from less affluent households rose by only 1 per cent between 1995 and 2000.     

 

Needless to say, none of the problems with exams is the fault of the entrants themselves: they just do what is expected of them. But isn’t it time the testing and exam system was overhauled to stretch the more academic, and provide rigorous qualifications for those with more practical leanings?  One size does not fit all. (More information on standards is available at www.cre.org.uk/standards.htm 

 

MORE ABOUT THE NLS

 

On 30 June, the National Literacy Strategy (NLS) received yet more criticism for failing to take account of research evidence. Writing in The Observer, Geraldine Bedell quoted Jonathan Solity of Warwick University. He has informed education ministers – as has the Reading Reform Foundation – that the NLS could be much more effective. ‘The NLS actually confuses children’, he says, after comparing teaching methods and results from 10,000 children in Essex. But he, too, has  been ignored by the establishment.   

 

Geraldine Bedell records that, nationally, 19.2 per cent of primary pupils and 16.5 per cent of secondary pupils are registered as having serious learning difficulties. This epidemic must be ‘highly contagious’, she writes, because while some schools have three quarters of their children registered with learning difficulties, others have none. ‘And they do this not just now and then, with a good year-group, but all the time.’    

 

The key, of course, is systematic synthetic phonics, as advocated by psychologists Martin Turner and Dr Marlynne Grant, Trudy Wainwright at St Michael’s Primary School, Stoke Gifford, Sue Lloyd at Woods Loke in Norfolk and many others. With sound teaching methods, learning difficulties can be reduced to zero, or 5 per cent at most. Meanwhile, the NLS continues to damage children. 

 

THINGS CAN ONLY GET BETTER?

 

It seems only yesterday that David Blunkett was insisting that his introduction of citizenship and Personal, Social and Health  Education into the curriculum would ensure young people learnt ‘right from wrong’.  But even we did not expect him to downgrade cannabis and make its possession for personal use a non-arrestable offence so soon. Nor did we anticipate the distribution of free condoms in schools without parents’ knowledge,   regardless of whether children are under the age of consent, or not. Or that schools and supermarkets would be offering free   morning-after pills. 

 

And none of this is working. Nor is sex education. On 15 June, the British Medical Journal published a review of findings about the effectiveness of sex education entitled ‘Interventions to reduce unintended pregnancies among adolescents: systematic review of randomised controlled trials’. This concluded that sex education does ‘not delay the initiation of sexual intercourse, improve use of birth control or reduce the number of pregnancies in young women.’

 

MPs have been told that 1 in 3  girls under 16 is now having sex (Daily Mail, 27 June). The Social Exclusion Unit claims in its newsletter that ‘Every year, one in nine young people under the age of 16 will run away for at least one night’. But instead of thinking again, ministers simply throw more money at policies that are obviously doomed to failure.  Or is there a hidden agenda?   

 

NANNY STATE IS SO DECEITFUL

 

John Errington, a director of Save the Children, which is part of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, said recently: ‘Our government must stop treating what happens to children in the family as a private matter.’ He means the state, not parents, should bring up children.   

 

Cathy Hamlyn, head of the Department of Health’s Sexual Health and Teenage Pregnancy Team, claims: ‘We are trying to give [young] people the information they need to make the right choices for them.’  Ms Hamlyn does not add that her ‘right choices for them’ – based, as they are, on self-indulgent values clarification – are almost certain to conflict with their parents’ wishes.  

 

The Department for Education distributes leaflets telling parents to contact the Sex Education Forum for ‘advice or support’ with Sex and Relationship Education. Neither of these organisations will tell parents that a study by Dr David Paton of Nottingham University suggests that government activities may be increasing sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancies and abortions.   

 

Ministers promote ‘citizenship’. They do not tell parents it is cover for pro-European Union propaganda. But Daniel Hannon MEP wants people to know the truth. Brussels, he writes in an e-mail, believes that school children are a ‘very receptive’ section of the population and ‘can perform a messenger function in conveying the [Euro] message to the home environment. [They are] the active population of tomorrow’s Europe.’ 

 

Even the private sector is drawn in, though it is more circumspect. At a recent annual general meeting, shareholder Mrs Elizabeth Lewis forced the chief executive of TESCO, Mr Terry Leahy, to agree to review his company’s policy of providing free morning-after pills in supermarkets. Previously, he had refused to discuss the matter. 

 

LOCAL NEWS

 

Bradford: Authorities in Bradford, where  there were race riots last year, have proposed that no ethnic group of pupils should be allowed to take more that 75 per cent of the places in any school. But do the authorities understand the difference between race and culture? Policy documents promise to ‘review catchment area boundaries’ to ensure that ‘no school has a pupil population from one culture making up more than 75 per cent’.  

 

Bolton: The head of Canon Slade School in Bolton, the Reverend Peter Shepherd, has refused to bow to pressure from the Church of England to take pupils from other faiths at the expense of Christians.  With 1600 pupils and  77 per cent achieving  5 or more A*-C GCSEs, Canon Slade is heavily over-subscribed.    

 

Doncaster: It is planned that Doncaster will soon have a new ‘multiversity’ costing £160m. Everyone over the age of 14 will be enrolled and the ‘multiversity’ will be a cross between a shopping mall and a theme park. Education, work and leisure will be provided and building could start in 2004.  

 

Knowsley: When Mona McNee wrote to the Department for Education noting that the Durham research (front page) showed the National Literacy Strategy is not very effective, she received a reply from Sarah Truan of the Literacy and Numeracy Team. ‘Claims like those made by Durham were made three years ago’, she wrote. ‘Consequently the DfES set up an open and independent inquiry which reported in July 1999 on the tests’ integrity and credibility, and reported that they were a good measure for testing rising standards. Contrary to what the Durham tests have reported there has been a real improvement in primary school standards.’ Spin, spin!      

 

Norfolk:  Taking its lead from the Local Government Association (LGA), Norfolk County Council is considering introducing a six-term year for its schools. The LGA’s ‘independent commission’ has considered ‘whether it might be possible to help schools and pupils raise educational standards’ and says that ‘evidence has shown that a change to a six-term year…may help to raise educational standards’ (emphasis added).  No evidence is quoted,  however,  and Councillor Michael Windridge wonders if any exists?

 

Oxfordshire: Eileen Wojciechowska has written an excellent factsheet explaining how ‘Bodyzone’ clinics are  opening in schools and breaking the trust which should exist between teachers and parents.  She tells how her daughter, aged 11, was taken to the clinic where contraceptives are distributed and told she could visit without telling her mum and dad.  Yet a Central TV South poll showed 91 per cent of parents oppose such activities.

 

Surrey:  Another example of how parental responsibilities are being taken over by the state comes from Broadmere Community Primary School. Following the government’s Healthy Schools programme, the school has banned chocolate and crisps from the lunchboxes of children as young as five. If they appear, such foods will be confiscated. Confiscating food in class is one thing and few would argue against healthy eating.  But isn’t it a weird system, where some schools take chocolate from children and others give them condoms? 

 

Wiltshire:  About 200 pupils at Dorcan Technology College, Swindon, have boycotted lessons because the school intends to change its uniform from collars, ties and V-neck sweaters to trendy polo shirts and sweatshirts. Pupils were asked for their views, but claim they were ignored by the school  authorities.

 

NOTICE AND RECOMMENDED PUBLICATIONS

 

● The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust is seeking applicants for its Travelling Fellowships for 2003. There is no age limit and no special qualifications are required.  Details from The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, 15 Queen’s Gate Terrace, London SW7 5PR. Tel. 0207 584 9315. (www.wcmt.org.uk)

 

Comparing Standards Academic and Vocational, 16-19 year olds compares qualifications in Britain with those in other countries.  £12 including postage from Politeia, 22 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0QP.

 

Education and Training: A business blueprint for reform by Ruth Lea is packed with useful references and good  suggestions. £10 from the Publications Department, Institute of Directors, 116 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5ED.

 

Going soft on cannabis demolishes 15 key arguments for the decriminalisation of cannabis. Free from The Christian Institute, 26 Jesmond Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4PQ. Tel. 0191 281 5664.

 

Mend Your English or What We Should Have Been Taught At Primary School by Ian Bruton-Simmonds costs  £8.95 from David Ellis MA, Queen’s English Society, Fernwood, Nightingales, West Chiltington, Pulborough,  RH20 2QT.

 

SNIPPETS

 

In a secret speech made in 1997, Alistair Campbell, the Prime Minister’s mouthpiece, admitted that ‘the Government’s strength must be in perceptions, perceptions on health, education, crime and Europe’. Mail on Sunday leader, 9 June 2002.

 

It’s not enough to know about art and be a good teacher; you have to learn a bewildering amount of fashionable art theory and jargon, much of it promoting the politicised doctrine of multiculturalism. A widely used textbook, Learning to Teach Art and Design in the Secondary School, has a section on multiculturalism in which the author, Paul Dash, describes how ‘art education becomes an agent for social reconstruction, and students get involved in studying and using art to challenge all types of oppression’. Sunday Telegraph, 7 July  

 

A lot of people are selling stuff to schools saying it’s about the left  brain and right brain and romantic music stimulating alpha and beta rhythms. Some of it is grossly oversimplified and some of it is crap, but teachers seem to lap it up. Prof. Philip Adey, Centre for the Advancement of Thinking, King’s College, London. TES, 14 June

 

The national curriculum is specified as separate subjects but schools are not required to teach the subjects separately… [Teachers] may focus on ensuring continuity by planning topics…[and] year 3 teachers can build on topics and themes that the children have already studied. Designing and timetabling the primary curriculum, QCA, 2002.

 

[According to a forthcoming Audit Commission report] of the £3.6bn special needs budget, 70 per cent is spent on preparing and implementing statements for the most needy 3 per cent.  Local authorities spend more than £100 million a year writing statements. TES,  31 May 2002. 

 

A mantra of the family planning industry is that there is no point in teaching children to abstain from sexual intercourse, since they are going to indulge in it anyway. Better, it is argued, that they should be taught how to do it safely…Yet many of the same people who say that teaching sexual abstinence does not work are firm believers in teaching children to abstain from smoking, drinking and drug-taking…It is at least possible that sex education… actively encourages children to experiment with sex… The mantra of the Challenge Team – ‘the safest sex is no sex’ – at least has the merit of being incontrovertibly true. Daily Telegraph leader, 5 April 2002.

 

BUT IT’S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM…

 

We were recently inundated with e-mails from schools seeking a draft Race Equality Policy on our website. The Department for Education had given our web address instead of that for the Commission for Racial Equality.  One e-mail said, ‘Where is the Race Equality Policy?’ When we replied, we asked, ‘Don’t you say please in your school?’  ‘Sorry’, replied a contrite school secretary, ‘I thought I was talking to a computer.’

 

Below are some answers to questions on the Bible, provided, we are told, by small children at a Catholic elementary school:

The greatest miracle in the Bible is when Joshua told his son to stand still and he obeyed him; The first commandment was when Eve told Adam to eat the apple; The seventh commandment is thou shalt not admit adultery; Jesus was born because Mary had an immaculate contraption; The epistles were the wives of the apostles; The people who followed the Lord were called the 12 decibels; St Paul cavorted to Christianity. He preached holy acrimony, which is another name for marriage; Christians have only one spouse. This is called monotony.  

 

/Campaign for Real Education, August 2002

 

Chairman: Chris McGovern.  Tel: 01435 830109 or 07757 715145.  Email: mcgovernchris@hotmail.com
Vice Chairmen: Jennifer Chew OBE, Jacqui Davies, Katie Ivens
Treasurer: Dr WAD Freeman, Ashgate, Halland, East Sussex, BN8 6PW.  Tel: 01825 840831.  Email: anthony831freeman@gmail.com
Secretary: Priya Dutta, 75 Truro Road, London N22 8DH.  Tel: 07701 088720.  Email: priyadutta@hotmail.com