A S.O.R. Spot in the UK
The Dismal State of Education

Thomas Windsor
This year in England we gained another liberal law protecting the ‘rights’ of the few over the many.  Once again our schools will take this up, adding to the many difficulties that beset the English education system.
The infamous Sexual Orientation regulations 2007 (SOR) "make discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation unlawful..." [1]  This applies to any organization, company, or individual and relates to job applications and services provided.
It continued,  "[This] Discrimination is unlawful in civil law rather than being a criminal offence. A person who believes that he or she has been discriminated against unlawfully may bring a case to a county court, which can award damages, including compensation for injury to feelings."[2]  So our courts will decide what constitutes discrimination.   While most of our courts are quite conservative, the liberal influences grow by the year.  It will be interesting to see what they make of this latest law.
Perhaps in answer to the many uncertainties, the department of education guidelines suggests that the teaching of the Faith will not be prevented... "However, the concerns expressed are that faith schools will no longer be able to teach according to an aspect of their belief or faith — which is the importance of traditional family values and that single-sex relationships are sinful. (...)  The regulations will not prevent any of this. So for example, if a faith school (or indeed any school) teaches that the Christian and Muslim faiths decree that same-sex sexual activity is a sin then the school will not be acting unlawfully. Similarly, if a pupil asks a teacher his views on homosexuality and the teacher gives his view, then again, that teacher will not be acting unlawfully"[3].  It remains to be seen if the courts could be used to rule if a certain religious course is discriminatory.  Although this may be unlikely as most schools already refuse to teach Christian morality.  Priority is instead being given to the teaching of the liberal religion, which is not too surprising as our education system has been run by liberals for the last few decades.
The first major attack on our educational standards occurred in the 1950's with the creation of the comprehensive school [4].  Being yet another attempt to produce the ‘equality’ promised by the French revolution.  ‘A school for everyone’ is what we were supposed to think, but all we had was another modern institution that would fail to live up to its name.
After the attempts in the 50’s and 60’s to pervert our education system in the name of equality, our liberal governments have continued to tinker with the education system.  Ever more liberal ideas were pushed through under the pretence of improving the standard of ability of all children.
These attacks on traditional education have only made it more difficult for children to meet higher standards in further education.  At best the policies allowed things to stay the same, but most have made it worse.  While our politicians can't add two and two (another problem caused by the education policies of the 1960’s?), they have managed to pervert the education system and have allowed the ignorant to teach.  When the blind lead the blind they both fall into the pit.  Now the average person in the street cannot tell that half the laws the politicians now make are rubbish or in fact dangerous for our liberty.  Looking back one wonders whether they did it all deliberately?
To solve the problem of so much under achievement the Blair Government in their wisdom came up with the idea of targets to show how well they were doing.  At the time it was suggested that these targets were rather simple and easy to achieve, but it later spectacularly backfired with a long list of failure.  The targets in English and Mathematics were eventually achieved five years too late.  It shows real incompetence to miss your own targets!  Our new Brown Government recently talked about doing away with most of the targets, they claim it is a waste of money.  The embarrassment at the continued failure to meet the targets may be the real reason.
One of the few areas of success for our education system has been IT classes.  Certain children using there new found knowledge to set up web sites to organize various criminal activities.  “Gang members are using IT skills they learn in school to set up web sites where they arrange fights for sport”, [5] was one of a number of reports of the misuse of IT by school children in our newspapers.
One target has been rolled out repeatedly, “50% of the population to go to university”.  This is regardless of ability, as shown in the increasing drop out rates in our second and third-rate universities [6].  The stream of complaints about the drop in the standard of degrees only seems to become more frequent, and the dream of half the population with a university degree seems ever more distant.
Another problem we have is the blunt social engineering being attempted by our government; university application forms will, from 2008, include questions asking whether applicants' parents have a university degree.  What possible relevance is this to an application?  Also, details of parental occupation, ethnic background and whether or not applicants have been in care will be shown to admission tutors ahead of the selection process, in an attempt to make our student population representative of society at large [7].  If this continues one day soon it will be illegal to give student’s grades for their work.
The continued failure of previous policies has led to an increasing desperation in government, leading to ever more extreme ideas.  One policy we have not heard too much about of late is the ‘respect camps’.  The closest we have so far, is a few holiday activities in some of our schools over the summer.  These are run by community groups and volunteers, a far cry from the idea proposed a couple of years ago.
The Government is a lot of talk and little action, the nearest we will get is “all schools by 2010 to offer activities during holidays and throughout the year”, [8] so no camps anytime soon.  The previous record of our government makes it unlikely that they will keep to this, even without the problems that plague this idea;  while we have plenty of schools empty and unused over the summer, using them is not easy.  They will have great difficulty trying to find ‘teachers’ (Zookeeper, entertainer, social worker, and volunteer police officer would be more accurate job descriptions).  It will also take a lot of extra wages for the staff of certain schools to come in for another six weeks of abuse a year.  Insurance, security and the long-term contracts, with the private company's who run some schools all make it rather difficult.  Add in Government incompetence and red tape, these camps become almost impossible.  That is without the problem of getting the children to go in the first place.
In April an attempt to solve the problems with discipline in our schools brought the headline... "NEW DISCIPLINARY POWERS LAY DOWN THE LAW FOR SCHOOL TROUBLE MAKERS", which must have caused all the troublemakers to quake in their boots!  "[T]hey give teachers a clear statutory right to restrain, detain and remove unruly pupils, confiscate mobile phones that are being used in a malicious or disruptive way and punish pupils for poor behavior not just in school, but also on the way to and from school." [9]  This government document tells us the problems that many teachers face, but to give teachers similar powers as police officers, without the training seems madness.  The teaching unions were not impressed and warned their members to be careful in using the new powers.  The last thing we need is more teachers off sick after suffering injuries at the hands of pupils, or more legal problems caused by children suing their schoolteachers.
If that wasn’t enough, a month later the government gave teachers the power to search pupils [10].  Not that we will see any change, the teaching unions complained that their members had enough to worry about without the added confrontation.  Most teachers certainly would not want to search children, even if you survived stopping and asking to search them, what would you do with all the knives, drugs and guns?  The worst schools already have metal detectors, security guards, and police on site all day, so the children hide their knives and guns off site to pick up later.  Why any parent would send their child to such a school is anyone's guess.
Another announcement told us Saturday school is the latest idea [11], but this has been quite common in the private schools for many years.  Most of these schools have some lessons on Saturday mornings. To balance this a couple of afternoons a week are given off (mainly for sports) and they have longer Holidays.  The state school I taught in opened on Saturday mornings to detain the worst miscreants!  But the older pupils did not turn up, the only time we would ever detain them was on Friday afternoon, the school hall was packed for an hour at the end of school time.
After an attempt to bribe 16-19 year olds with 30 pounds a week, did not go to plan. [12]  Besides the longer days, and "summer camps" we are now told we need an extra two years to educate our children.
Plans to force teenagers to stay in education or training after 16 could lead to mass truancy and needless criminalisation of thousands of young people, a teachers' leader warned yesterday. Raising the school leaving age to 18 might mean already disaffected pupils felt their "agony" was only being prolonged, warned Geraldine Everett, chairman of the Professional Association of Teachers. (...) Schools minister Jim Knight said: "It is only right that we are looking at all options to keep young people engaged in education or training up until 18 - whether at school, training or in a job. We must not allow young people to be left behind.”[13]
Sadly the schools minister could not see that the real reasons for young people being left behind are the disjointed government education policy, political correctness, poor teaching, poor facilities, and a limited curriculum that is irrelevant to most inner city children.
Anyway if the ‘teachers’ can't do the job over 5 days, how does an extra day help?  Will children be more or less engaged during their lessons for an extra 4 -6 weeks over the summer?  I think we know the answers, but our politicians seem to think that the longer the horse is at the trough the more it will drink.
Expecting teachers to work 6 days a week, let alone losing the perk of the job, the summer holidays with more work, will make the job even more unpleasant.  As the workload has increased over the last few years the amount of teachers taking on exam marking during the summer has fallen.  To solve this problem the exam boards started to use computers to mark exams, with rather poor results!  We should also see the amount of time taken off sick rising from its already high level.  They tried to ban early retirement but that has not stopped the flow of experienced teachers leaving.  These new ideas only cause more problems, and are unlikely to solve the ones we have at the moment.
The attempts by our politicians over the last few years to ‘improve’ our education system have been the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  Our politicians change the color and position of the deck chairs, always gaining good publicity!  While no attempt is made to change direction, we are told there is only one course and it can’t be changed.  The work of the few good teachers we have has only slowed this progress.
As our education system goes ‘full steam ahead’ towards the approaching iceberg, increasing numbers of parents hasten for the ‘lifeboat’ of home schooling [14].  This causes great worry among the teaching unions and some members of the government.  Consultations were held last year, with tough talking from politicians, but for now their attempts to limit home schooling have failed.  Their latest plans have been watered down, no new inspectors, no new law, no more money.
In practice it is very difficult for the inspectors that there are at the moment to do anything.  Even the most ignorant parent can do better with a couple of children, than an ignorant teacher can with 30!  Adding all the time wasted during the school day changing rooms, etc., gives home schoolers quite an advantage.
The education authorities have a limited database, so the inspectors only know about the children removed from school, or children reported out of school, the rest they know nothing about.  An attempt was made to register all children on a central database, but the funding was used up on consultancy fees.
Some of the home school children I teach have been removed from school and are inspected, this involves receiving a few threatening letters, but once the inspector visits and sees the work, they go all quiet.  Some are very helpful, in one area of London we get the use of state buildings for home school groups free of charge, and they are not interested in what we are teaching!
Home schoolers don’t have too much to fear at the moment, there is no room in the schools for all the home schooled children anyway!
[1] http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/equality/sexualorientation/regulations2007/
[2] ibid
[3] ibid
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comprehensive_school
[5] www.tes.co.uk/2412217
[6] http://education.independent.co.uk/news/article2802629.ece
[7] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6923772.stm
[8] http://www.tes.co.uk/2412244
[9] http://www.dfes.gov.uk/pns/DisplayPN.cgi?pn_id=2007_0061
[10] http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/healthandsafety/schoolsecurity
[11] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/07/17/nedu117.xml and http://hiddenireland.wordpress.com/2007/07/17/poor-children-do-not-deserve-saturdays-according-to-liberals/
[12] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6926017.stm and the government site;  http://ema.direct.gov.uk/ema.html
[13] James Meikle, education correspondent, Tuesday July 31, 2007, The Guardian
[14] http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,2020083,00.html