education

We need to talk about Prevent, the policy that affects us all…

The Counter Terrorism Act 2015  has had a far reaching and very public impact on the Muslim community since it came into force, however it is not exclusively a ‘Muslim issue’ as the media would have you believe. There’s been a living-wage campaigner monitored by police for his ‘activism, a schoolboy questioned by police for circulating political literature and 3 women suspended from college for questioning why an event about Prevent was cancelled to name but a few. 

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Prevent has actually been around for a long time but many staff at schools and universities as well as healthcare and local authority workers were reluctant to take part due to concerns over discrimination. However, since the passing of the CTS Act 2015, the Home Secretary now has the power to ‘intervene’ when they are not considered to be enforcing the strategy.

Considering that these are people we expect to educate, medicate and generally keep our children safe, and the fact they were given sketchy guidelines such as ‘monitoring students who appear ‘withdrawn’ or seeking ‘political change’, with the main focus on preventing what the government terms ‘Islamic extremism’ – a fuzzy term to say the least and one far too commonly misinterpreted, is it any wonder they weren’t keen on the implementation of the policy?

Sara Ogilvie, policy Officer at civil liberties group, Liberty said the governments “heavy handed approach risks fanning the flames of division and extremism, not extinguishing them. She went on to say:

“The Prevent Programme has already trampled on young people’s right to freedom of speech, curtailed debate and further marginalised those it most needs to reach.”

No longer are students free to debate foreign policy, instances where ‘rule of law’ isn’t seen to be followed or the even ongoing situation taking place in Gaza. Not very democratic after all…

Despite Ministers struggling to define extremism and with no current usable legal definition of it, Prevent have come up with their own definition and here it is…

” Vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for death of our armed forces, whether here or abroad.”

I’m not sure what qualifies the people making these referrals but those considered at risk are referred to the Channel Programme. Interestingly 35% of those referred between 2007 and 2013 were under 18.

So, if your child talks openly about the genocide taking place against Palestinians in Gaza, questions foreign policy that leads to the killing thousands of civilians based on flawed intelligence or talks about the fact that the UK political system sure is undemocratic for an alleged democratic country, then you too could find yourself under the Prevent spotlight, even if you’re not Muslim, as this could amount to your child being identified as “vulnerable to” or at “risk of” being drawn towards extremism or violence.

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Gaza

Sara Ogilvie, policy officer at civil liberties group Liberty, said that “the governments heavy handed approach risks fanning the flames of division and extremism, not extinguishing them. The Prevent programme has already trampled young people’s right to freedom of speech, curtailed debate and further marginalised those it most needs to reach out to.”

 

Young people can’t even debate foreign policy or instances where the ‘rule of law’ doesn’t appear to have been adhered to, this policy has effectively taken away the voice of anyone who wishes to criticise the government.

Committee Chairwoman, Harriet Harman, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “The difficulty is the definition, for example, I don’t respect religions that regard women as subservient but I’m clearly not an extremist on the path to violence.”

Someone should let Harriet know that, looking at the Prevent definition, she would be displaying extremist views in her not respecting whatever un-named faith she mentioned – the Prevent definition clearly states that a lack of respect for different faiths IS an extremist trait. Amazingly it is quite often this lack of understanding or respect of different faiths that leads to Muslims being labelled as extreme and referred to Prevent…

If we don’t stand together in the fight against Prevent you might just find that when it6abb0d4a2c64581536f0d33328877891 does eventually affect you they’ll be no one left to speak out on your behalf…

 

This quote has been changed several times over the years, to fit the rhetoric of the day – originally it was written about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. Perhaps a modern day edit would replace Jews with Muslims?

So yeah, you might still think that this is ‘just another Muslim issue’ but I assure you it’s really not – we may be the focus now but then what? The media and powers that be always need an enemy, a whipping board, a group to blame. We’ve seen demonisation of benefit claimants to support the drastic, often devastating cuts to welfare payments, we’ve had countless documentaries showing us feckless immigrants to make us feel better about closing our borders to refugees and throughout it all we have had the Muslims. We’ve been blamed for almost everything but believe me it will only be a matter of time before they need a new focus. Just hope it’s not you…..

I would like to finish by sharing *Yusra’s story. She is a mum who is refusing to engage with Prevent and is now facing the possibility of having her children removed. There has never been any allegations of abuse, neglect or anything else that could justify the removal of her children. Yes, *Yusra is Muslim but she could just as easily be called *Yvonne – the prevent strategy is so far reaching that no one is truly safe, well no one who thinks for themselves and questions the powers that be or chooses to live their life in a ‘different’ way, whether that be beliefs or the way they dress. You can read more about Yusra’s case here and the video of her interview is below.

Finally, a big thank you to Cage and all they do to help and support those who find themselves on the wrong side of one of the most immoral pieces of legislation since the Terrorism Act 2000. Cage warned that the CTS Act 2015 would result in children being removed from their families and have been instrumental in helping *Yusra fight her case and keep her children InshaAllah.

Using the ERG 22 report to overcome many of the issues Childrens’ Services had tried to push on *Yusra and her family,the brothers at Cage have also attended meetings with her solicitor, offering preparation work on how to incorporate the ERG findings into her case. With this support and advice *Yusra is now “looking forward to going to court” as she feels it’s the only way “to stop the local authorities from trying to co-erce my family into something that we don’t want and don’t have to by law.”

*Not her real name

To learn more about the fantastic work Cage do, how you can get involved or to donate towards helping them help those in need please visit the website by clicking here 🙂

 

 

Tories Shaft Trafford Parents With Huge Cuts To Education Budget…

With so much ‘non-news’ in the mainstream media it’s getting easier and easier for the government to slip dodgy legislation and questionable budget plans through the system with no-one being any the wiser until the either a new Orwellian law affects them directly or they start to feel the pinch of the (many) cuts. One of these budget plans that hasn’t had nearly enough publicity as it should is the Tory plan to cut £3 Billion a year from education spending by 2020. These cuts will have a dramatic affect on schools across the country – this is a look at what it will mean for several Trafford schools.

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In these changing and increasingly competitive times, education should be at the very top of the list when it comes to budget priorities – after all, the pupils of today are the workforce, decision makers and changers of tomorrow. Our future literally depends on the skills we teach our children and future generations so you would think that investing in the education of our offspring is a non-brainer, more than ever in these uncertain Post-Brexit times where we are looking to create more ‘home grown’ talent than ever.

And yet they cut the education budget by the tune of 3 Billion Pound…

education-quotes-10Perhaps Theresa May is looking to grow a generation of low-skilled worker bees to fill the gap that will be left by the thousands of European workers set to leave the UK after facing the Brexit backlash from all angles. It has been well documented that, without the hardworking migrants that come to the UK to work, many jobs in agriculture, hospitality, construction and healthcare would be left short staffed and difficult to fill without them.

Something to think about next time you buy strawberries (picked by migrants), pick up a coffee from a shop (staffed by migrants) and drive on a motorway (built by migrants) on your way to visit a sick relative or loved one in hospital (cared for by a migrant).

Anyway, I digress – back to education.

In light of these proposed budget cuts, two educational unions, the NUT and ATL, have set up a website that makes it really easy to search either by postcode or school name to find out how your child/grandchild/niece or nephew will be affected – click to search website.

Please share this information far and wide – I’ve yet to see it in the news and time is running out to make a stand. Also, please email your MP with a request for them to take action on what is a very urgent matter – you can find out who they are by clicking here. 

If you live in Altrincham or Sale West your MP is Graham Brady and his email address is altsale@parliament.uk

If you are are a parent of a child either attending or expecting to attend Ashton on Mersey School, Sale Grammar or Sale High School, I suggest you sit down before reading any further…

First, how a few of our local Primary schools will be affected:

  1. Wellfield Junior Schoolwellfield-jnr

This Junior School will be faced with £18,711 budget cut, that is equivalent to £213 per pupil or the same as losing one teacher, equating to just 2% of their overall budget.

2. Wellfield Infant and Nursery School

Set to lose 5% of their overall budget is this gem of a school in Ashton Village, they face £35,893 of cuts which equates to £216 per pupil, or the loss of one classroom assistant. Knowing how this school works along with how proactive both the staff and governing body are leads me to think that this will be one school that still manages to achieve despite this latest round of cuts.

3. All Saints’ Catholic Primary School

Losing £49,125 from their budget, this will mean a difference of £170 per pupil or the equivalent of one teacher. This will be 7% of their overall budget.

4. St. Marys C of E Primary School

They are facing a 5% overall budget cut which is £42,292 or £170 per pupil – or the loss of one teacher.

5. Woodheys Primary School    st-margaret-ward

Although this school are only looking at a loss of £9,897, or 1% of their overall budget, it equates to £201 per pupil or the loss of 2 teachers.

6.  St. Margaret Ward Catholic Primary

Classed as Outstanding by OFSTED, this school is looking at a 6% cut in their budget, £354 per pupil, £48,456 or the loss of a teacher.

7. Tyntesfield Primary

Loss of 3% of their overall budget, Tyntesfield are expecting a £33,070 reduction in funds or the loss of a teacher.

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If these figures have left you rattled, wait until you see what lies in store for our secondary schools – If you’re the parent of a pupil or prospective pupil at Ashton on Mersey school, Sale Grammar School, Sale High School  or Altrincham College of Arts you might want to sit down before you continue reading….

8. Ashton on Mersey School

Big school = Big cuts and they are facing huge ones at that. This overssubscribed and popular secondary school is facing a budget cut to the tune of £ashton-on-mersey-school844,579 or £639 per pupil. This is the equivalent of losing a staggering 22 teachers and is 12% of their overall budget.

9. Sale Grammar School

Another massive cut as this iconic school can expect £676,580 in cuts, 15% of their overall budget and equal to losing 17 teachers.

10. Sale High School

12% of the overall budget to be cut from Sale High, equal to losing 10 teachers or £711 per pupil as they seek to manage with a loss of £398,715.

11. Altrincham College of Arts

Previously known as Green Lane, ACA is looking at a 12% budget reduction – £570,542 or £763 per pupil.

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Some tough decisions ahead for our schools and this is just a few of the many that will be affected by the proposed government cuts.

It’s not all doom and gloom – Park Road Primary, Firs Primary and Springfield are amongst the few schools not to be affected by the budget cuts.

However, if ALL our children aren’t getting the very best opportunities then where will our country be in another 20, 30 years time? Will we have a generation that are fluent in a language for a country they now need a visa to visit while lacking in basic employability skills?

Nelson Mandela famously said “Education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world” – and yet we invest more in ‘defence’ year on year and seek to reduce our investment in education. Alrighty then…..

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Looking at the UK spending it becomes clear where our priorities really lie and the biggest spend goes on ‘social protection’. Apparently this covers things like Tax Credits and other benefits paid to the public. Now I’m no accountant but how about we call to account the huge companies that are operating in the UK, making massive profits and paying a pittance to their staff?

If they paid a living wage to employees, then they wouldn’t need to rely on the government to top up their money in order to survive and the money saved could be ploughed back into education. Simples.

What do you think about the budget proposals for education? What should the government be investing in and who is going to pick our strawberries?

Get in touch with your thoughts…

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Five reasons you should go travelling…

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When I was a child holidays abroad were something other families did whilst we spent wet weeks in Wales, often camping.My first trip out of Britain was to Jersey where, aged 21 I got a small taste of life beyond the shores of the UK.It did more than whet my appetite and I have in the years that followed been to many amazing places around the world.

Learning something new about myself and the world on my travels, I have fantastic memories of souks in Dubai, lunch in Monte Carlo, shopping in Nice and meeting Mary Poppins at Euro Disney.Taking the children with us on many trips abroad has also opened their minds to different cultures and instilled in them the urge to spread their own wings when they are older.

Dubai

The benefits of travelling are vast and the reasons numerous…here are my top five reasons you should go travelling today.

1. To connect with other cultures.

There is much to be said for getting down with the locals in another country.They will show you the true beauty of their culture, be it with traditional homemade dishes or giving you a heads up on the best place to get a bargain.Be prepared to have misconceptions blown out of the water as you see for yourself the reality of life in another country, it is often not what you would expect.

2. The sense of achievement.

The feeling of managing and planning a journey into the unknown is great, especially when it is a success.In all our travels we have yet to have a ( major ) mishap and a little forward thinking goes a long way.The confidence boost of getting to your destination without losing a child or your luggage alone is worth the effort.

3. To take a break.

They say a change is as good as a rest and never is this more true than when travelling.The time out is sure to charge weary batteries and force even the busiest person to slow down.

4. See something new.

There is a whole world out there waiting to be explored and never before has travel been so accessible.Flights are available to many far flung destinations and can be very reasonably priced, especially when booked in advance.Who knows, you may come back inspired to make a change or at the very least will see life in a different way.

5. To learn.

You are never too old to learn something new, from a different language to cooking an exotic dish. You can always learn about yourself too and what better classroom than on location in an interesting part of the world.

The bottom line is travelling is good.Young, old and everyone in between can benefit from a break in routine and a journey to somewhere new and exciting.

Where are you planning on visiting next? Me, well Italy has great pasta and I love a good lasagne so who knows…..

trunki

Photo credits:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/summonedbyfells/ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dubai_night_skyline.jpg and http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Trunki_1.jpg   via Creative commons

TRAFFORD PRIMARY SCHOOL FACES FORCED ACADEMY STATUS

PARENTS were once again left feeling shocked and disappointed as it was revealed that Wellfield Junior School, of Dumber Lane, Sale is facing the possibility of becoming a forced academy.

Despite making positive improvements across all year groups in a very short space of time, John Tomlinson, acting head, was visibly saddened to share this latest blow with parents at a  meeting to discuss the impact of the recent Ofsted inspection that labeled Wellfield as inadequate.

Changes made already have included an adjustment to the school timetable, meaning the children now benefit from a short break mid afternoon, which Mr. Tomlinson says has had far reaching results already.

The teaching system has been tweaked with focus on much sharper lessons,  links have been developed with a local outstanding school and there is evidence of this paying off in the outstanding work being produced by the pupils.

But are the changes too little too late for Wellfield?

The fact that academy assessors have already been into the school is proof that the Government is flouting its own guidelines, which state that academy status should only be considered for schools with long histories of poor performance.

One parent pointed out, “What is the point of Ofsted giving a notice to improve if the school is not given the chance to implement the changes, it’s like they have already decided the outcome..”

Speaking to Rhonda Evans, founder of Academies and Lies, it would appear that the parent concerns are with good cause, Rhonda is campaigning for greater awareness of the right to fight in this situation, a situation seemingly growing by the day as more and more schools get caught in the net known as forced acadamisation.

Watch the official trailer for Academies and Lies, a short film made by Rhonda which uncovers some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding Academy status and what this really means for our children and their education.

       

Wellfield Junior School failing our children

Trafford school given inadequate status in Ofsted report

PARENTS were shocked and dismayed at the findings of the recent Ofsted report naming a Trafford primary school as inadequate and requiring significant improvement.

Wellfield junior school on Dumber Lane, Sale has been heavily criticised for inadequate teaching across several classes resulting in many pupils not reaching the expected levels for their age.

Wellfield Junior 1

Parents are now considering the impact these failings will have on their children, with some talking of removing them from the school.

One parent said ” I am devastated by the findings. My daughter wants to go to grammar school after Wellfield and now I’m worried she won’t pass the eleven plus.

“She has always enjoyed school before and has done really well,but this year she has had three teachers all ready and is starting to say she doesn’t want to go in. I don’t want to move her at this stage but want what is best for her education.”

The head teacher, Sandra Roberts went on sick leave shortly after the inspection and was unavailable for comment.

Deputy Head teacher, John Tomlinson has been acting Head since October and is very optimistic about the future of Wellfield Junior school.
Mr.Tomlinson has an open door policy for parents wishing to discuss their concerns and said that whilst he felt some of the report was a little harsh there were other aspects of the findings that had to be taken on the chin.
He also said that the staff had been upset by the report but felt that they are a strong team with some fantastic teachers offering a variety of skills between them.
Named as an outstanding teacher in the report, Mr.Tomlinson said he is committed to Wellfield and is hoping to reassure parents that concerns will be dealt with swiftly.
The report also mentions some of the many strengths that Wellfield Junior School has, including rising attainment levels in English and mathematics as well as good attendance and polite,friendly and respectful pupils.
A more detailed plan of action following the report will be sent home with the children this week, including information about classes that are to be offered to those wanting to sit the eleven plus exam next year.
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