Increasing class sizes should be avoided at all costs

In 2009 The Guardian newspaper published an article based on a report which warned private schools would have to increase their class sizes in the future to cut costs.

The article noted that “since 1981 private schools have reduced the number of pupils per teacher from 12.6 to 8.3 by investing in more teachers”.

It went on to reveal that in some cases teachers’ salaries accounted for 70% of the private educational establishment’s total expenditure.

Gavin Humphries, one of the co-authors of the study conducted by education consultants MTM Consulting, believed this practice was not sustainable.

He also stated that “certain sacred cows” such as the policy of “having a pupil-teacher ratio of less than 10:1 needed to be challenged”.

So why have private schools traditionally favoured small class sizes?

The policy is based on the school of thought that smaller class sizes allow children to benefit from greater individual attention thereby improving their overall performance.

This is significant because it was research suggesting this premise to be a valid one that led the Labour government to introduce the regulation limiting the maximum class size for infants to 30 in 1998.

Last week, Niall Bolger, Chief Executive of Sutton County Council, urged the Education Secretary Michael Gove to increase that limit to 32 to save money.

He claimed such a move would not have a negative impact on a child’s education, the BBC News website reported.

Thankfully, the coalition government chose not to entertain his proposal.

Some would concur with Mr Bolger, who made the plea because of the high demand for school places in the borough and the cost of accommodating extra pupils.

There is also a school of thought that argues improving the quality of teachers trumps reduced class sizes.

Every child has the right to a good school education irrespective of the financial circumstances of their parents.

In theory, it should provide them with a platform from which they can spring forth confidently and capably into the world of work, further and higher education.

In short, its importance cannot be understated.

Increasing class sizes could be the slippery slope to allowing more changes to creep into an already flawed mainstream education system, at the moment.

The London Evening Standard’s front page lead about the poor levels of literacy and numeracy among many of the employees at the new Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford City last September, confirms this point.

The CBI – a body not known for pulling its punches – went straight for the jugular revealing the results of a survey it conducted among “566 employers showed 42% were not satisfied with the basic use of English by school and college leavers”.

It also said 44% of those businesses invested in remedial training to get the youngsters up to speed.

We are only in the second week of 2012 and the standard of schooling in Haringey is back in the spotlight.

The source of the latest controversy to hit the beleaguered East London borough is a leaked Whitehall document which describes its primary schools as the worst in inner London, according to the Evening Standard.

Meanwhile, the furore over the coalition government’s plans to take five of the failing ones out of the local authority’s control to turn them into academies rubbles on.

The alarm bells have been ringing out for quite some time now and I cannot help but wonder how many more young people have to slip through the mainstream education net before something seismic is done to stem the tide.

I realise it is much easier said than done but surely increasing class sizes cannot be the only solution to alleviating the cost of educating extra pupils?

After all, it is a child’s wellbeing and future prospects which are at stake.

Legal aid: The dismantling of a principle?

On 26 October 1945, Mr Marcus Lipton, OBE, spoke emotively in the House of Commons about “the provision of legal aid for poor persons”.

The Labour Party MP for the Lambeth Brixton constituency from 1945 to 1974 told members that it “must be regarded as an essential contribution towards improved social services”.

He went on to mention how the Army Council introduced the scheme to assist servicemen and women in their “civil affairs” in 1942.

To further underline the vital importance of legal aid, Mr Lipton used a principle built into the Magna Carta: “To none will we refuse or delay right or justice.”

The swingeing £350m cuts proposed by Kenneth Clarke, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, will dismantle that very principle by leaving those without means with no way of obtaining redress of grievances.

It is no wonder that alarm has been raised by some of the most unlikely voices.

When anybody mentions Lord Tebbit, I immediately think of his no-nonsense get-on-your-bike speech directed at the unemployed in the 80s.

Yet the former Tory minister and ex-MP for Chingford has told The Guardian Newspaper that the planned cuts could be “going too far”.

He is openly supporting amendments ensuring minors or parents on their behalf are entitled to legal aid when pursuing medical negligence claims.

At a time when the disparity between the rich and the poor grows ever more vast, the planned cuts raise awkward questions about the link between obtaining justice, our legal system and having access to immense wealth.

Labour needs less rhetoric and more policy

 

I have to say I was completely underwhelmed by Ed Miliband’s Labour Party Conference speech on Merseyside.

 

What was I expecting? Well, my first editor always repeated over and over again: “The devil is in the detail.”

 

Rhetoric is not what this country needs now. Job creation and a buoyant economy are at the forefront of people’s minds.

 

Only strong policies that deliver results will give him the prime ministerial air he desperately seeks.

 

Heather Stewart hit the nail on the head in her Guardian piece on big business, entitled: “End fast-buck culture? First, Miliband needs a revolution in business values”

 

She pointed out that Britain’s business model needed to be re-worked and “Miliband will need to translate his rhetoric into a detailed policy programme”.

 

Berlusconi’s ‘lifestyle’ makes headlines again

I was sitting in Starbucks with an “extra hot” grande cappuccino. I know, such a cliche. 

I thought dragging myself away from my laptop and changing my environment might spark the inspiration I needed to complete a chapter of my novella that has proved problematic in recent weeks.

Sadly, it did not. Instead, I became distracted by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The colourful premier is back in the news again not only because of his plan to target Italy’s tax evaders to claw back some much-needed cash, according to the Wall Street Journal, but also because of his alleged lascivious escapades.

The Telegraph reports that the 74-year-old has been described as being “only concerned with sex and nothing else”.

This latest revelation came after a transcript from a telephone conversation between a newspaper editor and the wife of a businessman was leaked.

I couldn’t help sniggering to myself causing a couple sitting opposite to look over at me quizzically.

In January this year, The Guardian published an article in which a famous Italian male porn star praised Mr Berlusconi’s lifestyle.

How does he manage to run a country now in the grip of harsh austerity measures while being at the centre of sex scandals?

I doubt an English prime minister would be able to weather such a storm.

Rebels reach central Tripoli

When I started writing this post in the early evening Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi had vowed to stay in Tripoli “until the end”.

He then called on his supporters around the country to help liberate the capital from a rebel offensive.

In an audio message played by state television he said he was “afraid that Tripoli will burn”.

By 2200 BST, I was absolutely gripped by Sky’s Alex Crawford unflinching reports from Libya.

Her description of the advancement was punctuated by gun fire lighting up the sky like fireworks and jubilant rebels, along with civilians who had surrounded her, chanting: “Allahu akbar!” (“God is great!”)

Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s spokesman, Mussa Ibrahim, claimed in a broadcast a few minutes later that 1,300 people had been killed in the last 11 and a half hours and laid the blame for the deaths at NATO’s door.

He went on to call for a cease-fire.

Sky News then reported that the rebels had revealed Saif Al-Islam, Col Gaddafi’s son, had been captured.

An ex-colleague of mine posted a comment on Facebook questioning whether the rebels have a plan to govern the oil-producing country.

The National Transitional Council (NTC) is now recognised as Libya’s legitimate authority by many countries including the British government which unfroze £91m in UK assets belonging to the Arabian Gulf Oil Company, a Libyan oil firm under the NTC’s control.

The head of the NTC’s political committee, Fatih Baja, told Reuters: “We’ve been preparing for this since the first month of the revolution.”

However, the rebels comprise different factions and ethnic and tribal divisions.

Only time will tell…

Obama’s Re-Election Bid takes a knock

What a difference a day makes.

I know, I know, it’s a cliché but it is actually true in this case.

When I wrote in my last post about the Republican leaders attempts to give President Barack Obama a bloody nose, I should have peered over their shoulders.

If I had stretched a little, I would have seen Standard & Poor hovering behind them.

The move by S&P to drop U.S. government debt from AAA to AA+ has dealt President Obama’s re-election hopes such a hefty blow.

I am sure would-be presidential hopefuls must be rubbing their hands with glee.


Glenn Mulcaire turns up the heat…

On 20 July, I predicted that private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, would break his silence now that News Corp had stopped paying his legal fees.

Well, I hate to say, “I told you so.”It is now sweaty palm time for somebody.

The Guardian reported today that Mulcaire has “denied suggestions he acted without orders from the News of the World”.

Meanwhile, Sara Payne, mother of eight-year-old Sarah who was abducted and murdered in 2000, has revealed she is “very distressed” after being informed her phone may have been hacked.

Well, I think I will end this succinct post with my father’s favourite saying: “Tomorrow is another day let us see what it brings.”