Friday, September 05, 2014

Skool Daze: life as a teacher at a British  inner-city comprehensive school

The Telegraph is following one young teacher, Jack, who is brimming with energy and enthusiasm ahead of the new academic year – but for how long?

My name is Jack and I’m a 20-something teacher based in London. I’m not from London, which is quite important I think. Makes me seem a bit worldly to the children. I’m about to go into my third year of teaching (which so far I have loved) at Moosewood School. It’s a good school, the outcomes are great and the kids come from a range of backgrounds, but mostly poverty. There’s a very high free-school-meal percentage. I want to narrow that gap and make sure that their economic backgrounds are not to the detriment of their success in education and beyond.

I came into teaching on the Teach First graduate programme. I guess in reality I could have become a banker, consultant or a lawyer with my degree and that would’ve paid me a lot more and my trips to Westfield would be more John Lewis-focussed; but so far, I feel that I’ve made the right decision. Sure, I work 16 hours a day most of the time, which means my social life is basically non-existent (which is fine, I have Netflix) but when you see a kid sad one minute and happy the next, or when they get an A instead of a B and you see that look of elation on their face, it really does make it such an immeasurably rewarding profession.

Over the next year I’m going to diarise my weeks at Moosewood. I’ll tell you everything you need and want to know about what happens when the school bell rings: the gossip in the staff room, the reasons why the students didn’t do their homework, and many more memorable interactions I have with the 1,500-strong student body and 200 staff.

Speak soon – I’m sure week one will be a treat!


Devil's in the details of Campus Accountability and Safety Act

The Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), S. 2692, seeks to change how publicly funded universities investigate allegations of sexual assault. CASA and its House version, H.R. 5354, are currently in front of congressional committees. S. 2692 in particular has been widely hailed as a rare display of bipartisan support. Why, then, does the congressional watchdog give CASA only a 1 percent chance of being enacted?

The act contains some alarming provisions.

On Aug. 7, Hans Bader, a senior attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, reported on one. CASA regulates how universities must approach sexual assault, including producing an annual survey of students' experiences, which will be published online. The penalties for non-compliance are massive: an initial penalty of up to 1 percent of the institution's operating budget and a potential $150,000 fine for each additional violation or misrepresentation — $150,000 per month if surveys are not completed to the standard required. Bader observed, "that [initial offense] would be a whopping $42 million for Harvard alone, since its budget is $4.2 billion."

Even worse, "a provision ... lets the money be kept by the agency imposing the fine, the Education Department's (DOE) Office for Civil Rights (OCR)." This creates a huge incentive for OCR to be aggressively punitive or to accuse innocent universities of misrepresentation or substandard compliance. Even an inability to comply would not exempt institutions from fines. For example, they are required to enter into a "memorandum of understanding" with local law enforcement. If the latter refuses, then "[t]he Secretary of Education will then have the discretion to grant the waiver." Not the obligation but the discretion.

The fines could also violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as various court decisions that guarantee due process. They address the administrative aspect of justice so as to guard against its arbitrary denial by the federal government. Due process protects the right of a defendant to be heard before an impartial judge, not before a judge or bureaucracy that pockets whatever monetary punishment he assesses.

Both the fines and the expense of compliance take money away from education and could significantly increase tuition and fees. College Board, which tracks the cost of higher education, recently stated that "Average published tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities increased by 19 [percent] beyond the rate of inflation over the five years from 2003-04 to 2008-09, and by another 27 [percent] between 2008-09 and 2013-14." The increase is higher than any other sector of the economy.

It is not possible to accurately ascertain how much of the jump is due to the non-education-related programs, administrators, staff and paperwork that government unrelentingly heaps upon academia. Dan King, president of the American Association of University Administrators, claimed there were thousands of regulations to govern the distribution of financial aid alone. In February, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting provided details of the best figures available. "The number of non-academic administrative and professional employees at U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled in the last 25 years, vastly outpacing the growth in the number of students or faculty. ... [F]rom 1987 until 2011-12 ... universities and colleges collectively added 517,636 administrators" even though enrollment has declined. The soaring overhead, along with a tsunami of regulations, are turning American universities into bankrupt social experiments rather centers of education.

Under CASA, each university would require more non-educational staff and spending. Among mandates in the act are "designated confidential advisors" for alleged victims, the preparation of an Annual Security Report as well as an online survey, training of all relevant staff on grievance management and forensic interviewing, and further coordination with the DOE and police departments.

Coordinating with the police raises another question with CASA and similar policies. Rape is a criminal act. Why is it being vetted by campus administrators who would never conduct a murder investigation? Both are the job of police. Why should university staff be forensically trained? The police already are, and they usually have years of experience. Yet CASA provides that universities must enter into "a memorandum of understanding [every two years] with all applicable local law enforcement agencies to clearly delineate responsibilities and share information ... about certain serious crimes that shall include, but not be limited to, sexual violence." Not limited to? Perhaps administrators will be conducting murder investigations soon.

A simple solution exists to what critics call an hysterical and politically motivated campaign about sexual violence on campus. Sexual assault is a crime. Leave it to the police. Unless, of course, the campaign is hysterical and politically motivated. Then the pile-on of regulations and federal power makes sense.


American education needs competition, not Common Core

Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman championed individual liberty and free markets instead of bigger government. This included his belief that all parents - regardless of their incomes or addresses - should be free to choose their children's schools.

Yet too often expanding government instead of freedom is the default solution to ailing schools. The Common Core State Standards are a case in point.

Supporters claim that adopting Common Core, as California has done, will provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students should know to be prepared for college and careers. On the contrary, many experts serving on Common Core review committees warn that academic rigor was compromised for the sake of political buy-in from the various political interest groups involved - including teachers unions.

The curriculum is being used to advance a partisan political agenda, showcasing one-sided labor union, Obamacare and global-warming materials, along with more graphic, adult-themed books under the auspices of promoting diversity and toleration. But the politicization doesn't stop there.

Through federally funded Common Core testing consortia, non-academic, personal information is being collected about students and their parents, including family income, parents' political affiliations, their religion and students' disciplinary records - all without parental consent. That information, including Social Security numbers of students in at least one state, is being shared with third-party data collection firms, prompting a growing number of parents to opt their children out of Common Core.

They're not alone. Originally, 45 states signed on to Common Core, but so far four states have formally pulled out. Indiana was the first to reverse course and implement state standards instead. This decision earned a threatening letter from the U.S. Department of Education about withholding funds and revoking Indiana's waiver from onerous federal No Child Left Behind mandates.

Since then, South Carolina, Missouri and Oklahoma have also ditched Common Core standards. Seven additional states have pulled out of their federally subsidized testing consortia, and four more are considering doing the same - although one testing consortium, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, still lists several withdrawn states as members.

Common Core is publicized as a state-led, voluntary initiative, but in reality it's an offer states can't refuse if they want their share of billions of federal dollars for education programs.

So much for Common Core being "voluntary" or "state-led." So much, too, for the notion that federal education aid, which historically has averaged around just 10 percent of all education funding, is "free."

Overpromising and under-delivering seems to be the legacy of the federal government's leadership in education. With virtually no exceptions, major programs of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, currently dubbed No Child Left Behind, have not worked after decades of tinkering. Case in point:

-- By 1984, illiteracy will be eliminated. That didn't work.

-- By 2000, high school graduation rates would reach 90 percent. Nope. Wrong again.

-- By 2000, American students were supposed to be global leaders in math and science. Well, not so much, based on recent results.

-- By 2014 all students will be proficient in reading and math. Not even close.

Friedman knew better. Twenty-five years before the U.S. Department of Education opened its doors in 1980, he argued that just because we fund schools through government, it doesn't follow that government should manage education. Letting parents choose their children's schools and have associated student funding follow them would give all schools powerful incentives to keep academic quality high and costs low.

Competition, not Common Core, is what American schools and students need.

Today, more than 6 million schoolchildren are benefiting from education options their parents - not politicians - think are best. These options include 51 private parental choice programs in 25 states, online education providers, homeschooling and public charter schools.

Parental choice programs educate students to high standards, without limiting education options. And, unlike accountability initiatives involving rigid federal mandates, all chosen education providers face immediate rewards for success or consequences for failure, because parents are empowered to enroll or transfer their children as they see fit.

Ultimately, Common Core rests on the faulty premise that a single, centralized entity knows what's best for all 55 million students nationwide. Raising the education bar starts with putting the real experts in charge: students' parents.


Thursday, September 04, 2014

Pupils at 'Trojan Horse' school were shown jihadist video

Pupils from a Birmingham school at the centre of the so-called “Trojan Horse” investigation were shown a jihadist promotional video in the classroom, it has been revealed.

Ian Kershaw, who conducted an inquiry on behalf of Birmingham City Council, said the film portrayed images of “violent extremism” had been played to children despite concerns it was “completely unacceptable”.

Giving evidence to MPs on Tuesday, he insisted senior staff at the school – which was not named – failed to discipline the teacher involved after the incident came to light.

Peter Clarke, the former Scotland Yard anti-terror chief, told how a similar film may have been “shown or copied” by a technician within one of Birmingham’s schools.

He also said it was likely that issues had spread beyond schools in the city and called on the Department for Education to “take a very careful look at whether the sorts of things that we found in Birmingham are indeed happening elsewhere”.

The disclosures – in evidence to the Commons Education Select Committee – will reignite concerns over alleged attempts to impose strict Islamic practices in the classroom.

Ofsted has already placed six Birmingham schools in “special measures” and said another 11 “require improvement” amid claims of a Muslim takeover of schools.

MPs are also carrying out their own overarching investigation.

Mr Clarke, who was commissioned by the DfE to investigate Birmingham schools, reported in July that evidence of an “aggressive Islamist agenda” had been found in some schools. This included a social media group called the Park View Brotherhood used by male staff to spread homophobic and anti-western messages.

Appearing before MPs on Tuesday, he said there was no direct radicalisation of pupils but insisted he found a “general air of intolerance towards other beliefs or ways of life” and evidence that people were “sympathetic to or do not challenge extremist views”.

This included “anti-Christian chanting being led by one teacher during an assembly” and children being “strongly encouraged” to join in prayers against their wishes.

Mr Kershaw, who carried out a separate inquiry for Birmingham Council, said there was no evidence of attempts to “coerce young people into extremist, violent, jihadist activity”.

But he admitted there were examples of “very bad behaviour by some individuals in schools that needed to be corrected and addressed”.

“I came across a couple of examples where that did not happen,” he said. “An example would be the showing of a film which is completely unacceptable to young people, that was known by a senior member of staff that it happened and that member of staff in a senior position did not address that as a disciplinary matter.”

He said the video covered “violent extremism” but failed to name the teacher or the school.

Asked by a senior MP if it was a “jihadist, violent extremist promotional video”, he said “yes” before adding: “Shown in one classroom at one moment and that should have been stopped and should not have happened.”

Mr Clarke told MPs: “There were some suggestions that that sort of film had been shown or copied by a technician within one of the schools, but I did not come across direct evidence of the promotion of violent extremism.”

MPs also asked whether the issues found in Birmingham had spread elsewhere.

Mr Clarke said he was “not a great believer in coincidence and I would find it very surprising if this was only happening in the few schools that we had the time and the opportunity to look at in East Birmingham”.

He added: “Some of the people who were involved in promulgating these techniques of gaining control and influence in schools have had national roles in various educational bodies and I know have lectured and taken part in conferences in other cities, so I think it is incumbent on the Department for Education and others to take a very careful look at whether the sorts of things that we found in Birmingham are indeed happening elsewhere.

“I don’t know, I haven’t looked, but I would I suppose in a way be surprised if there weren’t at least some symptoms elsewhere.”

In further comments, Mr Clarke said he was “surprised and shocked” at how frightened people had been to give evidence to his inquiry, adding: “I was finding people who were exhibiting signs of evident distress, anxiety and nervousness and what I could only interpret as genuine fear of the consequences should it become known that they had given evidence.”

He also appeared to criticise teaching unions, saying “two of the main unions have been pretty hostile throughout” his investigation, including arranging demonstrations.


The Encouraging Rise in School Choice

Children’s education shouldn’t be a take-it-or-leave-it commodity

America is built on the philosophy of bootstrapping, or pulling yourself up through your own talents and abilities. No tool is better suited for doing that than a good education.

For years, however, a good primary and secondary education has been increasingly difficult to find. But I’m happy to report, at the start of another school year, that an encouraging trend is underway: School choice is helping more and more children get the best education possible – and putting the teachers' unions on notice that the failed status quo is no longer acceptable.

Take the dramatic rise in students participating in school-choice programs. The number taking advantage of options such as vouchers, tuition tax credit programs and education savings accounts has gone from fewer than 50,000 in 2000 to more than 300,000 today.

As education expert Virginia Walden Ford notes in the “2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity,” when we consider all school choice options – deductions for homeschooling expenses, for example – more than 1 million children are benefiting from choice in education. That’s quite a jump to occur in just over a decade.

Charter school enrollment is climbing as well. In 1999, fewer than 500,000 students were in such schools, but now the number is closer to 2 million. From 2001 to 2011, charter-school enrollment increased by about 1.22 million students.

This shouldn’t surprise us one bit. It’s only natural that parents would take advantage of the rise in school choice options to ensure that their kids were in the best schools possible.

The idea that you have no choice but to attend the school closest to where you live, or the school that the “authorities” assign to you, is absurd. It’s blatantly anti-American, quite frankly. When someone receives a Pell Grant to help finance higher education, the government doesn’t assign him to a college. Why should it be any different for the education that precedes college?

Of course not. Yet something far more important to us – not only as parents who care about our children but as citizens who care about our country – is treated as a non-negotiable, take-it-or-leave-it commodity.

That’s why the rise in school choice is such a promising trend. It means that the stranglehold that teachers' unions still exert on American education is weakening. It means that parents who want the best education possible for their children can pick the best one available, not settle for whatever they’re given, no matter how poor it is.

It’s hard to imagine a more hopeful trend for our nation. As Ms. Ford notes, this means children who at one time would have had a very slim chance at succeeding are doing just that. She cites the example of Jordan White, who, after enrolling in a Washington, D.C., private school, went on to graduate from Oberlin College.

“Jordan is now working in Japan as a translator for a large Japanese company,” she writes. “Without the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship she received to attend the school of her choice, Jordan believes that she would not have been so successful.”

There are many more Jordans out there. Ones who are on the path to success because of school choice options, along with many others who will likely fail because they were denied the ability to get the best education possible.

School choice helps everyone. The children who go to a school of their family’s choosing will obviously benefit, but so will the children who remain in these schools, which must then start competing for students. In short, they’ve got to get better – or go out of business. Unions who want to keep checking boxes may not like this, but it’s good news for everyone else.

We shouldn’t rest until every family is able to pick the best school for their children. We owe it to the Jordans out there. We owe it to their parents. And we owe it to our nation.


One Parent's Concerns with biased tests

As parents desiring to find a proper high school education for our 13 year old son, we have been researching a prep school in Indiana that shares our values of faith, founders and traditional academics. This school, as does the majority of all prep schools, employs the services of the SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test) exam. It’s this that I want to discuss.

To help my son, I voluntarily took the first practice exam, which we purchased directly from Shock was soon displaced by dismay as I labored through the reading comprehension. Within the nine essays presented were subjects on racism, an anti-Christian, sarcastic dig, environmentalism, class warfare, history revision, and collectivism. Any follower of current affairs recognizes these to be the influential tools of manipulation used by those of the progressive ideology. The shortest example follows:

“Approximately 28 percent of all energy used in the United States is devoted to transportation and of that fraction, 40 percent, is supplied in the form of gasoline to fuel the nation’s nearly 255 million registered passenger vehicles. Americans use more energy to fuel their cars than they do for any other single purpose.The fuel used by American automobiles and personal trucks would just about fill all the energy needs of Japan, a nation of over 127 million, and the world’s largest consumer of energy - after the United States and China. In an urgent effort to reduce consumption of an increasingly costly fuel, whose chief reserves lie overseas, the government has RIGHTLY (emphasis added) identified the American automobile and current habits of its utilization as prime targets for change.”

My first thoughts were, “Do any of the teachers and administration of these schools ever read these tests? Isn’t it presumptuous on the part of the creators to include politically charged, behaviorally persuasive essays for children in 8th grade?” This started me on a journey and here is what I found.

The SSAT board consists of 19 participants who mostly come from private schools across the country. I found that the board chair, Kilian Forgus, is a spokesperson for one of their 2014 annual meeting sponsors, inResonance. On the face of it, I see a financial conflict of interest. More concerning to me, though, is their keynote speaker, Charles Fadel, Founder and Chairman of CENTER FOR CURRICULUM REDESIGN.

On his website at [http://www.](www., he is presented as a global education thought leader and expert who was the liaison with UNESCO, the World Bank and Change the Equation (STEM) while the Global Education Lead at Cisco Systems. Of the other six speakers, five had backgrounds in global aspects of culture, trade, demographics, marketing and business. Progressive ideology uses the word “global” freely as a euphemism for ”make everyone the same”. One of the speakers, Amy Wilkinson, recently spoke at a National Governor’s Association meeting, the birthplace of the national institution of Common Core.

Can anyone say CONNECTIONS? Are these the types of philosophies that influence the design of that test? After three hours of research, I stopped for the night, but I can tell you that I’m not done.

Ezra Taft Benson, Secretary of Agriculture for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, speaking at a conference on February 28, 1966 in St. Louis, Missouri had this to say,

“To take over our schools, the educational system will first have to be federalized and then prostituted entirely to serving the propaganda needs of the state planners, with absolutely no regard for truth or scholarship or tradition.”

Is this happening today? Is the SSAT just one of many means of prostitution and propaganda? Are the SAT and ACT similar? Who is guarding the minds and hearts of our children?

I ask myself whether it’s worth fighting. The machine is so big. I’m just one mom. But I’ve decided to adopt this statement from Secretary Benson’s same speech. “We must be neither fatalists nor pessimists. We must be realists, of high character and deep spirituality”. If enough of us can see this, we can stop it.


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Hamas's Academic Apologists

Reaction by Middle East studies professors to Israel’s recent effort to destroy Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure epitomizes their perennial pro-Hamas, anti-Israel, and anti-American biases. In lieu of reasoned, informed, and balanced assessments, they proffer extremist rhetoric that demonizes Israel and America while ignoring Hamas’s misdeeds: rockets aimed at Israeli civilians, kidnappings and murder, disregard for ceasefires, and the cynical use of Palestinian civilians -- including children -- as human shields.

Two groups -- Middle East Scholars and Librarians and Historians Against the War -- signed letters advocating a boycott of Israeli academic institutions and accusing Israel of war crimes that demand the end to U.S. military aid, respectively.

Many, however, took their pro-Hamas, anti-Israel antipathies far beyond petitioning to spew forth hyperbolic and mendacious rhetoric that reveals far more about the fevered imaginations of the professoriate than about their intended target.

Ignoring that Hamas started the war, Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan, declared that, “Israel’s only real strategy is causing war, not ending war.” Despite the fact that no Israeli politician has advocated genocide and that none has been committed, Cole alleged that, “Israeli nationalists have been arguing for war crimes at an alarming rate. . . . Too many Israelis have justifications in their minds for genocide.”

Similarly, Rashid Khalidi, who teaches modern Arab Studies at the Columbia University, maintained that, “By parroting deceitful Israeli talking points about ‘self-defense’ and ‘human shields,’ they -- US and its allies -- make themselves complicit in what may well amount to war crimes.”

Meanwhile, As'ad AbuKhalil, a political scientist at California State University, Stanislaus, argued that, “With every war, with every massacre, and with every ‘assault,’ Israel (the government and its people) genuinely thinks that this war crime would do the job and finish off the flame of Palestinian nationalism once and for all.” “The US media and government are willing to justify any Israeli war crime no matter the scale,” he added.

Stanford University history professor Joel Beinin vilified Israeli society while portraying Palestinians as passive victims: “The public devaluation of Arab life enables a society that sees itself as ‘enlightened’ and ‘democratic’ to repeatedly send its army to slaughter the largely defenseless population of the Gaza Strip.”

Joseph Massad, professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, imagined in characteristically lurid detail, “The carnage that Israeli Jewish soldiers and international Zionist Jewish brigades of baby-killers are committing in Gaza (and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, let alone against Palestinian citizens of Israel).”

Employing a grossly ahistorical comparison to the Holocaust, Hamid Dabashi, who teaches Iranian studies and comparative literature at Columbia University, likened Israelis to Nazis and Gaza to Auschwitz:

“After Gaza, not a single living Israeli can utter the word ‘Auschwitz’ without it sounding like ‘Gaza.’ Auschwitz as a historical fact is now archival. Auschwitz as a metaphor is now Palestinian. From now on, every time any Israeli, every time any Jew, anywhere in the world, utters the word ‘Auschwitz,’ or the word ‘Holocaust,’ the world will hear ‘Gaza.’”

Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropology professor at Barnard College–Columbia University, exploited another overwrought and mendacious analogy: “The IDF’s tactics recall the logic of the British and American fire-bombing of German and Japanese cities during the Second World War: target the civilian population. Make them pay an unbearable price. Then they will turn against their own regime.”

 Peddling a disproven conspiracy theory involving the three Israeli teenagers whose kidnapping and murder preceded the war, Noura Erekat, a human rights law professor at George Mason University , claimed that “Israel knew that these boys had been murdered very early on,” but that it nonetheless, “continued to fan racist and war-mongering flames.” Erekat also disregarded the vulnerability of Israeli civilians: “Hamas cannot hurt Israel at all militarily. . . . Israeli citizens enjoy relative security. In contrast, Palestinians are enduring an all-out massacre.”

Abdullah Al-Arian, a history professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar, claimed preposterously that, “Hamas has not chosen the option of a military or violent confrontation with Israel.” Yet Al-Arian hypocritically praised the terrorist group’s assault on Israeli civilians as “exceeding all expectations.” Rounding out this trifecta, he later compared Israel to the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS). 

Ratcheting up the absurdity, Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in Near Eastern studies and director of the Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project at the University of California, Berkeley, equated Israeli policy with slavery and accused Israel of being behind Latin American death squads: “We need to make a link between what is taking place today in Palestine and the whole transnational, anti-colonial, anti-slavery, and anti-oppression struggle. . . . You need to understand the link of Israel to what’s taking place in Latin America. . . . Israel was helping the death squads and training them.”

Such cheerleading for Palestinian terrorism and willful disregard of historical facts discredits the individuals who advance it and the academic culture of Middle East studies that rewards it. It is politicized rather than objective, propagandistic rather than principled. American interests at home and abroad are ill-served by these apologists for terrorists.


Threats and assaults becoming a 'daily reality' for British teachers

Teachers are facing a rising tide of insults, threats and physical violence amid warnings of a breakdown in respect towards adult authority.

Schools told of a deterioration in standards of discipline from pupils and their parents in recent years, with claims that bad behavioural was now becoming a “daily reality” for most staff.

The study by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers found that more than half of teachers in state schools – 57 per cent – had been faced with aggression from a pupil in the last 12 months while a quarter had been confronted by angry mothers or fathers.

Of those, more than eight-in-10 said the aggressive behaviour from pupils took the form of insults, seven-in-10 said they had been intimidated or threatened and almost half had been physically attacked.

The most common form of physical violence was pushing and shoving, but some teachers also reported pupils kicking, punching, spitting, scratching, biting, using furniture to launch assaults and even employing weapons such as knives.

In one case, a supply teacher from East Yorkshire told how a pupil emptied the contents of a syringe into her face without being disciplined by the school.

But other teachers warned that parents were also responsible, with some mothers and fathers refusing to accept school decisions when it came to disciplining their children.

A primary school teacher from Devon revealed how she was forced to remove a father from the nursery after he launched a foul-mouthed tirade at staff in front of under-fives.

One head of department at a London academy told the union that being sworn at seems "relatively normal".

Concerns have now been raised that the scale of indiscipline could be on the rise despite the introduction of tough new rules from the Coalition designed to crackdown on bad behaviour in the classroom.

This includes more powers to search pupils for banned items, giving children detentions without the previous 24-hour warning and preventing appeals panels from overruling head teachers’ decisions to expel.

More than half of teachers – 52 per cent – said standards of behaviour had worsened in the last two years while a similar number noted a deterioration over a longer, five-year period.

The majority of those surveyed blamed a decline in levels of respect towards “people in front-line professional jobs”.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said: "It is shocking that almost 60 per cent of education staff have faced aggression from a student in the last year. No member of staff should be subjected to aggressive behaviour, in any form, while doing their job.

"Sadly, although the vast majority of students are well-behaved and a pleasure to teach, poor behaviour is now a daily reality for most staff. Many students have chaotic home lives that would cause most adults to lose their temper occasionally.”

The study – carried out jointly with ITV News – was based on a survey of 1,560 education staff working in UK state schools.

The most common source of aggression or assaults was pupils themselves, but many teachers reported a decline in parental attitudes towards schools.

Some 27 per cent of teachers said they had faced aggression from a parent in the last year. Of those, 80 per cent said this took the form of verbal insults, 60 per cent cited threats or intimidation and four per cent had been shoved, pushed or hit with a piece of furniture.

A primary teacher from Northern Ireland told researchers: “In the last year I’ve experienced parents telling lies and spreading untruths and believing their child is incapable of wrongdoing, even when it can be proved their child has been in the wrong.

“If it hadn't been for my principal standing behind me and supporting me fully I would have seriously questioned whether to return to my job in September.


More relationship education needed in Australian schools

The Deputy NSW Coroner will recommend that the Department of Education introduce the topic of domestic violence and abusive relationships into the NSW school curriculum, after finding that Sydney woman Kate Malonyay was murdered by her ex-boyfriend.

Coroner Hugh Dillon revealed that he would personally write to Education Minister Adrian Piccoli to make the request, following a coronial inquest in which it was revealed that Ms Malonyay's ex-boyfriend, navy analyst Elliot Coulson, had not only abused her, but also another woman from a previous relationship.

"It will be no panacea but may help over time [to] engender respect between boys and girls and increase the self-confidence of young women in seeking the protection of the police and the law courts against domestic abuse," he said.

Mr Dillon found that Coulson murdered the 32-year-old sometime between April 17 and 19 last year by means of strangulation and the infliction of a head injury caused by blunt force.

Coulson killed himself days later as police closed in by jumping from a high-rise hotel room on the Gold Coast.

The coroner's findings reveal that, while Coulson had only once been physically violent towards Ms Malonyay, she had complained to friends that he was sometimes aggressive, controlling, jealous and verbally abusive, particularly in text messages.

They also show that Coulson had previously subjected another ex-girlfriend, Anne Thoroughgood, to more overt physical violence.

This included one occasion when the heavily built naval employee threatened to kill her, shoved her against a door frame and then later began to strangle her.

The coroner noted that each woman contemplated seeking an Apprehended Violence Order but did not do so.

"It appears that Ms Thoroughgood was deterred from taking action because she thought she would have to disclose her home address to get an AVO and was nervous about confronting Elliot Coulson face to face in court," Mr Dillon said.

"It is not entirely clear why Kate did not proceed with her AVO application. Like many other women, Kate may have found the process too daunting and stressful or lacked confidence in the AVO system ..."

A police officer told the inquest that, based on his experience, had Ms Thoroughgood proceeded with the AVO it may have made a significant difference for both women.

"A woman in genuine fear of domestic violence should never be dissuaded from approaching the police and the courts for an AVO," Mr Dillon said.

He determined to recommend the addition of domestic violence education to the school curriculum after Ms Malonyay's mother, Wendy, made a powerful verbal statement to the court.


Tuesday, September 02, 2014

OH: Pols say schools should be anti-suicide propagandists

 A bill is being proposed in Ohio that would require community colleges and universities to have suicide prevention programs on and off campus.

The proposal calls for access to mental health programs and crisis intervention, such as a hotline. Colleges would need plans for telling students about prevention activities and communicating with students, staff and parents after the loss of a student to suicide.

The Board of Regents and the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services would post free materials online to help schools meet the requirements.

Rep. Marlene Anielski (ahn-yel-SKEE') co-sponsored the measure. She lost her son to suicide in 2010.

Anielski, a Republican from Independence, says students need to know that programs and help are available to them should they find themselves struggling.


British pupils facing tough new curriculum as school year starts: Foreign languages will be compulsory at primary schools and children will learn computer programming in biggest shake-up for a decade

After six weeks of summer  holidays, children can find it quite a shock to be back at school.  But when term resumes this week, it may be even tougher than usual.  For the country is about to undergo the biggest education shake-up in a decade with a new, tougher national curriculum.

And further changes are planned, with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan saying the Conservatives will pledge at the next election to make every pupil study five core academic subjects until they are 16.

Under the new curriculum, children aged five will have to recite poetry by heart,  11-year-olds will sit maths exams without calculators and teenagers will study at least two Shakespeare plays.

Computer programming will be taught from five to 14, and foreign languages will be made compulsory at primary school.

There will be a new emphasis on spelling and grammar, and history will focus on the story of Britain.

The more traditional curriculum is the culmination of a four-year campaign started by Michael Gove. His successor Mrs Morgan has pledged to continue the drive.

But many parents have been left in the dark and teachers say they are not ready to teach the material.

Two-thirds of parents are totally unaware of the changes, a survey of 1,000 by the tuition firm Explore Learning found. And six out of ten teachers say their schools are not prepared, a poll by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers showed.

The curriculum was finalised last September – which eight out of ten teachers said left too little time to make changes. In the survey of 618 teachers, nine out of ten labelled the Department for Education’s approach ‘chaotic’ or ‘flawed’.

Nansi Ellis, of the ATL, said: ‘The Government has rushed through the biggest change to the national curriculum in a decade.   ‘Children . . . face an uncertain time as their teachers are still trying to make sense of the new curriculum. It is extremely unfair to jeopardise young people’s education through what seems to be national mismanagement of change.’

Carey Ann Dodah, of Explore Learning, said: ‘The curriculum is a response to fears that England is slipping behind international competitors and there are some drastic changes.’ Meanwhile, Mrs Morgan said the Tories will press for more reforms if they win the election.

She laid out plans yesterday for all pupils to study GCSE English, maths, science, one language and either history or geography.

Schools that do not teach the five subjects – which together make up an ‘English baccalaureate’ – will not be eligible for a ‘good’ rating from Ofsted, she said.

‘We want students to be able to keep their options open for as long as possible,’ Mrs Morgan added.   She said that while students in wealthy areas already learn these subjects, ‘that is not always happening in less advantaged areas’.

A Department for Education spokesman said teachers had time to prepare for the changes, adding: ‘We will not stand by and allow pupils to lose ground with peers in countries across the world.’


British private schools dumping GCSEs for tougher O-level-style tests that are seen as better preparation for A-levels

Private schools are ditching GCSEs in record numbers in favour of tougher qualifications based on the old O-level, figures published today show.

They are increasingly turning to International GCSEs, which are seen as better preparation for A-levels despite government reforms to conventional exams.

The number of independent school entries for IGCSEs leapt by 18 per cent this summer to 152,170 – accounting for 38.7 per cent of Year 11 exam entries. In 2010, just 11.1 per cent of private school exam entries were for IGCSEs.

GCSE entries, in comparison, fell from 274,183 last year to 242,181, according to exam data from 552 members of the Independent Schools Council.

More than 400 ISC schools had pupils taking at least one IGCSE.

The country’s top private school for GCSEs this year, North London Collegiate School, has ditched English literature GCSE altogether in favour of an AS-level in the subject.

Deputy head Matthew Shoults said the school always wanted students to ‘take the specifications that are not going to hamper them intellectually and not going to make them jump through hoops’.

At Cheltenham College, pupils study IGCSEs in maths, English language and literature, science, history, geography and modern languages alongside GCSEs in other subjects.

This year, the 111 pupils passed 34.9 per cent of exams at A* and 64.5 per cent at A or A*. Six pupils achieved ten or more A* grades.

Duncan Byrne, the school’s deputy head, said: ‘We believe that the specifications for IGCSE are more academically rigorous.

‘IGCSE, particularly in mathematics and sciences, contains content which is more challenging, and which prepares students better for further study.’

IGCSEs were primarily developed for schools overseas. They became favoured by private schools in the UK because they featured less coursework and more emphasis on exams taken after two years, like the old O-levels.

Their format was echoed in former education secretary Michael Gove’s reform of conventional GCSEs which featured less coursework, bite-sized modules being replaced with traditional end-of-course exams and new curbs placed on resits.

English GCSEs were also subject to major reform, with scores in speaking and listening tests no longer added to the final grade to combat inflated teacher assessment. In the next three years, entirely new GCSEs will be introduced, existing A* to G grades replaced by numbers 1 to 8 and league tables completely revamped.

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said there had been a period of ‘turbulence’ for GCSEs, and schools ‘felt confident sticking with what they knew, less affected by some of the changes’.

He said schools may also wait and see what the reformed GCSEs were like, adding: ‘But, obviously, if the new GCSEs are felt by independent schools to be rigorous and a good preparation, there’s no reason why schools won’t switch back.’

The ISC statistics also show that 32.7 per cent of papers were awarded A*s, up from 32 per cent last year. Some 60.6 per cent of entries were graded A* or A, a rise from 60.4 per cent last year.

More than 100 leading schools – including Eton, Harrow and Westminster – have opted out of the ISC tables amid claims they distort education and give parents an incomplete picture.


Monday, September 01, 2014

CA: Pols pass “affirmative consent” law in name of stopping rape

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on U.S. campuses.

The measure, passed unanimously by the California State Senate, has been called the "yes-means-yes" bill. It defines sexual consent between people as "an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity".

The bill states that silence and a lack of resistance do not signify consent and that drugs or alcohol do not excuse unwanted sexual activity.

Governor Jerry Brown must sign the bill into law by the end of September. If he does, it would mark the first time a U.S. state requires such language to be a central tenet of school sexual assault policies, said Claire Conlon, a spokeswoman for State Senator Kevin De Leon, who championed the legislation.

Opponents of the bill say it is politically over-reaching and could push universities into little charted legal waters.

The bill comes amid mounting pressure nationwide by lawmakers, activists and students on universities and colleges to curb sexual assaults on campuses and to reform investigations after allegations are made.

The White House has declared sex crimes to be "epidemic" on U.S. college campuses, with one in five students falling victim to sex assault during their college years.

Universities in California and beyond have already taken steps, including seeking to delineate whether consent has been given beyond 'no means no'.

Harvard University said last month it had created an office to investigate all claims of sexual harassment or sex assault, and that it would lower its evidentiary standard of proof in weighing the cases.

Under California's bill, state-funded colleges and universities must adopt strict policies regarding sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, among other actions in order to receive financial aid money.

No college or university voiced opposition to the bill, Conlon said.

The U.S. Department of Education in May released a list of 55 colleges -- including three in California -- under investigation to determine whether their handling of sex assaults and harassment violated federal laws put in place to ensure equal treatment in higher education.

The Californian institutions on the list are University of California, Berkeley, Occidental College and the University of Southern California.


A Common-Sense Approach to Common Core, Part II: Third-Grade Fractions

This article is the second in a series that provides alternate and common-sense interpretations of the Common Core math standards.

In the first article,  I said Common Core (CC) lends itself to interpretations along reform math ideology, an ineffective method of teaching math that focuses on long, drawn-out ways to solve problems. In the wake of that first article, I have been asked, “How so, when the standards are touted as being neutral and not dictating pedagogy”? It is so because publishers, test makers, and schools take neutrality as a signal that techniques that caused many of our nation’s current math problems in the first place—and which many thought CC would fix—are to continue. On top of so-called neutrality, throw in Common Core’s Standards for Mathematical Practice, which require students to “explain” and “understand,” and the perfect storm exists to institutionalize the problems. In exchange, we get some expectations of  “procedural fluency” that will not be defined until we see the actual tests.

People have also asked: “If reform math techniques are being followed (and enforced) and the test-makers are essentially testing to the teach (my phrase, not the readers’) why then would anyone want to follow the alternative approaches you have been writing about here?”

It’s a valid question. Here is my answer. I’m not saying to abandon the standards. I’m showing how the standards can be taught in ways that make sense, and in ways that have for many years been taught with success. I advise that teachers rearrange the order of some CC standards to impart standard algorithms earlier, rather than later. The practices we are seeing written about on the Internet that require students to draw endless pictures for every problem are not dictated by Common Core, and even a lead writer of the standards (William McCallum) has said so.

I also point out that the approach I write about is not the only alternative—it is offered as a suggestion that may lead teachers to other equally sensible approaches. I welcome hearing other approaches. But we’re still left with the question: Where does this all leave us with respect to standardized tests, which may require reform math approaches to problems, as well as “explanations” and demonstrations of “understanding”? Of interest here is that PISA, the international exam that is given every several years, is essentially constructed along the same reform math principles; it tests for students’ ability to apply prior knowledge in new situations. Interestingly, the nations that teach math in the traditional fashion seem to do quite well. Basic foundational skills enable more thinking than a conglomeration of “rote understandings.”


Ofsted will mark down schools that refuse to teach all pupils five 'core' GCSEs, Tories pledge

All children should study a “core” of five traditional subjects until the age of 16 under plans to be set out in the Conservative election manifesto.

State schools will be urged to enrol all pupils for GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography.

Head teachers who ignore the system will be penalised by Ofsted. The education watchdog will be banned from awarding its higher ratings of “good” and “outstanding” to any school that refuses to comply with the drive to boost traditional academic subjects.

The pledge is likely to be controversial among teachers who have enrolled pupils in less academic subjects, which experts say are easier to pass, to maximise their school’s position in league tables.

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, told The Telegraph that the “presumption” that all children should study the core subjects would help address inequalities in the education system. While most children in wealthier areas already study academic subjects, many in poorer areas do not, limiting the children’s career choices.

“We want students to be able to keep their options open for as long as possible in terms of what they are going to do after school or college,” Mrs Morgan said.

“In selective schools or schools with a low proportion of free school meals, that is what they are already doing. But that is not always happening in less advantaged areas.” Under the Tory proposals, Ofsted could give a “good” or “outstanding” rating only to a school that enrols all its pupils in the core GCSE subjects, which together form the new “English Baccalaureate”.

“These core academic subjects offer children great opportunities,” Mrs Morgan said. “They are what universities are looking for.”

Mrs Morgan said she was keen to promote maths.

“I want to make it clear to pupils how important maths is, in terms of earnings and keeping career options open.”

Mrs Morgan said parents had a responsibility to encourage their children to take traditional academic subjects.

The minister, who replaced Michael Gove in the recent reshuffle, promised to allow popular schools to expand.

She said: “I want to work with schools and authorities to look at the provision of places. We want good schools to expand and Free Schools are very much a part of that.”


Sunday, August 31, 2014

TX: Some teachers packing heat, school district signs alert visitors

A school district outside Dallas will reportedly continue to allow some teachers to carry guns in school, and posted signs on school campuses warning that teachers "may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students."

NewFix's CW33 reported that Argyle teachers will continue to be allowed to be armed on campus under the state's Protection of Texas Children Act.

The report said these gun-toting teachers are required to have a handgun license, pass a psychological test and go through emergency response training.

"I trust that the administrators of this school district will put my kid's best interest at heart," one parent told the station.

The district policy was passed in January. Telena Wright, the district superintendent, said at the time that "armed staff answers the question. What about the first 1 to 2 minutes in [a] crisis situation where there’s an armed shooter? That seems to be a horrific situation that all schools across the nation are attempting to address," The Denton Record-Chronicle reported.


Authority Unlimited

Authority today, and by that I mean mostly those invested with political power, the government, its elected officials, agents, bureaucrats, and employees, seem to be, in many instances, just making up the rules as they go along, without regard to the law, the constitution and the fundamental rights of the people.

So we have Authority run amok; Authority unlimited.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent, in my opinion, that in America’s public schools. Today’s school boards, superintendants, principals, administrators and teachers believe that they have the power and the authority, irrespective of the law, to run their institutions like penitentiaries.

Students and parents, the hapless victims of the system, enjoy no rights. They are compelled by law to participate and when they participate they’re expected shed their fundamental constitutional rights at the school house door.

Last week, high school freshman, Alex Stone, was actually arrested by the police and punished by school administrators for the “crime” of handing in class writing assignment in which he used the word “gun.”

Mind you, this kid didn’t bring a loaded gun to school. He didn’t threaten anyone with a gun. No one at the school was in any kind of danger because of a gun. There was absolutely no harm done; no potential harm; no reason for any concern on the part of his teacher or principal; no reason to call the cops; to have him arrested; to punish him – no reason whatsoever to exercise malevolent authority over him.

All he did was use the word “gun” in his class writing assignment. He wrote an imaginary tale about buying a gun to kill a dinosaur. It was supposed to be an amusing fantasy. It was a joke. There was no dinosaur. Dinosaurs don’t exist nowadays. He doesn’t own a gun, doesn’t have a gun. He simply wrote about an imaginary gun. He put the word “gun” on a sheet of paper and for that the police came swooping down upon him at school; he’s arrested and punished like a common criminal.

Now all of that is bad enough, but I’m left wondering in this matter about where in the world the school found the legal authority to do what they did to this innocent kid. Where in the world did the cops find the legal authority to arrest this innocent kid?

As far as I know there is no law on the books anywhere in the United States of America that calls what this kid did as a crime. There is no law that says the writing of the word “gun” on a sheet of paper is a crime.

Even if there were such a law it would be patently unconstitutional since everyone in America, including school children enjoys the fundamental First Amendment constitutional right of freedom of speech, and freedom of speech includes the right to write the word “gun” a sheet of paper; to write a fictional story about using a gun to “take care of” an imaginary dinosaur.

Guns are legal products in the United States of America. The Second Amendment confers upon Americans the right to bear arms and that means the right to own, use, and yes, even talk about using guns. No school administrator has the authority to punish a student for talking about a “gun.”

That school and those cops deliberately, and totally without justification, violated this kid’s fundamental constitutional rights. They’re just making up the rules as they go along without any regard to their actual legal authority. After cops were called they searched Alex's locker and book bag. The school suspended Alex for three days.

 “I regret it because they put it on my record, but I don’t see the harm in it,” Alex told reporters. “I think there might have been a better way of putting it, but I think me writing like that, it shouldn’t matter unless I put it out toward a person.” The boy’s lawyer declared in a statement that this “is a perfect example of ‘political correctness’ that has exceeded the boundaries of common sense.”

The Police Department defended the arrest. Of course they did. They said Alex was charged with disorderly conduct when he became disruptive after school officials confronted him about what he wrote. “The charges do not stem from anything involving a dinosaur or writing assignment, but the student’s conduct,” Capt. Jon Rogers said. 

The cops knew they had no legal authority to arrest this kid for the “crime” of writing about a gun. So they found a pretext to arrest him – and search his locker and book bag -- for another “crime” – the “crime” of asserting his constitutional rights to the “Authority.” Those cops should have known as well that school authorities had no justification to confront this innocent kid.

This is all about Authority run amok; Authority unlimited.


Classes of 70, four-year-olds forced to commute for three hours and a roof turned into a playground: Why no one will admit immigration is the reason Britain's primary schools are bursting at the seams

Next Tuesday at 6.50am, Olivia will leave home to begin the first leg of her three-hour daily commute. The journey will cost £35 a week and involve no less than three buses each way — assuming, of course, that everything runs smoothly.

Even for the most dedicated employee, it’s not the best way to start and finish a busy day. But for a four-year-old beginning school for the first time, it could hardly be less appropriate.

Due to over-crowding at her local primary school, that is the situation Olivia finds herself in — a situation that her mother, Melissa Stowe, is understandably furious about.

‘The first day at school is meant to be one you are excited about, but we are dreading it,’ says 22-year-old Melissa, who together with her eight-month-old daughter Daisy will accompany Olivia on the daily trip to and from school.

‘I am really worried that she will be exhausted and that she will hate the journey and not want to go.’

Melissa had wanted to send her older child to a primary school in the village of Methley, West Yorkshire, a ten-minute walk from home. But in April she was informed by the local council that Olivia could not go there because it was over-subscribed.

The same applied to two other nearby schools, meaning that in the end she was allocated a place at a school that she has to travel to via a complicated five-mile bus journey.

This year, one in eight — more than 76,000 children — were turned away by their first-choice school while 22,500 did not get a place at any of their preferred schools. In some areas the situation was much worse — in London’s Kensington and Chelsea, four out of ten missed out on first-choice schools.

The reason is simple — in these areas there are too many children applying for too few places.

And it is not just those forced to accept second-best who will feel hard done-by. As schools re-open across the country next week, pupils will find themselves crammed into temporary classrooms erected on playgrounds or shoe-horned into converted gyms and rented office space.

One school in Merseyside is now so short of room it has even had to create a roof-top playground, while another is considering teaching the children in shifts — one half in the morning, the other in the afternoon.

It all means that instead of entering a small, intimate learning environment, for many four and five-year-olds their first taste of formal education will be in establishments with more than 100 pupils in each school year.

Indeed, in the past 12 months, the number of so-called ‘supersize’ primaries with more than 800 pupils has risen from 58 to 77.

At the same time the total number of infant classes exceeding the supposed top limit of 30 pupils has more than doubled to 549.

It emerged this month from the Department for Education’s statistics that six primary schools had pupils crammed into classes of over 70.

How, then, is it that the provision of places continues to fall so badly short of demand?

The answer is that successive governments have singularly failed to react to the baby boom that is now convulsing the education system. While this spike in the birth-rate is partly due to women born in the late-Sixties and early-Seventies delaying motherhood, the main driver has been the decade of open-door immigration overseen by New Labour.

Between 2000 and 2010, the numbers attending English state nursery and primary schools actually fell — from 4.3 million to 3.9 million a year. During this time, 1,000 primary schools were closed.

But at the same time, official government statistics clearly indicated that the decline in numbers would soon be dramatically reversed.

Over the course of that decade, the number of births in England and Wales increased by 22 per cent. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) — the number of children born per woman — steadily increased from 1.63 in 2001 to 2.0 in 2010. Again, immigration was one of the main drivers of this.

In 2000, 15 per cent of all births in the UK were to mothers born outside the country — in 2010, it had risen to more than 25 per cent. This is because the number of foreign-born women living here has increased, and also because they have more children than British-born women, since they are more likely to be aged 25 to 34, when fertility is at its highest.

Research by the Office of National Statistics has revealed that in 2011 the TFR was 1.84 for UK-born women and 2.21 for women born outside the UK. Women born in Romania had a TFR of 2.93, the highest of any EU country, while Polish women contributed the largest number of babies.

And it is not a trend that is likely to reverse any time soon. On Thursday, the ONS released figures that showed net migration to Britain has surged by 68,000 in the past year to 243,000.

That means that projections about future demand could already be too low.

The Department for Education has predicted that the number of pupils at primary schools will rise this decade from 4,305,000 to 4,684,000 — a growth of 8.8 per cent. The rise is equal to another 1,440 average–sized primary schools.

Much of the pressure is being felt in urban areas up and down the country, where migrants are more likely to settle.

In Sheffield, the annual birth rate has increased from 5,500 to 7,000 in the past decade. In Peterborough, the reception intake has increased from 2,100 in 2007 to 3,000 last year.

And in Bournemouth the number of children starting school leapt from 1,347 in 2006 to 1,924 last year.

The figures for London are particularly revealing as to the nature of the changing school population. While nationally, one in five primary school pupils have a first language other than English, in inner-London the figure now exceeds 50 per cent.

No clearer demonstration of all these trends — and their consequences — is to be found than at Gascoigne Primary School in Barking, East London, a borough that has seen a 60 per cent rise in the birth rate and a doubling of the foreign-born population in the past decade.

To cope with demand, in the past six years the school has had to create 13 new classrooms after pupil numbers soared by 50 per cent from 800 to 1,200.

Eight mobile classrooms have been placed in the playground, with a further five permanently built. One of these is placed on ‘stilts’ above the main entrance to save space.

The primary, the biggest in the country, has lost all its playing fields and at times has had to sacrifice its music-room and library for extra teaching space.

The latest casualty is the school’s IT suite, which has had to make way for an extra dining room to accommodate Nick Clegg’s new free school meals initiative for pupils under seven. The 1,200 children are split into 39 classes, and the school, which has 150 staff, runs with military precision on a rota of lunchtimes, lessons and play.

There are three assemblies a day — two in the morning and one after lunch — because the children cannot all fit into the school hall at once.

As for the playground, it is rationed into six shifts, while lunchtime is staggered from 11.45am to 1.20pm.

Sixty different languages are spoken at Gascoigne and more than 90 per cent of pupils have English as an additional language.

One third are Eastern European and a third are African.

‘I’m not going to pretend there aren’t difficulties, but you have to overcome them,’ admits head-teacher Bob Barton, 61. ‘There is no doubt that we are overcrowded. There is no way we can take any more children.’

And there are plans for Bristol Cathedral Choir Primary School, the city’s most over-subscribed primary, to move from its temporary base into several unused floors at the city’s central library.

That mirrors steps taken in Brighton, East Sussex, where the former Hove police station has been converted into a satellite school to accommodate 500 pupils.

For parents, of course, the main worry is that as more and more children are packed into ever-larger schools, their offspring’s education and well-being will suffer.

A survey this week by online parenting forum Netmums found that one in five parents think schools are squeezing too many children into classes.

Similar numbers told of their unease that their child might get ‘lost’ in the school system and not get the individual attention they needed.

Because while the Government may claim that it is giving unprecedented sums of money to councils to cope with growing demand (£5 billion over the course of this Parliament), on the ground, parents simply cannot understand why more was not done sooner to cope with an entirely predictable problem.

Nor why four-year-old Olivia, and tens of thousands of children like her, can’t begin their school life at their local school — and in primaries that are nurturing, rather than plain enormous.