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Archive for the ‘Education and young people’ Category

Tuesday
Nov 6,2012

Last week I signed up to become an IWF Champion.  This means that I fully support the important work that the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) does to remove child sexual abuse images on the internet.

The IWF was established in 1996 by the internet industry to provide the UK internet Hotline for the public and IT professionals to report criminal online content in a secure and confidential way.

The IWF Hotline service can be used anonymously to report content within its remit. The IWF successfully works in partnership with the online industry, law enforcement, government, and international partners to minimise the availability of this content, specifically:

  • child sexual abuse images hosted anywhere in the world
  • criminally obscene adult content hosted in the UK
  • non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK.

The IWF helps internet service providers and hosting companies to combat the abuse of their networks through its ‘notice and takedown’ service which alerts them to content within its remit so they can remove it from their networks. The IWF also provides unique data to law enforcement partners in the UK and abroad to assist investigations into the distributors. As a result of this approach the content the IWF deals with has been virtually removed from UK networks. As sexually abusive images of children are primarily hosted abroad, the IWF facilitates the industry-led initiative to protect users from inadvertent exposure to this content by blocking access to it through their provision of a dynamic list of child sexual abuse web pages.

I am proud to be associated with an organisation that has successfully:

  • Assessed over 390,000 web pages over the last 16 years;
  • Had 92,000 URLs removed for containing criminal content;
  • Reduced the proportion of child sexual abuse content hosted in the UK from 18% in 1996 down to less than 1% over the last decade;
  • Gets child sexual abuse content that is hosted in the UK removed within 60 minutes and cut the time taken to remove content hosted outside the UK by half to 11 days; and above all
  • By sharing intelligence with police, aided the identification and rescue of 12 children in the past two years.

 

 

Monday
Nov 5,2012

A nice crisp morning at Wembley Stadium saw the launch of the first funding round of the Wembley National Stadium Trust.

The Trust, which I chair, was set up in 1996 and was originally the vehicle which bid for National Lottery money for the new National Stadium to be built on the Wembley site.  In exchange for the £120 million grant that secured the site it was a condition of the grant that once the new Stadium had been open for five years 1% of its turnover should be passed to the Trust for distribution as charitable grants.

The old stadium closed in 2000 and the new Stadium finally opened in 2007, which means that five years has now passed, and the Trust now has the proceeds to make its first grants.  Applications are now open and the aim will be to award around £300,000 to projects supporting sports activities across Brent. Dozens of local groups are likely to benefit.

And to help us at the launch, I was joined by  Rachel Yankey MBE, England’s most capped women’s footballer, and Olympic gold medal winning boxer James DeGale MBE, along with the Stadium’s Managing Director, Roger Maslin.

Full details of the application process are available on the Trust’s website at www.wnst.org.uk and applications must be received by 5pm on 7th December for this round of grants.  Subsequent rounds will benefit projects across London and from time to time major nation-wide grants will be made.

 

Tuesday
Oct 2,2012

Ed Miliband’s brilliant bravura performance this afternoon at the Labour Party Conference – seventy minutes without a note (beat that Cameron) – proves that the Labour Party is six months ahead of the schedule necessary to prepare for the next General Election.

Before then, the Labour Party needs to articulate the philosophical themes that will underpin the next Labour Government and crystallise those down to a (small) number of symbolic policy commitments.

The next General Election is in May 2015 – two and a half years away. The equivalent point before Labour’s 1997 General Election landslide was the Labour Party Conference in 1994.  That was the Party Conference when Tony Blair in his Leader’s speech proposed that the content and wording of Clause Four be reviewed and reformulated for new times and New Labour.

The themes which underpinned Labour’s 1997 election manifesto (“The future not the past”; “The many not the few” etc) were not fully articulated until the new Clause Four was approved in the Spring of 1995 – two years before the Election.  And the policy commitments (The Pledge Card”) were not finalised until July 1996 – ten months before the Election.

And today Ed Miliband set out the philosophical basis on which “One Nation Labour” will appeal to the electorate in 2015.  The themes he set out today will resonate, not only with the Labour Party in the hall in Manchester and amongst Labour supporters across the country, but they will strike a chord amongst the rest of the public who can see how Cameron’s Government is out-of-touch and leading the country further and further into an economic quagmire, whilst dividing a nation and a people who will only flourish when united.

Friday
Jun 29,2012

I have now seen all the plays in Shakespeare’s “Shipwreck Trilogy” at the Royal Shakespeare Company season at the Roundhouse and there is no question that the productions of “Twelfth Night” and “The Comedy of Errors” are brilliant (I was less enamoured by “The Tempest” but then the play is by no means one of my favourites anyway).

Illyria has become in this version of “Twelfth Night” a rather sleazy Latin American state (with copious total immersions taking place – avoid the first two rows in the left-hand front of the stage if you don’t want to get wet), while Ephesus – the setting for “The Comedy” – is a proto-fascist state, taking a robust line with illegal immigrants and featuring incidental water-boarding and ECT use.  Normally such devices would be a distraction from the plays but in these productions the action seems to fit perfectly into the settings contrived for them.

There are some superb individual performances: notably Jonathan Slinger’s Malvolio (his buttocks provoking waves of hysteria amongst the youthful audience in the cross-gartering scene on the day I saw it), Kirsty Bushell’s Olivia in “Twelfth Night” and Adriana in “The Comedy”, Emily Taafe’s Viola (possibly the best rendering of the part I have ever seen) and Nicholas Day’s Sir Toby. The twin Dromios (Felix Hayes and Bruce Mackinnon – who also carries off a suitably inept Sir Andrew Aguecheek) ensure that the farcical set-pieces in “The Comedy” are genuinely hilarious. There are strong supporting performances from Cecilia Noble (as Maria in “Twelfth Night” and a formidable Emilia) and from Kevin McMonagle (as Feste and a terrifying merchant in “The Comedy”).

The tragedy is that none of the performances I saw was sold out and there were plenty of empty seats: the good news therefore is that you still have a few more days to catch the season before it ends.

presentation

 The Comedy of Errorscrane-243x317

Tuesday
Jun 26,2012

My good friends at The Risk Management Group have produced “The A to Z of Safe Social Media” (a sister guide to their earlier “The A to Z of Safe Children Online”.  It is available for free download here and even contains a foreword from me!

Thursday
Jun 21,2012

I have some sympathy with efforts to set high standards and expectations for all pupils.  However, turning the clock back twenty years and re-creating the old O-levels for some with a lesser qualification for the rest is not necessarily the way to do it.

What would be the biggest reorganisation of the secondary school curriculum will no doubt be debated widely when proposals finally emerge rather than being briefed/leaked by the Department for Education.

In the meantime, what is interesting is the silence of Sarah Teather, the Schools Minister.

A silence that is particularly notable given the way in which other Liberal Democrats from Nick Clegg down (if such a concept makes sense) have been frothing at the mouth over Gove’s proposals.

As the Minister responsible for schools in the Department for Education, it would have been reasonable to assume that she must have been aware of the development of such radical changes.

If she did, she somehow didn’t have the political nous to realise that they might be a tad controversial and talk to some of her LibDem colleagues about them.

The alternative is that she is so completely side-lined in the Department that it calls into question what she does for her Minister of State’s salary.

So – which is it? Complicit and naive or a total waste of space?

Saturday
Jun 16,2012

Much as I enjoyed all the “tainted Prime Minister” stuff in Ed Miliband’s speech this morning to the Labour Party National Policy Forum,  I was struck by the enthusiasm with which he spoke about local government and the contribution being made by Labour councillors:

“Labour Birmingham.  Labour, in whom the people of Birmingham placed their trust in May.  A Labour council changing the way we do politics with a manifesto built on 12 months of conversations with the people of this city.  A Labour council improving our society with 5,000 new homes a year.  And a Labour council changing our economy by paying at least £7.20 to every city council worker.  A decent living wage.

And let us recognise the work of every Labour council making a difference in tough times.  Liverpool’s new Mayor Joe Anderson and h is council that is building 2,500 homes.  Manchester keeping open its Sure Start Centres.  And Newham, standing up for tenants against unscrupulous landlords.

Labour councils whose examples will inspire our next manifesto.  And let us applaud them for their work.”

Here at last is a recognition that Labour local government can be in the vanguard of delivering effective public services that meet the needs of their communities, that Labour local government is not something to be apologised for but is Labour’s future, and that the platform for winning future General Elections will be found at local level.

Monday
Jun 11,2012

Michael Gove is to announce a new primary school curriculum.

Apparently, this will involve five-year-olds being required to learn poetry by heart and recite it aloud.  According to the Telegraph:

“Education Secretary Michael Gove will promise a new focus on the traditional virtues of spelling and grammar when he sets out his plans for the teaching of English in primary schools later this week.

At the same time, Mr Gove will put forward proposals to make learning a foreign language compulsory for pupils from the age of seven.

Under his plans, primary schools could offer lessons in Mandarin, Latin and Greek as well as French, German and Spanish from September 2014.

The Education Secretary is said to be determined to make the teaching of English at primary school ”far more rigorous” than it is at present.  …

It will also emphasise the importance of grammar in mastering the language, setting out exactly what children should be expected to be taught in each year of their primary schooling as well as lists of words they should be able to spell.”

Whilst I am not convinced about the value of reciting poetry, nor about learning Latin and (ancient) Greek, I do think that there is much to be said for instilling the basics of language in all primary age children.

There will also be a commitment to making sure pupils have some basic skills in maths and science:

“Pupils will be expected to memorise their tables up to 12 times 12 by age nine, and be able to multiply and divide fractions by the end of primary school under a major shake-up of the national curriculum.

Using decimals and basic arithmetic are also set to be a main focus of maths lessons in the future, a move which ministers said will help to raise standards in England’s schools.

In science, primary school children will be taught about key concepts such as static electricity, the solar system and how to name and classify objects in biology.”

That too is welcome.  But does it go far enough?

Earlier this year, John Naughton argued in the Guardian that:

“Starting in primary school, children from all backgrounds and every part of the UK should have the opportunity to: learn some of the key ideas of computer science; understand computational thinking; learn to program; and have the opportunity to progress to the next level of excellence in these activities.  …

We need to face up to a painful fact. It is that almost everything we have done over the last two decades in the area of ICT education in British schools has been misguided and largely futile. Instead of educating children about the most revolutionary technology of their young lifetimes, we have focused on training them to use obsolescent software products”

There are developments like Raspberry Pi that are intended to provide a cheap and accessible platform for young children to learn simple programming.
The hope is that Gove will recognise that revitalising the primary school curriculum is about equipping today’s under-11s not with the skills their grandparents and great-grandparents may have learned, but the skills that they will need to grow up in the 2020s and 2030s.  And that those skills can be the basis for the UK’s future economic growth.
Poetry has its place, but programming is the future.
Friday
May 25,2012

I have just returned from seeing “Posh” at the Duke of York’s Theatre.  I regret to say I was disappointed.  The acting is good and the play itself is quite powerful, but the reviews and write-ups had led me to expect something funnier with more pointed satire and a clearer political message.

However, don’t let me put you off – it is still worth seeing.

And it is certainly a potent reminder of the social background and early lives of those currently running the country.  The “Riot Club” is clearly based on the Bullingdon Club and you can draw your own conclusions as to who is meant to be the David Cameron or the Boris Johnson character in the play ….

Wednesday
May 16,2012

My attention has been drawn to an attempt to silence a children’s play area by a former Concorde pilot – and his complaint is that it is too noisy (which is what they used to say about the planes he used to fly).

Another resident has complained that the children’s mothers “were really fat”, worse still they were “from Bracknell” and can’t control their children.

As the MailOnline report puts it:

“As a former chief pilot of Concorde, Roger Price knows a thing or two about deafening people.  His supersonic airliner happily hit an ear-splitting 110 decibels on take-off and would often bring conversation to a standstill as it thundered overhead.

But the 67-year-old’s tolerance levels are clearly set a little lower when he’s in his own back yard.   With rich irony, he is trying to close down a local playground because the noise from excited children is too loud. …

The former pilot claims the play area – built around 20 yards from his detached house in Ascot, Berkshire – is ‘severely disrupting’ his life.

He and his wife, Dr Catherine Bentley-Thomas, 51, are fighting a private prosecution to try to force Winkfield Parish Council to shut it.

The local council spent £150,000 adding play equipment to the village recreation field in May last year, but Mr Price said the park was attracting children from outside the area who are too loud.”

According to Dr Bentley-Thomas:

“the sound of just one grandfather pushing a child on the swings had been enough to disturb her.”

The Mail also reports that:

“The residents were accused by  barrister for the council Katie Helmore of not wanting ‘children from less affluent areas infiltrating their community’.

She pointed to complaints from the residents which included that the park was ‘full of really fat women from Bracknell’ who could not control their children.”

Sorry to disillusion these killjoy residents: if you live just by a park you are likely to hear other people and their children enjoying themselves.

Perhaps they should get over it.  After all, it could be a lot worse.